Welcome to the second instalment of jazz on film, a blog feature which discusses biographical films about jazz musicians, films with jazz-centric stories, films staring jazz musicians, film adaptations of broadway musicals from the jazz age, and films with a jazz score.
The Long Goodbye, released in 1973, is a neo-noir film by Robert Altman. Unlike traditional film noir from the 40s and 50s, this film is set in sunny California. All the beachy, sun-soaked scenes make Philip Marlowe’s chain smoking, wise-cracking, and crime solving seem even more sardonic and stark.
The link to traditional film noir is found in the original jazz score composed by John Williams and Johnny Mercer. What makes this score unique from any other film score I’ve ever heard is that it’s actually just one song, interpreted by a whole bunch of different musicians, namely The Dave Grusin Trio, Jack Sheldon, Clydie King, Irene Kral, Erno Neufeld’s Violin, Jack Riley, Morgan Ames’ Aluminium Band, and The Tepoztlan Municipal Band.
You may not notice it at first but upon a repeat viewing you’ll notice that characters are humming the tune, it’s on every radio, and every musician is playing it. It’s so bizarre! Take a listen to Irene Kral’s version below.
I was so intrigued by this I just had to have the soundtrack and the sheet music but it turns out both are hard to find. I didn’t feel like dropping $60 on eBay for the soundtrack but I was able to lift the chart. If you click on the image below you can download a pdf version of the lead sheet for The Long Goodbye. Enjoy!
This has been jazz on film. Please leave film suggestions for future posts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!