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Nashville is a 1975 American musical film directed by Robert Altman. A winner of many awards, selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, Nashville is generally considered to be one of Altman's best films.

The film takes a snapshot of people involved in the country music and gospel music businesses in Nashville, Tennesseemarker. It has 24 main characters, an hour of musical numbers, and multiple storylines. The characters' efforts to succeed or hold on to their success are interwoven with the efforts of a political operative and a local businessman to stage a concert rally before the state's presidential primary for a populist outsider running for president of the United States on the Replacement Party ticket. In the film's final half-hour, most of the characters come together at the outdoor concert at the Parthenon in Nashvillemarker.

The large ensemble cast includes David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert DoQui, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Allan F. Nicholls, Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles, and Keenan Wynn.

Production

The film was shot on location in Nashville in the summer (late July, August, and early September) of 1974. All the musical scenes are 'live' concert footage.

The original script was written by Joan Tewkesbury, who incorporated many observations from a trip to Nashville, such as the highway pileup. However, the actors were encouraged to improvise, and the soundtrack features Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue.

Several characters are based on real country music figures: Henry Gibson's Haven Hamilton is a composite of Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, and Porter Wagoner; Ronee Blakely's Barbara Jean is based on Loretta Lynn; the black country singer Tommy Brown (played by Timothy Brown) is based on Charley Pride; and the feuding folk trio is based on Peter, Paul and Mary; within the trio, the married couple of Bill and Mary were inspired by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, who later became Starland Vocal Band. Keith Carradine's character is believed to be inspired by Kris Kristofferson and Karen Black's Connie White strongly resembles Lynn Anderson.

The speeches given by candidate Hal Phillip Walker, who is never seen, were written by actor-screenwriter Thomas Hal Phillips.

Altman had enough footage to produce a four-hour film, and assistant director Alan Rudolph suggested he create an expanded version of "Nashville" to be shown in two parts, "Nashville Red" and "Nashville Blue," but the film ultimately remained intact. After a rush of critical acclaim, ABC expressed interest in a proposal for a ten-hour miniseries of "Nashville," based on the footage not used in the final cut, but plans for the project were scrapped. The additional footage has not been made available on DVD releases.

However, in a 2000 interview with the AV Club, Altman disputed the claim that he had several hours worth of deleted scenes to cut another feature-length film (or two) out of. Altman claimed that there "were no deleted scenes" and that "almost everything we shot is in that film". Altman further stated the unseen, extra footage that wasn't used in the final cut of the film was mainly music and not much else.

Cast and characters

Major

  • David Arkin is a nervous, self-conscious chauffeur who doesn't understand that celebrities want him to shut up and just do his job.
  • Spunky redhead Barbara Baxley is Lady Pearl, Haven Hamilton's companion. She manages a bluegrass night at a downtown club. She appears to be inebriated for most of the film, and is dedicated to the late John and Bobby Kennedy. She is Roman Catholic.
  • Ned Beatty as Delbert "Del" Reese is a good old boy with a struggling marriage and a wandering eye. He is Haven Hamilton's lawyer and the local organizer for the Hal Philip Walker campaign.
  • Karen Black is Connie White, a glamorous country singer of mediocre talent and rival of Barbara Jean.
  • In her first film role, songwriter Ronee Blakley is Barbara Jean, a hyper-feminine, emotionally fragile country singer who is the sweetheart of Nashville.
  • Timothy Brown is Tommy Brown, an African American singer who performs at the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Keith Carradine is Tom Frank, a member of the folk rock trio Bill, Mary and Tom. He is attempting to create a career as a solo artist. Lean, handsome and dashing, he is also rude and insolent; his successful womanizing leaves him empty and irritable.
  • Geraldine Chaplin is Opal, a wacky, celebrity-obsessed, self-absorbed BBC radio reporter. As a surrogate for the audience, she provides an outsider's perspective on the business of music. She is never seen with a film crew, she never shows anyone any official credentials and complains at one point that her cameraman is never around when she needs him. Film critic Roger Ebert suggests, in his "Great Movies" article, that she may not even be a filmmaker but just a groupie who uses fake credentials to gain access to famous people.
  • Robert DoQui is Wade Cooley, a cook at the airport restaurant and protector of Sueleen Gay.
  • Shelley Duvall is Martha, the niece of Mr. Green. Martha, who has changed her name to L.A. Joan, has come to Nashville ostensibly to visit Mrs. Green, but spends all her time changing her clothes and wigs, and chasing men.
  • Allen Garfield is Barnett, Barbara Jean's husband and manager. Barnett strenuously protects Barbara Jean's career, but when they are together their relationship is strained and he privately bullies her into a nervous wreck.
  • Henry Gibson is Haven Hamilton, a Nudie-suit-wearing star of the Grand Ole Opry. His political ambitions play a pivotal role in the film's plot.
  • Scott Glenn is Pfc. Glenn Kelly, a Vietnam War veteran who has come to Nashville to see Barbara Jean perform. It is unclear whether or not he is stalking her.
  • Jeff Goldblum is the silent Tricycle Man. He rides his long, low-slung three-wheel motorcycle everywhere, and serves as a structural connector for scenes in the film.
  • Barbara Harris is Winifred, an aspiring singer-songwriter who runs away from her irascible husband, Star. Despite her straggly appearance and repeated failures to get a break, she understands that the music business is a business, and when her opportunity comes, she is ready.
  • David Hayward is Kenny Frasier, a loner who "looks like Howdy Doody", carries a violin case and rents a room from Mr. Green.
  • Michael Murphy is the smooth-talking, duplicitous John Triplette, an organizer for Hal Philip Walker's presidential campaign.
  • Allan F. Nicholls is Bill, one of the folk trio, Bill, Mary and Tom. He is married to Mary. During the film his marriage is tested.
  • Dave Peel is Bud Hamilton, the sweet-natured son of Haven Hamilton. Bud, who went to Harvard, speaks without an accent. He handles his father's business affairs.
  • Cristina Raines is Mary, one of the folk trio, Bill, Mary and Tom. She is married to Bill, but is in love with Tom Franks.
  • Bert Remsen is Star, who appears in the film only to chase after his runaway wife Winifred.
  • Lily Tomlin is Linnea Reese, one of the major characters. Linnea is a gospel singer, wife of Delbert Reese and loving mother of two deaf children.
  • Gwen Welles is Sueleen Gay, a pretty young waitress at the airport lunch counter and a talentless, aspiring country singer. Her refusal to recognize her limitations and face reality gets her in trouble.
  • Keenan Wynn is Mr. Green, the aging uncle of Martha. His wife is sick and he spends the film trying to get Martha to visit her.


