Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 28
October 28, 1973
The Long Goodbye re-released

The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman's revisionist take on the quintessential 40s private eye, Philip Marlowe, got a second shot at glory today in 1973 after it had floundered on its initial release in March, earlier that year. Altman had not been the primary choice for United Artists when they set out to adapt arguably the greatest and most textured of Raymond Chandler's detective noirs; they had first approached the aging Howard Hawks and New Hollywood's retro-influenced Peter Bogdanovich, with Robert Mitchum as their ideal lead. (Mitchum would subsequently do two Marlowe movies later in the 1970s.) What's more, the movie's screenwriter was Leigh Brackett, who had adapted The Big Sleep for Hawks way back in 1946. However, partly inspired by Brackett's departure from the novel, Altman's approach was very unconventional: he hired out of favor Elliott Gould to play Marlowe and envisioned the movie as a critique of Marlowe and how out of step he was with the 70s. Critics responded badly, with Time's Jay Cocks writing, "Altman's lazy, haphazard putdown is without affection or understanding, a nose-thumb not only at the idea of Philip Marlowe but at the genre that his tough-guy-soft-heart character epitomized. It is a curious spectacle to see Altman mocking a level of achievement to which, at his best, he could only aspire." Having marketed the film as a straight detective movie, UA regrouped and literally went back to the drawing board, commissioning a new poster from Mad magazine's Jack Davis that repositioned the film as more comic than serious. Though the ploy was ultimately successful and the film again did poorly at the box office, over time Altman's movie has nevertheless gained the status of a minor counterculture classic.


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The Sin of the Master

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