Author Raymond Chandler & The Long Goodbye

Reading a Raymond Chandler novel today is like a genre mashup of poetry, historical fiction, and crime mystery all rolled into one. Take The Long Goodbye (1953) for instance.

They just don’t make book covers like they used to…

Raymond Chandler’s hardboiled narration is charming to read. I doubt that was the goal when he wrote it, but sixty-odd years later, reading the lyrical sentences had me smiling throughout the story and showcased Philip Marlowe as a vulnerable tough guy. It’s the contrast that endears.

If I want to feel like I’m in Los Angeles in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, I can jump into the historical climate of a Raymond Chandler book. The ambiance is authentic in the darker world. What a better place to insert an anti-hero. Philip Marlowe is a complex character with a healthy mixture of noble and ruthless attributes.

Philip Marlowe is often described as a moral man surrounded by unethical people. No one is trustworthy. He is full of contradictions. He is a man of his time. There are occasions in his narrative when he shows little regard for Mexicans, homosexuals, and women. On the other hand, he sees through the masks of affluent or authoritative “important” people. He is a good judge of character, dodging past their games and calling out with brass their true colors even if it gets him thrown in jail or shot at.

In The Long Goodbye, Terry Lenox is a veteran of WWII who saved his buddies in war but can’t save himself back home. He resorts to drinking to help him escape his trauma. He is polite and Marlowe can’t refuse to help him sensing pain and some decency in the man.

“There’s always something to do if you don’t have to work or consider the cost. It’s no real fun but the rich don’t know that. They never had any. They never want anything very hard except maybe somebody else’s wife and that’s a pretty pale desire compared with the way a plumber’s wife wants new curtains for the living room.” – Terry Lennox, Chapter 3, Page 21

In creating Marlowe, Raymond Chandler paints an interesting man who possesses an unusual way of describing his feelings with similes. It is part of Raymond Chandler’s legacy for quick, witty dialogue and provocative, lyrical similes. His language is precise and yet ambiguous in meaning. This is the formula Chandler employes to create Philip Marlowe’s charm and appeal.

“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”

“. . . the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue glare”.

“I drove back to Hollywood feeling like a short length of chewed string.”

“He looked like a tubercular white rat.”

Philip Marlowe’s popularity in pop culture inspired generations of writers of detective stories and helped birth the genre of the film noir.  Join us on May 13 for another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club. My good friend Pete from Beetley will help me co-host Raymond Chandler Films. 
For today, what do you like about Raymond Chandler novels? 

82 thoughts on “Author Raymond Chandler & The Long Goodbye

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  1. I confess that I have never read one of his novels, though over the decades, I have seen all the film adaptations. Maybe I should rectify that, now I have more reading time, and the Tablet?
    Best wishes, Pete. x

  2. Great post, Cindy. Like you, I appreciate the juxtaposition of elegance and grit that Chandler balances so eloquently. He doesn’t plop his characters down into an existing world, he creates his own world of beautiful words, a curvaceous plot and Philip Marlowe. Everything else are merely props. Exquisite props, but props nonetheless. To me, Marlowe and his integrity are not out of step with this world, they were made for it. They reflect Chandler’s own elegant, educated, sexist and racist view of the world.

    1. Hi Pam! I knew you were a fan, so I’m happy you came by to share your thoughts on a writer who didn’t get the respect he deserved. I was reading letters and bio’s about Chandler. I truly think that Philip Marlowe was Raymond Chandler’s alter ego.

  3. I enjoyed your review, and what fun to see the different book covers that a book has had, yes they don’t make them like they used to. I think The Big Sleep is my fave. And, it’s the language with him.

    1. I remember watching the Big Sleep ages ago. I wanted to give myself the opportunity of revisiting it with older eyes. Then it occurred to me I had never read the novel. So I’m having fun reading his work. Thank you for stopping by, Ted.

    1. Fun question, Alex. I saw somewhere in 2017 Liam Neeson was about to play the character Marlowe. Frankly, he would have been great for the role 15 years ago. In his mid 60s, I feel he’s too old. I see Marlowe as in his early 40s.
      Russell Crowe has the perfect face, but he can’t act. Mark Ruffalo can act. Grunge him up a bit and I bet he’d do well. Ethan Hawke could do the job (they are pretty, but with 5 oclock wiskers, they have the sensitivity and the hardness to bring Marlowe to life.
      Who would you cast?

      1. I’ve read “The Long Goodbye” several times over the years, always joy. I also watched “The Long Goodbye” with Elliott Gould several times. It is always a pleasure. Thanks for today’s posting, Cindy.

        1. Oh, good, a Chandler fan. The Elliott Gould film was unique. There are aspects about it that I enjoyed. The cat was an addition that wasn’t in the book but as a prop, it revealed much about Marlowe. A human touch. Surrounded by hippies and early 70s modern types, he is a 50s character time warped into the future. (The car, for instance). His mumbling to himself is fine, and he does seem “ditzy” compared to the book Marlowe who is sharp and intelligent (chess and classic music).