Minor

  • Richard Baskin, the film's musical supervisor, wrote several of the songs performed in the film. He has a cameo as Frog, a session musician, appearing in several scenes.
  • Merle Kilgore is Trout, the owner of a club that has an open-mic talent night that gives Sueleen Gay what she believes is her big break as a singer.
There are cameo appearances by Elliott Gould, Julie Christie, and Howard K. Smith, all playing themselves. Gould and Christie were passing through Nashville when Altman added them. Altman himself plays Bob an unseen producer who in the beginning of the film is producing Haven Hamilton's song 200 Years. He can be heard on a speaker when Hamilton gets agitated by Frog's inept piano playing.

Reception

Critical response

Nashville was lauded by major film critics. Pauline Kael described it as "the funniest epic vision of America ever to reach the screen", and both Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin gave the film four-star reviews. In his original review, Ebert wrote, "...after I saw it I felt more alive, I felt I understood more about people, I felt somehow wiser. It's that good a movie." On August 6, 2000, he included it in his Great Movies compilation.

In 1992, Nashville was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2007, the movie was ranked #59 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies - 10th Anniversary Edition list; it did not appear on the original 1998 list.

Response in Nashville

The movie was widely despised by the mainstream country-music community at the time of its release; many artists believed it ridiculed their talent and sincerity.

Awards

The film won an Oscar for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song - Motion Picture (awarded to Keith Carradine for "I'm Easy"). Ronee Blakley and Lily Tomlin were nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Robert Altman was nominated for Best Director, and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture. It won a BAFTA Film Award for "Best Sound Track." Altman won for best director from: Cartagena Film Festival; Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards; National Board of Review; National Society of Film Critics Awards; and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

Soundtrack

The actors and actresses composed some of the songs they performed in the film. Ronee Blakley contributed several songs, including those performed by Timothy Brown. Karen Black wrote the songs she performed in character as Connie White. Keith Carradine wrote "I'm Easy", which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song - Motion Picture. Carradine also wrote "It Don't Worry Me", which is heard on the soundtrack throughout the film, and is the closing number performed onstage at the Parthenon.

Film score composer Richard Baskin composed songs for Henry Gibson to sing in character as Haven Hamilton.

Several respected Nashville session musicians took part in the music recording and in the film itself, including violinist Vassar Clements and guitarist Harold Bradley.

While the music was viewed in the Nashville music industry as mean-spirited satire, the songs have achieved a cult-status among alternative country musicians. In 2002, the album, A Tribute to Robert Altman's Nashville was released, featuring interpretations of the film's songs by Canadian alt-country figures, including Carolyn Mark, Kelly Hogan and Neko Case.

