The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye 18

The Early Scores of John Williams

Film

Please note: This was screened in April 2019

Director:
Robert Altman
Cast:
Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
Duration:
111 mins, 1973, USA
Primary language:
English

One of the finest films from the 1970s, Robert Altman's masterly take on Raymond Chandler's iconic final novel features Elliot Gould in laid-back form as private eye Philip Marlowe and an unusual request from its director to composer John Williams for its jazz laden score.

LA detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) smells a rat when his friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton), whom he has just driven to Tijuana, is accused of murder. Convinced of Lennox's innocence, Marlowe finds himself embroiled in a labyrinthine murder case involving a drunken novelist (Sterling Hayden), the writer's much-younger wife (Nina van Pallandt), a quack Dr. Feelgood (Henry Gibson), a Jewish gangster (Mark Rydell), and other assorted disreputables en route toward a shocking climax in Mexico.

In keeping with the overall oddball atmosphere of the film, for its score Altman asked Williams to provide one single main theme, repeated throughout the film with many variations adapted for its different scenes. So as well as the beautiful 10 minute main title sequence, the tune (one of Williams’ most inspired), is also re-presented as a song (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer), in different jazz versions, as a tango, in blues style, as a warm love theme for trumpet and strings, on sitar (for scene at a hippie party), as well as a Mexican variation to boot!