      2. funny you mention liam neesson as will be the next marlowe, although only the character comes from chandler, not the story, neeson will be a perfect marlowe, in 2014 he playedmatt scudder, the closest thing we have to marlowe in contemporary pulp, in a walk among the tombstones. ruffalo would be decent, but he is too weak and his acting consists of a limited bag of tricks. i like watching him, but am tired of his trademark routines. crowe, on the other hand, is too strong. ethan hawke would be good. so would robert downey.

          1. i have been giving this some thought. i have always believed that it is the director notthe actorthat creates the performance, so a lot of actors you might not think of right away may well do a fine job as marlowe if directed properly. and there is the proiblem. so few of todays directors would know what to do with the material. but i would like to see pt anderson direct james brolin, abel ferrara direct mark ruffalo, clint eastwood direct joachim phoenix, or antoine fuqua direct Jake Gyllenhaal as marlowe,

          2. This is an interesting topic. I think it paralles of all things, baseball. Managers used to direct the players – go, run, hit this way. Bunt. But as time has changed and players have been elevated to the big meal ticket, managers suggest politely they play the game their way. In the acting world, the director told the actor how he wanted the line read or an insight to the director’s vision. Now, I wonder, if actors tell directors what they’re doing. I know Clint Eastwood gives the actor a lot of freedom to be organic and spontaneous with the role.
            Unlike you, I know too little about the director’s history or style. I’m just learning. I envy your long history with the film industry. Albeit, it has made you judgemental and cynical. 😉

          3. from charles chaplin to sherlock holmes, downey has displayed a range that, for me at least, proves him a formidible candidate for the role of philip marlowe.

          4. Now that he’s dead as Tony in Endgame maybe he’ll find time to act again. He is very smart. Yes, you are right, he’s a fine actor. He’d be better than Ruffalo. I loved him in Tropic Thunder and as Chaplin he was perfect. Come to think of it, I have admired him in many films he’s been in. A sensitive role I liked him in was in The Soloist. Okay, I retract my statement. He would be a good Marlowe.

    1. I enjoyed reading about him. Seems he suffered from the same vices that his characters had. Especially, Marlowe. His British American status and his relationship with Hitchcock during “Strangers on a Train” is interesting.

  4. raymond chandler describes Marlowe…….“down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

    “He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

    “The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

    ― Raymond Chandler

    my favorite chandler film adaptation is dick richards farewell my lovely with mitchum as my favorite marlowe……….and my favorite unfaithful adaptationm is altmans the long goodbye

    1. Who better than Raymond Chandler to describe Marlowe? Excellent.
      I’m revisiting the Marlowe films. You don’t think Mitchum was too old? I watched Altman’s The Long Goodbye last week and have been vacillating whether I liked it or not. If I look at it independently from Chandler’s story, I liked Altman’s direction and I liked Gould’s performance. I thought it an interesting choice to bring Marlowe from the 50s into the 70s (the car). I liked the cat as a prop. I liked the hippy girls and that Marlowe was out of his element with regards to morality, but at the same time, seemed at home in his surroundings. Gould’s Marlowe backed off the “hardboiled” approach. I felt he bordered on indiffent or laid back about the events surrounding him.

      1. the opening line of farewell my lovely went something like this. i started feeling old last spring, but at least last spring i wasnt holed up in a cheap hotel dodging the cops. so yesm mitchum was a little old for the partm but everyone knew it, and that was factored into the characterization, and veing older, mitchum embdied a lot of marlowes world weariess that the others were unable to capture. mitchum wasnt able to do it a second time though. the follow up the big sleep, sucked, regarding the long goodbye. it was not s much altmas direction or goulds performances that i liked , but Vilmos Zsigmonds cinematography..perhaps the best film of the decade in that regard. also fantastic supporting performances.

        1. High praise for Vilmos! I thought the supporting performances outshined Gould, but in a way, the ensemble became a singular entity. The world vs. Marlowe. I’d like to know what Vilmos did behind the camera that had you so impressed?

          1. just watch the movie and you will see. the lighting is spectacular. what did you tik of the star is born ripoff with the alcohilicsuicide walk into the sea? the most objectionablle thing about the movie is the extremely unmarlowe ending

          2. I didn’t like it. It forced me to consider the film as not a Marlowe story. They should have labeled the film as”inspired” by a Chandler mystery instead of claiming to be one. They stretched too far.
            Preference, I suppose.

          3. one of the more annoying things about altman is his post modernist irony that winks at usm saying he really isnt doing a marlowe adaptation because he is above such things and so are you, the hip viewer, one of the faults of american flms of the seventies is that medium talented directors such as altman, coppola scorsese, and cimino were put in the position of having to pretend to be masters before they completed their apprenticeships,

          4. Hmmm. I will have to think about that considering their best films were in the 70s.
            But, I do agree with you about Altman’s rendition. It felt pretentious. But I did like the supporting roles, as you mentioned.

