A TRUE STORY?
On a late night, Melvin Dummar (Paul LeMat) finds an old man (Jason Robards) lying next to his motorcycle off a road and gives him a lift; the man tells him that he’s Howard Hughes. The story of how the reclusive multimillionaire might have let a nobody inherit $156 million out of his fortune (the famed will was eventually deemed false) inspired Jonathan Demme’s breakthrough, a celebrated, charming film that focuses on a regular Joe and his life, which is complicated enough without the Hughes money. Demme chooses to believe in the story and LeMat is perfect as the lovable ne’er-do-well; Mary Steenburgen is also excellent as his partner in a marriage that is truly on-off.
1980-U.S. 95 min. Color. Produced by Art Linson, Don Phillips. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Screenplay: Bo Goldman. Cast: Paul LeMat (Melvin Dummar), Jason Robards (Howard Hughes), Mary Steenburgen (Lynda Dummar), Jack Kehoe, Pamela Reed, Dabney Coleman… Gloria Grahame, John Glover.
Oscars: Best Screenplay, Supporting Actress (Steenburgen). Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress (Steenburgen).
Last word: “When Bo became involved, he met Melvin, traveled with him all over the locations where the events happened, talked to his co-workers at the magnesium plant and at the dairy, spent time with Melvin’s ex-wife and his second wife and his parents. Bo did an tremendous amount of research on that level, which to me helps account for the fact that the characters in his script are so rich.” (Demme, “Jonathan Demme: Interviews”)