Apr 26 2017 1:00pm

My Favorite Crime Movie

Read why Peter Blauner considers Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye to be his favorite crime movie, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of Blauner's sweeping crime novel, Proving Ground!

The Long Goodbye isn’t the best crime movie ever made. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are hard to beat in that category. It isn’t the best film Robert Altman ever directed either; McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville are more likely contenders. And it certainly isn’t the best adaption of a Raymond Chandler novel—how could anyone top Bogart and Bacall in The Big Sleep? But it was the right movie at the right time for me.

It came out when I was 13 years old, a big sluggish kid with a keen interest in baseball and not much else. An early enthusiasm for reading had started to sputter out, thanks to premature exposure to the Bronte sisters, disruptions at home, and an excess of wretched television. I think the only book I’d read cover-to-cover up to that point in 1973 was Jim Bouton’s tawdry baseball exposé, Ball Four, with its tales of pill-popping and Baseball Annies.  

I was deeply suspicious of the adult world, which seemed corrupt and confusing to me (I grew up in Manhattan), but my only entry point for understanding came through some of the more sophisticated R-rated movies of the time, which I could get into because I was already shaving. I somehow learned that Bouton was in a movie and took my $3 allowance down to the Baronet Cinema on Lexington Avenue to see what it was about.

As anyone who’s seen the film can tell you, Altman was not paying slavish homage to the genre. The basic plot updates Chandler’s story about Philip Marlowe doing a favor out of loyalty for his friend Terry Lennox (played by Bouton in the film) and getting beat up, arrested, and caught up in nefarious doings by decadent Californians when all he wanted to do is get the right cat food for his cat.

Elliot Gould plays Marlowe as a stumblebum shlub, mumbling and shrugging at a world that he doesn’t belong in. Big ID checkmark for a misfit kid. Marlowe keeps saying “okay by me,” even though things clearly aren’t.

Along the way, he runs into Sterling Hayden playing a raging alcoholic, Henry Gibson from Laugh-In playing a sinister rehab shrink, a very young Arnold Schwarzenegger (already offering intimations of a more brutish future), Mark Rydell committing an act of truly shocking violence, and Nina Van Pallandt, whose golden smile and air of glamorous intrigue (she was involved in a real-life scandal involving a fake Howard Hughes memoir) sealed the enchantment deal for me. 

I’d like to think I also appreciated the jazzy soundtrack and nostalgic color scheme, but really I was just a kid getting off on the jaded atmosphere. But I think what struck me the most was that, at a certain point, it wasn’t okay with Philip Marlowe anymore. After all the muttering and shrugging, this rather Jewish version of Marlowe’s hero finally decides enough is enough and erupts out of a personal code of honor. And he doesn’t do it in a cornball movie-hero way like John Wayne, but with a kind of bitter irony that seemed completely true and appropriate to the world I was living in.

From the film I went to Chandler’s novel and discovered all that lush gangster poetry he wrote. And from reading, I eventually went to writing. So basically, a movie about a guy trying to feed his cat changed my life. And I’ve never even had a cat. Go figure. What goes on in the dark is always a mystery. 

Read an excerpt from Peter Blauner's latest, Proving Ground!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Proving Ground by Peter Blauner!

