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Tag: the long goodbye

Million Dollar Movie

 Long Goodbye 2 (1)

From Will Harris’ Q&A with Elliot Gould over at the A.V. Club:

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.

Chasing the Game

Over at SB Nation check out this long article I wrote on an old friend:

He’d played a lot of positions over the years. Today, he was a pitcher. It was more a testament to his willingness to be a good teammate than his talent. His curveball was non-existent, his knuckler average, and his fastball wasn’t all that fast. But he worked quickly and threw strikes, valued skills on a Sunday in the Westchester-Putnam (N.Y.) Men’s Senior Baseball League. The MSBL is an 18-and-older organization whose motto is “Don’t go soft, play hardball!” The national website claims more than 45,000 members, and it’s one of several amateur adult baseball programs to form over the past several decades. Nationwide, there are perhaps as many as 100,000 grown men still playing baseball every week.

“I don’t go to court thinking I’m Clarence Darrow,” Birbrower told me this summer. “But I hit a ball in the gap and think I’m Don Mattingly.”

For the past 20 years, Birbrower, a lawyer and divorced father of a son with autism, has played ball for teams like the Alleycats and Robins, the Smokers, and now the Braves. He was the guy who’d talk about at-bats from as far back as Pee Wee League. He had stories about everything: plays the scrubs made, wise cracks from guys on the bench, what the third baseman’s father yelled at an ump. But he loved nothing more than talking about himself. Anyone who has hit a ball on the sweet part of the bat knows it’s one of the greatest feelings you can have with your pants on, and Birbrower knew that rush as well as anyone. When he was a sophomore in high school he once hit five home runs in one week. It changed the way he saw himself. He wasn’t a regular guy who had gotten lucky; he was a star and now expected more, from both himself and the game.

“Until recently, everything was exaggeration,” Birbrower said. “If I went for a run it couldn’t be a nice run. I would be like, okay, I should run a marathon. I should write a book about running a marathon. Fuck it, I should write the best book about running a marathon that’s ever been written.”

Hope you like one. It’s about a kid who has become an admirable man.

Million Dollar Movie

Over at Narrative, dig David Thomson on The Long Goodbye:

Robert Altman was more persistent, and difficult, but he was never quite a movie brat, even if M.A.S.H., the biggest hit he would ever enjoy, is a 1970 film. Altman was from Kansas City (born in 1925). He fought in the Pacific War and had a long training in the Midwest making industrial films before moving into television. He was in his forties by the time he got to M.A.S.H., fourteen years older than Bogdanovich, and never a clubbable man. But Altman had a similar urge to address the old Hawksian models. That drew him to The Long Goodbye (1973), a new version of Raymond Chandler’s world (scripted by Leigh Brackett, who had worked on the original The Big Sleep in 1946).

But this was now the Los Angeles of the early 1970s, filmed in wide screen with an easygoing zoom photography by Vilmos Zsigmond, and a total reappraisal of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The knowingness and the biting wit of Bogart’s private eye was replaced by Elliott Gould, untidy, hapless, perhaps a little druggy, a sucker most of the time, talking to himself, and a man who has a neurotic cat but no girl. Hawks’s fantasy had been immaculate and irresistible, but Altman saw Marlowe as a dreamy loser, falling behind the money race of L , inclined to trust the wrong people, but ever amiable. His single comfort in the film is the fond, mocking way the song “The Long Goodbye” (written by John Williams, lyrics by Johnny Mercer) is the only score to the picture, a refrain that keeps coming back in so many different styles and versions.

But The Long Goodbye opens and closes with the old standard “Hooray for Hollywood,” and it concludes with a gesture toward the unyielding conclusion to The Third Man. So Altman knew his history but he distrusted it and felt sick over the white lies of the factory system. In a sour Altman touch, Sterling Hayden plays the alcoholic writer who has given up the ghost, trading on our knowledge of Hayden’s own remorse over having been a friendly witness for HUAC. No one ever accused Altman of being a gentle fellow. He had a mean streak. But its offsetting benefit was the mistrust, solitude, and breakdown in his films, and it went with a helpless sympathy in the way he looked at the oddity of people. This was Altman’s third coup in three years. For in 1971 he had redrafted the Western as a melancholy love story about a fool who cannot impose his story on the world but who ends up with an epic triumph that no one notices in the falling snow and the lamenting songs of Leonard Cohen. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) had Warren Beatty as John Q. McCabe, in a beard and derby hat, a brothel-keeper of sorts in the Northwest, taken over and smitten by Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), but such a chump at handling the local syndicate that he signs his own death warrant. (It’s another film about the defeat of the individual.)

