Monday, August 18, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Long Goodbye (1973) - Pacing That Relies on Suspense (vs. Surprise)

[Quick Summary: P.I. Phillip Marlowe helps a friend escape to Mexico, then is suspicious when the friend "commits suicide."]

4 Things I Learned about Leigh Brackett:

1.  A friend owned a bookstore and snuck one of Brackett's sci-fi novels into a stack of books that Howard Hawks bought.  Hawks liked it so much that he hired Brackett for the Big Sleep.  He was surprised she was a female!

2.  She started out as a sci-fi novelist.  (Suddenly her co-writing credit on the Empire Strikes Back makes sense to me.)

3.  She never wrote a western, but still tackled Rio Bravo.

4.  She describes the Long Goodbye as "start[ing] off with a bang and never quit moving." 

She's not kidding.

This script is a must read for amazing pacing and fluidity.

Here's the first 30 minutes:

p. 1-2 - Marlowe helps his friend Terry get to Mexico.
p. 3-12 - Marlowe is arrested, questioned, released, and off the hook.
p. 13-14 - He doesn't believe Terry committed suicide.
p. 15-19 - He goes to Mexico to see for himself.
p. 20-24 - He gets call from a new client, Mrs. Wade. Her husband is missing.
p. 25-35 - He finds Mr. Wade held at a "spa" and gets him out. Mr. Wade is an unpleasant man.

Also read this script for its precise detail. Just enough, not too much.

ex. "The front door opens, spilling light across the driveway. Eileen stands in the doorway."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: This script's sublime pacing/tempo is due to great suspense, i.e., truly interesting things happen in every scene.

I like that the script avoids the cheaper method of surprise, i.e., "drop a bomb and leave".

The Long Goodbye (1973)(1972 draft)
by Leigh Brackett
Adapted from the novel by Raymond Chandler

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