Track listing

  1. "It Don't Worry Me" (written and performed by Keith Carradine) – 2:47
  2. "Bluebird" (written by Ronee Blakley; performed by Timothy Brown) – 3:35
  3. "For The Sake Of The Children" (written by Richard Baskin; performed by Henry Gibson) – 3:18
  4. "Keep A-Goin'" (written by Richard Baskin; performed by Henry Gibson) – 2:49
  5. "Memphis" (written and performed by Karen Black) – 2:07
  6. "Rolling Stone" (written and performed by Karen Black) – 3:57
  7. "200 Years" (written by Richard Baskin and Henry Gibson, performed by Henry Gibson) – 3:04
  8. "Tapedeck in His Tractor" (written and performed by Ronee Blakley) – 2:20
  9. "Dues" (written and performed by Ronee Blakley) – 3:40
  10. "I'm Easy" (written and performed by Keith Carradine) – 3:02
  11. "One, I Love You" (written by Richard Baskin; performed by Henry Gibson and Ronee Blakley)– 2:37
  12. "My Idaho Home" (written and performed by Ronee Blakley) – 3:06
  13. "It Don't Worry Me (Reprise)" (written by Keith Carradine and performed by Barbara Harris) – 3:57


Other songs in the film

Songs on the film's soundtrack, but not on the soundtrack album:
  • "Yes, I Do", composed by Richard Baskin and Lily Tomlin; performed by Lily Tomlin
  • "Down to the River", written and performed by Ronee Blakley
  • "Let Me Be the One", written by Richard Baskin; performed by Gwen Welles
  • "Sing a Song", written by Joe Raposo
  • "The Heart of a Gentle Woman", written and performed by Dave Peel
  • "The Day I Looked Jesus in the Eye", written by Richard Baskin and Robert Altman
  • "I Don't Know If I Found It in You", written and performed by Karen Black
  • "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", traditional
  • "Honey", written and performed by Keith Carradine
  • "I Never Get Enough", written by Richard Baskin and Ben Raleigh; performed by Gwen Welles
  • "Rose's Cafe", written and performed by Allan F. Nicholls
  • "Old Man Mississippi", written by Juan Grizzle
  • "My Baby's Cookin' in Another Man's Pan", written and performed by Jonnie Barnett
  • "Since You've Gone", written by Gary Busey, performed by Allan F. Nicholls, Cristina Raines and Keith Carradine
  • "Trouble in the U.S.A.", written by Arlene Barnett
  • "In the Garden", written by C. Austin Miles, performed by Ronee Blakley


Legacy

Plans were discussed for a sequel to Nashville, set twelve years later and titled Nashville 12, and most of the original players agreed to appear. In the script for the sequel, Lily Tomlin's character, Linnea, is running for political office; and Barnett now managing Connie White and obsessed with a Barbara Jean impersonator.

The 1992 presidential campaign of H. Ross Perot and his Reform Party is reminiscent of the campaign of the "Replacement Party" and its candidate in this film, Hal Phillip Walker. Walker has a twang in his voice, a talent for folksy maxims and a willingness to say things other politicians don't dare to say.

The shooting of Barbara Jean in the climactic scene foreshadowed the murder of John Lennon in 1980. In an interview on the DVD, Altman remarks that after Lennon's death, reporters questioned the director about "Nashville" and its harbinger of the assassination of a music star.

Robert Altman: "When John Lennon got assassinated, I get a call immediately from the Washington Post and they said 'do you feel responsible for this?' and I said 'what do you mean responsible?' 'Well I mean you're the one that predicted there would be a political assassination of a star'. 'And I said 'well I don't feel responsible', but I said, 'but don't you feel responsible for not heeding my warning?' The statement here is, these people are not assassinated because of their ideas or what they do. They're assassinated to draw attention to the assassin. And in political assassinations, in their sort of warped minds, they know that they are going to have a certain amount of people who said 'That son of a bitch [the politician] should have been shot,' because there's such heat about it. But actually what they are doing is killing somebody who's in the public eye and is some sort of an icon. Because this feeling that by, doing that, committing that assassination they draw the attention to themself, and they make themselves consequently important. Ah, and it's no surprise to me, the Lennon assassination, because this is what all that is, and I don't think we have seen the end of it either."


References

  1. The Georgetown Voice | Take Me Home - March 13, 2008
  2. Stuart, Jan. (2000). The Nashville Chronicles: The Making of Robert Altman's Masterpiece. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684865432 9780684865430.
  3. pages 292–294
  4. Kael's reviews
  5. Ebert's 1975 review
  6. Ebert's Great Movies
  7. p. 304
  8. pages 305–306


External links




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