Melvin and Howard (1980)

March 24, 2017 · Regal Riviera · 1:00 P.M.

“A slice of American life.” — Roger Ebert

Late one night, struggling dreamer Melvin Dummal (a great Paul LeMat) has a chance encounter with a man who may or may not be eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (Jason Robards). Each goes their own way, with Melvin going through a series of ups and downs with his work and love life. Hughes’s death and mysterious will, however, brings Melvin into the spotlight.

From “Howard” (who may or may not be who he says he is) to Lynda Dummar (Mary Steenburgen in an Academy Award winning role), who dances for money in strip joints and on a game show, we see the emergence of one of Demme’s great themes–the roles we play in life and the fine line between our private and public selves. Throughout, Demme treats his characters with respect yet finds humor in their failings, and he balances his critique of the American Dream with a hopefulness in the flawed characters who struggle in their pursuit of it.

Named the Best Film of 1980 by the National Society of Film Critics, Melvin and Howard won Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay (Bo Goldman) and Best Supporting Actress (Mary Steenburgen).

We are pleased to be screening this 35mm print of Melvin and Howard loaned from the Jonathan Demme collection of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

Melvin and Howard screened as part of our 11-film Jonathan Demme retrospective, Life is Performance / Performance is Life, at Big Ears.