March 7, 1973 — Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye opens in theaters.
“When the picture opened, it was a big, big flop. It opened in Los Angeles and Chicago and a few other cities, and the ad campaign was Elliott with a cat on his shoulder, a smoking .45 and a cigarette in his mouth, with Nina as a slick blonde beside him. And it just failed. I went to David Picker and said, ‘You can’t do this. No wonder the fucking picture is failing. It’s giving the wrong impression. You make it look like a thriller and it’s not, it’s a satire.’ So they pulled the film, and we got Jack Davis from Mad magazine to do a new poster with all the characters, and we opened it in New York and it was a smash hit. By the time that happened, it was too late for Los Angeles and those other cities. If New York had been our first opening, we would have had a successful film. But the film has stood up over the years, in a strange way.
“Some British critics didn’t like Elliott Gould playing Philip Marlowe, and I was confused about that, because I had read a lot of the books, and what Chandler wrote was really a bunch of thumbnail sketches or thematic essays, all about Los Angeles, and Marlowe was just a device to unite them, and I felt we were very close to that. Everyone said Elliott’s not Philip Marlowe and I wasn’t being true to the author, but what they were really saying was that Elliott Gould wasn’t Humphrey Bogart. In fact, I believe we were closer to Chandler’s character than any of the other renditions, where they made him a kind of movie superhero. […]
“I decided we were going to call him Rip Van Marlowe, as if he’d been asleep for twenty years, had woken up and was wandering through this landscape of the early 1970s but trying to evoke the morals of a previous era. I put him in that dark suit, white shirt and tie, while everyone else was smelling incense and smoking pot and going topless; everything was health food and exercise and cool. So we just satirized that whole time. And that’s why that line of Elliott’s—‘It’s OK with me’—became his key line throughout the film.” — Robert Altman