Elliott Gould has said that so long as he is physically able he holds out hopes that he could reprise the role of Phillip Marlowe. He has a screenplay entitled "It's Always Now," based on a Raymond Chandler story, "The Curtain." The Chandler estate sold him the rights to the story for $1.
Robert Altman decided that the camera should never stop moving, and put it on a dolly. However, the camera movements would counter the actions of the characters so that the audience would feel like a voyeur.
The movie's ending, different from the source novel, is usually attributed to director Robert Altman. It actually appeared in Leigh Brackett's original script, written before Altman signed on. Altman liked the new ending so much that he insisted on a clause in his contract that guaranteed the ending wouldn't be changed during production or editing.
Elliott Gould had not worked in two years. Gould had been blackballed in the film industry due to his erratic behavior on the set of "A Glimpse of Tiger" (which eventually morphed into What's Up, Doc? (1972)). But Robert Altman insisted on casting Gould and this film served as a comeback for him.
The time period of Raymond Chandler's novel "The Long Goodbye" was updated from it original era of 1949-1950 to the Hollywood of the 1970s. Despite this, Phillip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) still drives a car from the 1940s and still earns a daily salary typical of gumshoe private eyes from older days.
John Williams and Johnny Mercer's title song crops up in various guises throughout the film, including on the radio, as a dirge played at a funeral by a Mexican marching band, and even as the first couple of notes of the Wades' doorbell.
Both Leigh Brackett and Robert Altman have said that Sterling Hayden and Elliot Gould''s dialogue during the drinking scenes was improvised. This was because Hayden was drunk and stoned on marijuana most of the time.
Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond tried to approximate human vision through the post-production technique of exposing the undeveloped negative to additional pure light, which literally dampens blacks and softens intense colors until they become pastel hues.
The film is dedicated to Dan Blocker in the closing credits. The dedication states: "With Special Remembrance for Dan Blocker)". Robert Altman, who had directed many early episodes of Bonanza (1959), had originally cast his friend Blocker in the role of Roger Wade, but he died before filming commenced. The role subsequently was filled by Sterling Hayden.
The make and model of the white hooded-top black car that Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) drove was a 1948 Cabriolet Lincoln Continental Convertible (876H-56). According to the book "Robert Altman" by Jansen and Schütte, the car is owned by Gould.
The movie was part of a predominantly 1970s revival cycle of pictures adapted from novels by Raymond Chandler. The films included Marlowe (1969), The Big Sleep (1978), The Long Goodbye (1973) and i_Farewell, My Lovely (1975)_ as well as a TV version of Double Indemnity (1973) -- which was previously adapted by Chandler and Billy Wilder from a novel by James M. Cain.
The idea to to have every playing of the film's theme song "The Long Goodbye" mixed and/or arranged differently was a concept suggested by director Robert Altman. As such, there are around six different credits for the film's title song, it is performed in the film by The Dave Grusin Trio, Jack Sheldon, Clydie King, Jack Riley, the Morgan Ames' Aluminum Band, and also The Tepoztlan Municipal Band.
Two taglines on movie posters for the picture were fabricated Phillip Marlowe quotes. They were, "Nothing says goodbye like a bullet" and "I have two friends in the world. One is a cat. The other is a murderer".
The film's screenwriter Leigh Brackett twenty-seven years earlier co-wrote the script for the classic The Big Sleep (1946) which was also based on a Raymond Chandler novel and also featured the Philip Marlowe character.
When the police are responding to the suicide of Roger Wade, Phillip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) becomes irate that they don't believe that Roger Wade could have murdered Terry Lennox' wife. He yells that he's going to call Ronald Reagan (then the governor) to protest their inaction. In the very next scene, Marlowe is brought to Marty Augustine's office for a shakedown. One of Augustine's bodyguards is an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger, later elected Governor of California. Thus Marlowe, in a way, gets to meet the governor.
A portrait of Leonard Cohen is visible in the background during the scene where Philip Marlowe and Eileen Wade are dining together in the Wades' residence. Robert Altman was an admirer of Cohen's, having used three of his songs - 'The Stranger Song', 'Sisters of Mercy' and 'Winter Lady', all from the soundtrack of his earlier western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).
Playing Marty Augustine, director Mark Rydell returned to acting for this movie after an absence of around a decade. After this film, Rydell wouldn't appear again in a filmed production for another fifteen years, until Punchline (1988) in 1988.
Reportedly, director Robert Altman did not read all of Raymond Chandler's novel "The Long Goodbye" prior to production. Instead, Altman preferred to consult Chandler's a collection of letters and essays, "Raymond Chandler Speaking". Copies of this book were given to cast and crew who were advised to study it.
To help establish with the cast and crew the kind of tone he was trying to create, Robert Altman circulated on the set a little-known letter that Raymond Chandler had written, as well as his essay collection "Raymond Chandler Speaking". Both pieces are notable for revealing Chandler's underlying suicidal tendencies.
The film was made and released about twenty years after its source novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler had been first published in 1953. According to 'Time Out', the film "stays pretty close to the novel's basic narrative (though there are a couple of crucial changes)". That publication also stated that there were "cries of outrage from hard-line [Raymond] Chandler purists".
Originally released in Los Angeles with a poster campaign more appropriate to James Bond movies, or the Flint spoof series, the film made little impact in the City of Angels. A different advertising campaign was designed for its New York release, where it was a considerable success.
The "Hooray for Hollywood" music at the beginning and end of the film is a promotional trailer for an RKO film made in 1937 (Hollywood Hotel (1937)) featuring the Benny Goodman and His Orchestra. The members of the orchestra are the male voices singing, and the voice saying "Be an actor, see Mr. Factor, he'll make your kisser look good" belongs to drummer Gene Krupa. The actual promo film itself is featured in the documentary Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing (1977).
Marlowe's car was a 1948 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet that belonged to Elliott Gould. In 2013 it was in The National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada, and where it had been repainted yellow.
Not known for making genre movies, Robert Altman would about 25 years later make another filmed adaptation from a story by a novelist in the mystery/thriller genre, this time it not being from Raymond Chandler but being based on a discarded manuscript by John Grisham, it being the movie The Gingerbread Man (1998).
In the short documentary Rip Van Marlowe (2002) on the DVD, the words "deleted scene" flash on black and white production stills of Steve McQueen, Elliott Gould and Robert Altman. Supposedly McQueen would have had a cameo as Sam Spade going up in an elevator with Marlowe.
Robert Altman and Leigh Brackett spent a lot of time talking over the plot. Altman wanted Marlowe to be a loser. He even nicknamed Elliott Gould's character Rip Van Marlowe, as if he had been asleep for 20 years, had woken up, and was wandering around Los Angeles in the early 1970s but "trying to invoke the morals of a previous era". Her first draft was too long, and she shortened it, but the ending was inconclusive. She had Marlowe shooting Terry Lennox. Altman conceived of the film as a satire and made several changes to the script, like having Roger Wade commit suicide and having Marty Augustine smash a Coke bottle across his girlfriend's face. Altman said, "it was supposed to get the attention of the audience and remind them that, in spite of Marlowe, there is a real world out there, and it is a violent world".
Part of a 1970s revival cycle of film noir and hard-boiled detective movies which included such non-Chandler fare as Gumshoe (1971), Chinatown (1974), and The Black Bird (1975). Five Chandler filmed adaptations were made around this period including this cinema movie.
Robert Altman received a copy of the script while shooting Images (1972) in Ireland. He liked the ending because it was so out of character for Marlowe. He agreed to direct but only if the ending was not changed.