A pungent fable about the elusiveness of the American Dream, Melvin and Howard is a richly textured, highly individualistic look at Melvin Dummar, a man in over his head both before and after becoming the beneficiary of $156 million via Howard Hughes' so-called Mormon will. Jonathan Demme's tour-de-force direction, the imaginative screenplay and top-drawer performances from a huge cast fuse in an unusual, original creation.

A pungent fable about the elusiveness of the American Dream, Melvin and Howard is a richly textured, highly individualistic look at Melvin Dummar, a man in over his head both before and after becoming the beneficiary of $156 million via Howard Hughes’ so-called Mormon will. Jonathan Demme’s tour-de-force direction, the imaginative screenplay and top-drawer performances from a huge cast fuse in an unusual, original creation.

Dummar’s chance encounter with a man representing himself as the reclusive tycoon occupies first reel or so and, despite Jason Robards’ amusing portrait of Hughes as a grizzled old coot, pic takes awhile generating a full head of steam. As his two-time bride and divorcee Mary Steenburgen says, Melvin is a loser, and early footage focusing upon his inability to cope with family or jobs makes for somewhat uncertain p.o.v.

Film is exemplary for its rare concentration on the quality, and lack of it, in Middle American life, and incisive, if indirect, examination of the no-win syndrome for contemporary proletariat.

1980: Best Supp. Actress (Mary Steenburgen), Original Screenplay.

Nomination: Best Supp. Actor (Jason Robards)

Melvin and Howard

Production

Universal. Director Jonathan Demme; Producer Art Linson, Don Phillips; Screenplay Bo Goldman; Camera Tak Fujimoto; Editor Craig McKay; Music Bruce Langhorne; Art Director Toby Rafelson

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1980. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Paul Le Mat Jason Robards Mary Steenburgen Michael J. Pollard Dabney Coleman Gloria Grahame
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