Melvin And Howard

MelvinAndHowardBBBB

(out of 5)

Driving through the Nevada desert in the middle of the night, a down on his luck Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat) picks up a penniless old man (Jason Robards) and gives him a lift into Las Vegas. He laughs when Robards tells him that he is millionaire Howard Hughes and insists he was happy to give him the ride anyway, but is quite surprised when Hughes dies and leaves a huge fortune to Dummar in his will. Having spent years feeling like a loser who couldn’t keep a job down for long, Dummar has now hit the jackpot, but the pot of gold remains beyond his grasp when Hughes’s estate lawyers decide the will to be a fraud and the terms within it unacceptable. This excellent meditation on the American Dream and its unavailability to those whom the upper classes deem undeserving is an insightful character study that benefits from some excellent performances. Mary Steenburgen made a huge splash with her adorable, Oscar-winning performance as Dummar’s first wife, while Pamela Reed lends terrific support as his second. Demme has made a career out of films about people who are sympathetic no matter what their situation; here he does the trick by making a film based on fact that isn’t concerned with the validity of the story (no one really knows if Dummar’s claim about giving Hughes a ride is actually true) but with the effect it has on this ordinary Joe’s completely extraordinary life.

USA, 1980

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Screenplay by Bo Goldman

Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto

Film Festivals:  Venice 1980

Academy Awards
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mary Steenburgen as “Lynda Dummar”)
Best Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen) (Bo Goldman)

Nomination
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jason Robards as “Howard Hughes”)

Golden Globe Award
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mary Steenburgen)

Nominations
Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical
Best Performance By An Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical (Paul Le Mat)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Jason Robards)

New York Film Critics Awards
Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen)
Best Director (Jonathan Demme)
Best Screenplay (Bo Goldman)

Nominations
Best Film
Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards)

Los Angeles Film Critics Award
Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen)

National Society of Film Critics Awards
Best Film
Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen)
Best Screenplay (Bo Goldman)

Nominations
Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards)
Best Director (Jonathan Demme)

National Board Of Review Award
Top Ten Films

Writers Guild Award
Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen

Boston Film Critics Awards
Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards)
Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen)
Best Screenplay
Best American Film

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