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At about 1h23m, Roger Wade commits suicide by walking into the ocean to drown. Did his wife Eileen deliberately drive him to it?

Motives

Eileen's marriage to Roger Wade is bad:

  • Roger is a lifelong drunk given to explosive bouts of (performative?) violence.
  • Despite his wealth, Roger manages his finances badly, and owes money to criminals like Marty Augustine, who do things like come to their house at night to brace her.
  • Roger is currently battling a bad case of writer's block, which not only threatens their livelihood, but (understandably) puts him in a terrible mood every day.
  • It's strongly implied that Roger has been unable to perform sexually, which is a certainty given his drinking.
  • Eileen has a huge dog as a pet, a guard dog that obeys her but not Roger -- something a woman might want in case her much-larger husband ever became violent toward her.
  • They sleep not just in separate beds but in separate buildings: Roger sleeps in some kind of solarium adjacent to the main house, and is resentful of the fact.
  • Roger knows Eileen has been having an affair, and is suspicious of Marlowe's intentions toward her.

Eileen also has a lover: Terry Lennox. She knows Terry's reported suicide is a fake, and she drives down to see him in Otatitlán after she pays off his debts and sells her and her late husband's beach house. She's got her next relationship queued-up and ready to go as soon as she can extricate herself from her current one. And when Marlowe finds Terry at the end of the film, Terry indicates that he and Eileen are still together, which is proved when Eileen and Marlowe pass each other on the road outside Terry's hideout.

Means & opportunity

This is the part that requires a judgment call. I think Eileen deliberately pushes his buttons to drive him to suicide.

The morning after Marlowe brings Roger home from Dr Verringer's clinic (1h02m), Roger tries to initiate a dialogue with Eileen, but she shuts down all his attempts to reach out.

  • When he asks her to fetch some milk, she retorts, "Milk: is that what you really want?" (implying that he really wants liquor -- which he does pour immediately after she effectively refuses to hand him the milk)
  • She threatens (again) to leave him if he keeps drinking.
  • When he counter-threatens that maybe he will leave her, she replies, "maybe you should."
  • When he says she's the only thing he's got left, she replies that maybe she's just his excuse.
  • When he tries to explain that writer's block feels like impotence, she replies that she knows about that, too.

The first time I saw this scene, it seemed like two damaged people trying to reconnect more-or-less earnestly, but failing because the battlefield is too littered with mines from previous conflicts, and because neither of them is really ready to forgive the other, or to believe that the other person can forgive.

For example, her comment about impotence, "I understand what that's like, too" could mean just what it says: she knows what it is like to feel powerless, helpless, unable to influence one's own fate. That's an okay sentiment! She wants him to know that she can relate to his current predicament, which is of course a good first step. But Roger interprets her comment as her needling him over his actual sexual impotence, and he explodes at her. Other parts of their conversation support similarly opposed interpretations.

But on repeat watching, I find it harder to square her actions with any kind of innocent motive. She wants out of the marriage, and she knows her unpleasant husband well enough to push him over the edge. When Roger tries to establish a tiny bit of normalcy between them, she torpedoes his attempt and then methodically severs every bond that he reaches for. Then she throws a huge drinking party, which is probably not what her just-off-a-bender husband needs at this precise moment.

Literally all of her words and deeds seem calculated to leave him with no hope. And she consistently lies to Marlowe about her involvement with and knowledge of the Lennoxes.

Did Eileen deliberately push Roger to commit suicide? Is she a killer "by remote control"?

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“Did Eileen deliberately push Roger to commit suicide? Is she a killer "by remote control"?”

I’d say “Yes!” Eileen Wade and Terry Lennox had an affair. Terry Lennox killed Sylvia Lenox to cover up the affair.

If something like that happened, it only makes sense that Eileen Wade drove her husband (Roger Wade) to his death? Heck, it makes the Most Sense™!

And if you are confused, this is a Roger Altman film; meaning it’s filled with improvisation and actors leading the direction.

As per the Wikipedia entry for The Long Goodbye (1973):

“Altman made several changes to the script, like having Roger Wade commit suicide…”

And this glib description of what filming was like; “Hayden” is Sterling Hayden who played Roger Wade:

“Altman had Gould and Hayden ad lib most of their dialogue because, according to the director, Hayden was drunk and stoned on marijuana most of the time. Altman was reportedly thrilled by Hayden’s performance. Altman's home in Malibu Colony was used as Wade's house. “I hope it works,” Altman said during filming. “We’ve got a script but we don't follow it closely.””

My guess from that short passage is that the beach house setting naturally let to Roger Wade drunkenly wading into the ocean to his death.

And quickly reviewing the script for The Long Goodbye doesn’t reveal much. Again, this is a Robert Altman film and as he says, “We’ve got a script but we don't follow it closely.”

In fact, Roger’s suicide plays out differently in the script; it was the classic/cliched “Goes into room and shoots himself.” thing in the script. Script sourced here on page 66 in the PDF which is dated March 7, 1972:

Eileen: What was that?
Marlowe: A shot.
He goes to the study door, tries it. It’s locked. He pounds on it, shouts.
Marlowe: Roger. Roger!
No answer. White-faced, Bileen speaks to Marlowe.
Eileen: He may just be shamming. He's done this before, to frighten me.
Marlowe: Roger?
No answer. Marlowe kicks the door open, breaking the lock. He looks inside, then turns and catches Eileen, to stop her going in.
Marlowe: Never mind, Eileen. This time he wasn’t shamming.

Pic of the passage on page 66 below:

Screenshot of the PDF of the script.

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