Sunday, December 26, 2010

Steve McQueen as Philip Marlowe?

Was Santa nice to you and yours? I hope so, and as we gear up to kiss 2010 good-bye, and none too soon (what a rough year!), I also hope you plan to make the new year ten times better than the old one. Heaven knows it can't be any worse.

So waiting for me under the tree this morning was a new Steve McQueen biography by Marshall Terrill, which is, in fact, a rewrite of another McQueen bio he wrote back in 1993. This one is better, he says. What the heck, I'll read it, as I'm a sucker for McQueen, who not only inspired me to be an actor myself, but led such a life that, in most cases, is a good example for others (minus the drug use and philandering, of course--but, hey, nobody's perfect).

In one of the indexes Terill lists the movies McQueen didn't make, and one of those was Robert Altman's The Long Good-Bye.

McQueen as Marlowe? Wow.

Just... wow.

McQueen played the world-weary, vulnerable, never-give-up type time and time again, and did it better than anybody before or since.

Bullitt. McQueen against authority. He solved the mystery his way while avoiding interference from the suits who stood in his way.

Papillon. McQueen, trying to escape a French prison over and over again, without success, beaten time and again, buried in a solitary holding cell clinging to whatever sliver of light allowed him to see outside. Best line from the movie: "I'm still here, you bastards."

Junior Bonner. He refused to give up his dreams of rodeo glory despite his age and pressure from his parents and others. He forged his own way.

The Great Escape. Need I say more?

Philip Marlowe never gave up, no matter how many times he was sapped (by crooks and cops alike) and when nobody else would stand up for what was right, or his client, Marlowe stood up. He stood up for Terry Lennox, when he probably shouldn't have. He paid for his choices. But he took the licking and kept going. If he didn't, nobody would.

Marlowe and McQueen are a match made in literary and celluloid heaven.

With his qualities, McQueen would have given us the definitive portrayal of Philip Marlowe no matter how the screenwriters and Altman updated the novel.

Can you imagine the final scene between Marlowe and Terry Lennox with McQueen behind the desk? Oh... My... Gosh...

But it didn't work out, and The Long Good-Bye starred Elliot Gould. Not that there is anything, you know, wrong with that...


  1. I'd say there was plenty wrong with that. But in fairness to Gould, Altman's vision was so twisted and ANTI-Marlowe that not even McQueen could have saved it. I'd have rather seen McQueen in Marlowe, the screen version of The Little Sister.

  2. Good point, Evan. I think Altman and McQueen had such fiery personalities that Altman probably would have stepped aside had Steve been cast (to my knowledge, nobody had committed when McQueen was first offered the part), but who knows. I have completely forgotten about Marlowe, and in fact have never seen it. Is it on DVD?