          5. yesm their best fims were their first films, that is the case with most untrained artists, look at the three album careers of most rock bands, but in the overall history of films, the best directors made upwards to 20 to thirty films before they hit their stride, ir at east worked in the movie industry for several years before attempting to direct. compare the 40 year plus careers of directors such as john ford, howard hawks. luis bunuel, fritz lang, alfred hitchcock, frank capra, jean renoir, william wellman, akira jurosawa, yashiro ozu, michelangelo antionioni. and frederico fellini to the one decade wonders of the seventies.

          6. A compelling argument. It is that apprenticeship period you have been mentioning lately that I certainly was not aware of. Thank you for the perspective.

          7. i wasnt thinking of the apprenticeship periods that are a prerequisite for membership in a particular union , but rather the 50 films john ford made before Stagecoachm and the 20 Hitchcock made before The 39 Steps. the 70s directors usually if a few nudies, a couple of low busget crime or horror picturs before a personal project that met with success and led to offers for major productions…..david lynch was successful wiyth his student film eraserhead, then was offered a classy A picture, the elephant madm then the mega budget dune, never kearned the first thing about directing a feature yet was expected to deliver genius work, altman had a good foundation in tleviion work, but always relied on the scripts to compensate for his spotty direction. the ones he wrote himself, with the exception of three womwn, were often abysmal socrses leaned what he knows from watching movies, not making them, and after some lame student films and a barely coherent featurem he made a middling drive in picture and then put his heartand soul into mean streets, which was so good he had to be a genius every day..and he succeeded to some degree until finishing raging bull, after which his inspiration had run dry and he didnt have the chops to nake a solid feature without them, his only substntia movies after that happened when he succeeded in repeating the past, as with goodfellas and casino.

          8. I see….I appreciate your knowledge about their history. “To be a genius every day.” That’s a lot of pressure. I think it’s a curse.
            BTW, off topic — I problably won’t post about it, but I really enjoyed a 48 minute documentary about bluesman Robert Johnson. I knew nothing about him but I enjoyed the premise that the roots of blues could lead to him. At the very least, he was inspirational. Have you seen it?

          9. i have seen it and was not impressed. allthe information has been readily available for decades, and yo be honest, i am no great fan of robert johnsons, although his small contribution to the blues canon is essential. but its less than 20 songs. there are dozens of more deserving blues masters , also, i think the legend nd myth surroundig him is not only stuoid but misrepresents the ichotomy between the church and the blues..why? because there is no dichotony, the blues was not allowed to be sung as a part of church services because the blues are the projection of the individual ego, while the gospel songs are a group expression. also the guitar is not an instrument suitable to group harmony. had nothing to do with evil or devils,,,, all that crossroads BS..give me a break!

          10. Since I knew nothing about him, it was entertaining. Yes, the crossroads myth is just a way to heighten the hoodoo and the evil association between the devil’s music and the music. I thought it interesting, tho.

          11. Ahhh. I figured there was a loop hole. School in AZ is almost out for the summer. There’s a lot I want to see. I’ll add this to the list. Thanks, Bill.

          12. of you are looking for movies, you might be interested in Bisbee 17. A bit of shameful arizona history re enacted by the towns present residents. it is not a good movie but an admirable try, and worth a look.

          13. Sure. I haven’t seen it. There’s a couple films high on my radar to watch. One is Arctic (Mads Mikkelsen) and the other is Lost in Paris. I am hoping to watch Arctic tonight.

          14. i have a copy of arctic. although i like mads, the suject matter doesnt appral to me so i havent watched t yet. i look forward to your views on it. im reading voyage to the bottom of the sea and today nemo and company got trapped in the ice below the south pole and all were nearly asphixiated.

          15. What a fine trip you had this,afternoon!
            Meanwhile, family is visiting from S. Africa. I suggested Arctic, but they want to see Avengers Infinity War. Gag.

          16. i have had to waitch the frst 2 avengers this week,,with infinity wars to follow…in preparation for the final episode so i will be able to folow it somewhat. i hate these moves. nothing but vehicles in motion, people running down corridors, fightes in whch everyone seems to get killed several times over, i resaw an excelllent movie last night..higher learning, written and drected by john singleton, who died this week at age 52. likke so many other black revolutonary genius film makers, he hit big at first, then was relegated to television episodes and music videos.

          17. sigletons four major pictures are boyz n the hood, poetic justice, hgher learning, and rosewood. they are all excellent, and my feeling is that you would like poetic justice the best of the four. im watching olivia de havilland in the snake pit right now. if i dont fall asleep, im going to watch poetic justice again next.

          18. it is much better than the movie, which glorified the charactr ncholson played, who was a satirical manifestation of keseys own fascist tendencies,,,and minimized the indian, who was the protagonist of the novel.

          19. Ha, I’m not surprised. Probably when he was imagining Nurse Ratchet as a part of the machine and her metalic feelers sensed the disturbance created by McMurphy.

          20. just watched Poetic Justice for the first time since it was rellased. i enoyed it but it wasnt nearly as good as i remembered. higher learning is the singleton movie to see,

  5. Great post 🙂 Director Robert Altman’s 1973 version of the Raymond Chandler story (also titled The Long Goodbye) is a masterpiece – my fourth favorite Altman film as well. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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