CinemaLit: The Long Goodbye (1973) | Mechanics' Institute

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CinemaLit: The Long Goodbye (1973)
CinemaLit September 2023: – The Hollywood New Wave

September 22 – The Long Goodbye (1973), 112 minutes, directed by Robert Altman, starring Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, and Sterling Hayden.

Robert Altman took Raymond Chandler's 1950s hard-bitten detective Philip Marlowe and dropped him in 1970s Hollywood, where Marlowe's anachronistic morality undergirds a complex murder mystery. Altman further infuses The Long Goodbye with his signature touches – non-traditional casting, improvisation, overlapping dialogue and eavesdropping, all set against a vaguely unsettling dystopian backdrop. Elliott Gould, fresh from Altman's hit dark comedy M*A*S*H, is the perfect languid anti-hero, wandering the sun-bleached streets of Los Angeles in search of answers. That leads both him and the audience to shocking truths.

September 2023 CinemaLit – The Hollywood New Wave

1973: Gasoline was 39 cents a gallon and mailing a first-class letter cost eight cents. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were found guilty of conspiring in the Watergate break-in. President Nixon ceased bombing in North Vietnam, but resumed bombing in Laos. And the American film industry was in what would later be called the Hollywood New Wave, or Hollywood Renaissance.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, unusual circumstances allowed ambitious directors, including a group of young iconoclasts, to make personal films with minimum studio interference. Artistic vision stood alongside uncertain market forces to produce a dazzling era of American filmmaking.

In September, CinemaLit will screen four of the period, all from 1973 and now 50 years old, but each as startling and original as they were at their release. Join us for Sidney Lumet's Serpico, Hal Ashby's The Last Detail, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, and Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon.



Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies.

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”


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