Drowsy Emperor Blogs
1970s LA or Post WWII Vienna, Sometimes You Just Have to Shoot Somebody

Just watched a favorite film; Robert Altman’s noir classic, “The Long Goodbye”(TLG).  Altman’s loose adaption of the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name transplants Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe, armed only with a dark JC Penny suit and his 1950s private eye ethos, into the hedonistic, candy colored, self-absorbed swirl that was Los Angeles in the seventies. Neither the suit nor the ethos had much of a chance.

You could recommend the film on the basis of the music alone. Altman whimsically relies almost solely on variations of the wonderful title tune “The Long Goodbye” composed by John Williams and Johnny Mercer throughout the film. It's (with one wry exception) the only music heard throughout the movie right down to the sound of the femme fatale’s doorbell. However, there is more than just music. The cinematography is gorgeous and Altman’s ongoing mastery of light from black luminescent neon nights to dazzling sun drenched Malibu days is much in evidence.  Beyond that the legendary director made some off beat but ultimately inspired casting choices to ably support Altman stalwart Elliot Gould's terrific free flowing Marlowe.

Sterling Hayden, in particular, playing a burnt out Papa Hemmingway type steals every scene that he's in and you're glad he does. Hayden also shares some of the movie's best dialogue with Gould in a scene out back of a Malibu beach house. (Watch the clip below starting at about 4 minutes.)


No one plays addled and intriguing as well as Hayden. Not long after Marlowe rescues Hayden’s character from a dodgy upscale rehab facility, if you listen closely he can even be heard playfully referring to Marlowe offscreen as “Marlborough, the Duke of Bullshit”.

It was while contemplating just how good TLG was scenes from another favorite film, yet another noir; Carol Reed’s “The Third Man” (TTM) starring the cerebral tag team of Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten kept elbowing their way back into my consciousness.  (Spoiler alert: if you have seen neither of these two films I disclose the endings of both films below.)

Apart from quirky musical choices the movies share some other interesting similarities:

i)              Both plots involve a man who sets out on a quest to defend the honor of good friend who he believes to be dead.

ii)             The friend turns out neither dead nor wrongly accused and has, in fact, through his fake death ruse misled and endangered both his friend and others.

iii)           The femme fatale continues to carry a torch for the bad friend despite knowledge of his bad deeds and indications of interest from the hero.

iv)           The hero after discovering his friend’s duplicity in the climax of the film confronts and shoots him dead.

v)             The closing scenes of the two films are also too alike to be mere coincidence. In TTM Joseph Cotten after seeing his morally challenged friend finally buried for real heads down a large tree lined boulevard in jeep where he once again encounters the femme fatale who passes him walking down that same broad tree lined boulevard.  In TLG, Gould after killing his friend emerges from the friend’s hideaway hacienda to walk down a broad tree lined boulevard and encounters the femme fatale who drives a jeep past Gould towards, unknown to her, her now deceased lover.

Follow this link to the final scene of "The Third Man" watch from about the 40 second point.



Follow this link to the final scene of "The Long Goodbye" watch from about the 5:30 mark.



If you haven't seen either of these films they're both well worth watching and if you have seen them I'd watch them again. Either way, "It's okay with me."

Next time: My favorite Mainland China  noir films. There are some!