The Long Goodbye (1973)—“Philip Marlowe”
EG: As I was growing up, I would go to see film-noir films, the detective stories, and I thought Humphrey Bogart was the greatest. David Picker, who was running United Artists at the time, gave me Leigh Brackett’s script adapting Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye and asked me to read it, so I read it. I was looking for a job at the time and… let’s say that finding a job wasn’t easy at that time, though I don’t know if it’s ever easy. There was another director who was going to be doing it, but he couldn’t see me in it. Then David Picker gave the material to Robert Altman, and Altman called me from Ireland, where he was finishing Images with Susannah York. Bob said to me, “What do you think?” I said, “I’ve always wanted to play that guy,” meaning Philip Marlowe. And Robert Altman said to me, “You are that guy.” So that was the beginning of that.
AVC: There’s been talk for some time of you teaming with Alan Rudolph to produce a sequel to The Long Goodbye.
EG: Yeah, I started to work on a sequel. I think I’ve basically read or narrated the books on tape of all of Raymond Chandler’s work, and I discovered “The Curtain,” which was written before there was a Philip Marlowe. The Chandler estate worked with me when I was more involved in it, although I’ll never give up on it. For as long as I can, I’ll try to work on getting a sequel to The Long Goodbye. I had a treatment developed and gave it to Bob Altman, and we started to talk about it, but then Bob passed away. But Alan Rudolph was the second assistant on The Long Goodbye, and Alan wrote quite an excellent first draft. But I haven’t been able to finance it.
The estate had given me permission at the time—this was just a few years ago—to change the name of the character, because the private eye was called Ted Carmady. It was written by Chandler before he wrote The Big Sleep, but you could see where The Big Sleep came from. In the story, there’s a 10-year-old son of the character that Bacall played in The Big Sleep, and the son is the killer. That’s what attracted me to it. It would take place now, and the character of Philip Marlowe is now a much older man, like me, but he still has the same values. It’s something that could conceivably work if it’s free to express itself the way I feel it and see it, but whether it’ll ever happen remains to be seen. But I’m just eternally grateful for Robert Altman and David Picker giving me the opportunity to participate in The Long Goodbye and play Philip Marlowe.