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Proving Ground Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) April 26, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET May 10, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Peter Blauner is an Edgar-winning, New York Times-bestselling author of Slow Motion Riot and The Intruder. He spent the 1980s covering crime, politics, and other forms of socially-abhorrent behavior for New York magazine. For the past decade he has been working in television, writing for several shows in the Law & Order franchise and the CBS show Blue Bloods. He was born and raised in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Gordon Bingham
1. gordonbingham
Long time Chandler fan so am stoked for this one...
Jane Schwarz
2. Janeschwarz
I too, enjoy a good crime/mystery novel or movie. Shows a world that most all of us know little about, but fascinate, none the less.
Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of Proving Ground.
James Joyce
3. JamesPatrickJoyce
I love that movie. It's far from my favourite crime movie, but it's Chandler (ish) and Gould.
John Smith
5. jsmith2jsmith
I might have seen this as a TV Movie Of the Week.
6. Mark van Vollenhoven
An excellen6t book, great movie and a nice reviw thank you
Deb Philippon
7. DebP
I'd love to win a copy of Proving Ground. Wish me luck!
Janice Milliken
9. msjiva
Guess I need to watch The Long Goodbye!
Rhonda Barkhouse
13. Rhobar
I have never seen the movie. I would love to read this book.
Rhonda Barkhouse
14. Rhobar
I have never seen the movie. I would love to read this book.
Renee Rousseau
15. reneejr
I would love to win a copy of Proving Ground. Crime is my newest favorite genre.
Laurence Coven
16. Holmes
Altman's version of "The Long Good-bye is excellent--suspenseful and delightfully humorous. It's hard to choose between the Eliot Gould version--he's really good, and Bogart's is also---They're both great movies, and enough difference in mood and dialogue that you can watch them without thinking you're viewing a re-make--Each has it's own ambience and pace--yet both are pretty loyal to the novel.
Marisa Young
17. Risa
Great book, okay movie would like to see what type of writer the mov ie inspired.
Jean Feingold
18. dusksunset
Certainly an unusual route to a writing career.
Jean Feingold
18. dusksunset
Certainly an unusual route to a writing career.
Sally Kohlenberg
19. SallyK
I have read great reviews of this book-would love to have it. Thank you-he's a very good author
22. carryon
If that is his favorite crime drama, then I would REALLY like to read Proving Ground.
Lori Provenzano
23. Mountainesque
Hadn'd realized I'd confused this film with other Philip Marlowe movies until I'd just now read your review. Will definitely make a point of catching up. Very evocative excerpt of 'Proving Ground'. Thanks for this, too.
pearl berger
25. beach
Chandler is great. I would enjoy this bovel.
ellie lewis
27. italia
This mystery would be greatly enjoyed. Love Chandler.
28. Carl Scott
I've never seen The Long Goodbye, now I'm going to have to find it and watch it. Thanks so much for the tip and the chance to win this excellent book.
Chuck Aeschbacher Jr
29. MarkBlemish
I've not seen the movie or read the book but will keep them on my radar for sure. Hard boiled dectective and Jewish sounds kind of fun.
Deborah Dumm
30. deb730
I love a great mystery. I can't wait to read this book.
Alicia Sargant
31. asarge
It's so long since I saw the movie I'll probably try to catch it again sometime. Would love to read this book.
32. LStirling
Maybe you SHOULD own a cat! Good review and interesting path to writing.
Sharon Haas
33. kazul
Any crime story abt NYC is on my read list!
Michael Carter
34. rubydog
Sounds good!
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks ---
35. Polly Barlow
I would love to read this interesting sounding book.
Louis Burklow
37. Nash62
I have to admit I've never seen this movie. Since I love Chandler's novels I want to check it out. I do know that I like Peter Blauner's books so I'd enjoy the chance to read this one soon.
Esther Whatley
40. ewhatley
I haven't seen this movie but would love to win a copy of Proving Ground. NYC is one of my favorite book locales.
vickie dailey
41. kidcurry
i've never seen this movie - it must have been quite profound for you to actually take reading to a career in writing - I am intrigued to read proving ground - to see if you can stack up against raymond chanlder. Chandler was never a real fave of mine - but I did enjoy some of the movies.
Terry Pearson
45. hippiechick1955
I don't know his work but the excerpt tells me I need to read the book.
Mary Ann Woods
46. puttputt1198eve
That was a great movie! Just my style. Woud love to read the book.
Kyle Johnson
47. kylecar94
Crime movies ... second only to good crime novels!
49. Linda Cosby
love the genre
Caroline Lennek
52. clennek
I've seen some of the movies based on Raymond Chandler, but not "The Long Goodbye." After reading Peter Blauner's description I feel compelled to not only watch the movie, but read Mr. Blauner's book.
Saundra K. Warren
53. shortiew
I'll never understand why I don't have the patience to watch a movie but can read books all day long
Kris Kaminski
54. kjkski
Gould as marlowe-no..and the books are allways better!
Kris Kaminski
54. kjkski
Gould as marlowe-no..and the books are allways better!
vicki wurgler
55. bison61
read the excerpt-crime and redemption sounds good
57. Linda A
I remember growing up on old detective movies. Influenced my reading for sure. That and Trixie Belden novels.
Robert Grieco
58. RobG
I just LOVE crime! :)
Fingers crossed!
59. blclcc1
I have always been a huge fan of the old style detective and crime movies, and this makes me want to rewatch this one yet again. Adding to my to be read list
Kevin Burton Smith
60. kvnsmith
Your reminisce of THE LONG GOODBYE is okay be me, but forget THE BIG SLEEP -- MURDER MY SWEET's the best -- or at least truest -- adaptation of a Chandler novel.
In fact, Hawks probably took as many liberties with the character of Marlowe as Altman did.
Angie Stormer
61. ReadaholicZone
Read the excerpt. Now I NEED to read the book! Looking forward to it...
Heather Hart
63. hkhart
Robert Altman is one of my favorite directors, so this book sounds perfect!
Heather Hart
64. hkhart
Robert Altman is one of my favorite directors, so this book sounds perfect!
68. John Meixner
looking forward to reading this
Karen Hester
69. rosalba
Excerpt makes me want to read the book
Jackie Wisherd
71. JackieW
I know I would enjoy reading this book. I read lots of mysteries and Chandler is a favorite.
Elizabeth Lumsden
72. puffinliz
I have seen several of Altman's films, I will have to check this one out! Thanks for the chance to win your book!
73. Helen Martin
A wonderful movie and a great book. I'm a diehard Chandler fan. Marlowe's moral code is something that is in short supply these days. I love his rumpled laid-back approach to life.
Darlene Slocum
75. darandsam
I read a lot of crime mysteries. This one looks interesting.
Sally Schmidt
76. bigcootie
Great post, would love to win this one.
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