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!
 

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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.

Comments

  1. Gordon Bingham

    Long time Chandler fan so am stoked for this one…

  2. Jane Schwarz

    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.

  3. James Joyce

    I love that movie. It’s far from my favourite crime movie, but it’s Chandler (ish) and Gould.

  4. Daniel Morrell

    it was ok too dated

  5. John Smith

    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

  7. Deb Philippon

    I’d love to win a copy of Proving Ground. Wish me luck!

  8. lasvegasnv

    interesting

  9. Janice Milliken

    Guess I need to watch The Long Goodbye!

  10. Barbara Bibel

    Sounds great. I love that movie!

  11. Jeffrey Tretin

    Perfect for me. Thank you

  12. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  13. Rhonda Barkhouse

    I have never seen the movie. I would love to read this book.

  14. Rhonda Barkhouse

    I have never seen the movie. I would love to read this book.

  15. Renee Rousseau

    I would love to win a copy of Proving Ground. Crime is my newest favorite genre.

  16. Laurence Coven

    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.

  17. Marisa Young

    Great book, okay movie would like to see what type of writer the mov ie inspired.

  18. Jean Feingold

    Certainly an unusual route to a writing career.

  19. Jean Feingold

    Certainly an unusual route to a writing career.

  20. Sally Kohlenberg

    I have read great reviews of this book-would love to have it. Thank you-he’s a very good author

  21. Gwen Ellington

    Proving Ground–an enticing title!

  22. Pearl Berger

    A great post and wonderful novel.

  23. carryon

    If that is his favorite crime drama, then I would REALLY like to read Proving Ground.

  24. Lori Provenzano

    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.

  25. Katrina Yurenka

    I really NEED to read this book!

  26. pearl berger

    Chandler is great. I would enjoy this bovel.

  27. bill norris

    love a good mystery.

  28. ellie lewis

    This mystery would be greatly enjoyed. Love Chandler.

  29. Carl

    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.

  30. Chuck Aeschbacher Jr

    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.

  31. Deborah Dumm

    I love a great mystery. I can’t wait to read this book.

  32. Alicia Sargant

    It’s so long since I saw the movie I’ll probably try to catch it again sometime. Would love to read this book.

  33. L

    Maybe you SHOULD own a cat! Good review and interesting path to writing.

  34. Sharon Haas

    Any crime story abt NYC is on my read list!

  35. Michael Carter

    Sounds good!
    Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  36. Polly Barlow

    I would love to read this interesting sounding book.

  37. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  38. Louis Burklow

    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.

  39. Terrie Ash

    Adding to my to-read list.

  40. Ellen

    Who doesn’t like free books!

  41. Esther Whatley

    I haven’t seen this movie but would love to win a copy of Proving Ground. NYC is one of my favorite book locales.

  42. vickie dailey

    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.

  43. Susanne Troop

    Love a good crime story!

  44. Susanne Troop

    Love a good crime story!

  45. Laurent Latulippe

    I hope I win!

  46. pat murphy

    Love to win .

  47. Terry Pearson

    I don’t know his work but the excerpt tells me I need to read the book.

  48. Mary Ann Woods

    That was a great movie! Just my style. Woud love to read the book.

  49. Kyle Johnicker

    Crime movies … second only to good crime novels!

  50. Catherine Myers

    Noir,yes.

  51. Linda Cosby

    love the genre

  52. elsie321

    love the genre

  53. Angie Simmonds

    I’d love a chance to win!

  54. Caroline Lennek

    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.

  55. Saundra K. Warren

    I’ll never understand why I don’t have the patience to watch a movie but can read books all day long

  56. Kris Kaminski

    Gould as marlowe-no..and the books are allways better!

  57. Kris Kaminski

    Gould as marlowe-no..and the books are allways better!

  58. vicki wurgler

    read the excerpt-crime and redemption sounds good

  59. Patrick Murphy

    Adding to my list

  60. Linda A

    I remember growing up on old detective movies. Influenced my reading for sure. That and Trixie Belden novels.

  61. Robert Grieco

    I just LOVE crime! 🙂
    Fingers crossed!

  62. LAURI COATES

    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

  63. Kevin Burton Smith

    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.

  64. Angie Stormer

    Read the excerpt. Now I NEED to read the book! Looking forward to it…

  65. Diane Pollock

    A must read!

  66. Heather Hart

    Robert Altman is one of my favorite directors, so this book sounds perfect!

  67. Heather Hart

    Robert Altman is one of my favorite directors, so this book sounds perfect!

  68. Shelly Hart

    would love to win!

  69. Mary Williams

    AOK with me.

  70. Vernon Luckert

    Looks like a good read.

  71. John Meixner

    looking forward to reading this

  72. Karen Hester

    Excerpt makes me want to read the book

  73. Diana Bendiksen

    This sounds like a great book.

  74. Jackie Wisherd

    I know I would enjoy reading this book. I read lots of mysteries and Chandler is a favorite.

  75. Elizabeth Lumsden

    I have seen several of Altman’s films, I will have to check this one out! Thanks for the chance to win your book!

  76. 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.

  77. Portia Asher

    I would feel privileged to win.

  78. Darlene Slocum

    I read a lot of crime mysteries. This one looks interesting.

  79. Sally Schmidt

    Great post, would love to win this one.

Comments are closed.