As photographed by Zsigmond, McCabe and The Long Goodbye proposed a new way of seeing. For decades Hollywood had constructed and composed its images as framed things: they were the brickwork of stability. But Altman and Zsigmond substituted a slippery wide-screen vista where the slow zooms oozed in and out, and we were left as searching eyes. “What should I look at? What is there to see and what is hidden?” Altman often seems to film in what Gavin Lambert, referring to a part of Los Angeles, once called the “slide area.”

That was as radical a stylistic departure as Godard’s jump-cutting, for it argues that the screen’s threshold is a place for searching, instead of somewhere we receive decisive, chosen sights. The imagery relinquishes its old assurance, but we are drawn deeper into the maze and the illusion. And the melancholy in both these pictures is part of a forlorn inquiry, wistful over the old, vanished indicators. Altman went further still. Where once sound had been skillfully miked and the final soundtrack mixed, cleaned, and clarified, for sense and meaning, these two films leave us asking ourselves, “What did he say? Did you quite hear that?” The spatial confusion was aural too, and the players were miked separately, often with the new radio mikes, and a mix was then made that brought voices in or out and was seldom clean and not always audible. This may seem perverse, but a movie where looking and hearing are muddled or compromised may get closer to our uncertain experience of life than the emphatic precision of the golden age, when a shot or a frame did not pass without being completely informative and “correct.” “Was that take ‘okay’? If not, take it again.”

Another facet to his style was Altman’s developing interest in groups—and that was another novelty in American film, where the hierarchy of stars, supports, bit parts, and extras had been set in stone. Altman was always close to scorning or bypassing stars—he and Beatty got on badly because of this—and he loved crowded shots and group scenes. The first destination for that approach would be Nashville (1975), a whimsical portrait of the real place, with twenty-six roles of more or less the same size. Further down the road, Short Cuts (1993), derived from stories by Raymond Carver, was a panorama of Los Angeles in which the pattern of overlapping events conveys a very fresh sensibility for real turmoil held in place, or kept calm, by the principle that no single story, person, or self-centered universe really matters enough to be the center of attention. That’s one explanation for how Altman was making the most innovative American films in the moment of The Godfather. By reputation, Coppola’s picture is violent. But Brando’s Vito Corleone is as adorable as he is magnificent. Think of Joe Pesci in Casino (1995), and you realize how much hideous pathology is left out of Vito. He has a kitten in his lap in that opening scene; the enchantment goes all the way to the moment he is playing with a grandson in the garden and has his heart attack. He is gracious, kind, and sad.

Excerpted from Thomson’s new book, The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies.

 

Is He Gone Yet?

Saying goodbye is never easy. Just ask Andy Pettitte who is taking his own sweet time to announce his retirement (this just in…Bernie Williams still hasn’t officially retired).

According to Brian Costello in the Post:

“We’ve been moving forward as if he’s not playing,” Cashman said. “He may tell us otherwise at some point, but, no, this week we’re not expecting to hear anything from Andy. He’s already given us the courtesy on several occasions of telling us don’t count on him and he’s not expecting to play. It’s not official, but he didn’t want to hold us up.”

…”He might call and say, ‘Hey, I want to play,’ but I don’t expect a call with him telling us, ‘Hey, I’m not playing,’ because he’s kind of already told us don’t count on me playing,” Cashman said.

A few weeks ago, Steven Goldman was exhausted by this story:

They Yankee with the third-most wins in team history has been waffling all winter, and his indecision has been accorded more weight than it deserves. A 39-year-old pitcher who made only 21 starts the previous season, no matter how good, only deserves to be accorded so much projected value.

Friday Night Flix

Some You Tube fun on a cold winter night:

My favorite Scorsese flix (his ma makes the sauce):

Love this movie:

Bouton as Terry Lennox…

Mr. Barbar.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver