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Nashville Chronicles: The Making of Robert Altman's Masterpiece Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rightly considered both a critical and popular masterpiece, director Altman's 1975 film, Nashville, is a sprawling, audacious and brilliant mixture of political analysis and soap opera that features 23 major characters, all on a collision course with the American dream. This love letter to the film, the director and the cast is based on Newsweek movie critic Stuart's interviews with all of the cast and crew members who are still alive. He ably evokes the artistic excitement that galvanized the set amid the chaos of the filming (Altman, a great believer in improvisation, told his actors to ignore the script on the first day of filming), as well as the tensions that surfaced when the exacting, often cranky director clashed with many of his stars. Highlights are the insights of performers like Lily Tomlin, who relates how feminism and lesbianism shaped her wonderfully tender sex scenes with Keith Carradine (who claims to have "just wanted to get laid" during the filming"), and Barbara Harris, whose insistence on relying on her improvisational training at the Second City put her at odds with Altman. Stuart is at his best detailing the strained and often painful relationships between the starsAparticularly Ronee Blakley, who played the film's central characterAand the director. More an overview of the film and its principal players than a sustained critical analysis or a day-by-day account of the filming, this amiable journalistic account will please the film's legion of fans more than it will film critics or historians. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Stuart, film critic for Newsday, gets up close and personal for this rewarding critique of Altman's well-known and affectionately remembered masterwork. There have been many discussions and serious critiques of Nashville; Stuart takes readers behind the scenes literally to reveal Altman's controversial way of working, although much of his approach was applied to film by Italy's neorealists, particularly Roberto Rossellini. There's much information here on Altman's flare at building film families and allowing actors lots of room for improvisation. Stuart includes juicy anecdotes featuring each member of the Nashville family--actors such as Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, and Lily Tomlin; screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury; and second assistant director Alan Rudolph. In tracing Altman's career and brand of filmmaking before and after Nashville, Stuart concludes that Altman declined, even though many of his films had critical acclaim. With The Player, Altman reemerged as a player, proving a director is only as good as his or her last film. At 75, unlike Orson Welles, Altman is still finding the money that allows him to work with the tools of his trade. Bonnie Smothers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Limelight Editions; New edition edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879109815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879109813
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward Aycock on April 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For any fans of this film, and indeed, for its detractors also, this is a must have guide to learning more about the behind the scenes gossip. I am glad this book was not written/published until the 25th anniversary of the movie, as enough time has passed for an objective view of the film to be made. There is no denying that this is a powerful, interesting and even disturbing film. I am espcially pleased that a great number of the actors took part in this book. I have always wondered what happened to Ronee Blakley, (who played the fragile Barbara Jean to a T in the film). Do not miss this book if you love the film.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Altman's Nashville is a movie that has been praised as one of the greatest American movies ever made and conversely has been derided as an overblown, preachy ego trip. Whatever side of the fence you may fall on, Jan Stuart has written an interesting, insightful account of the making of a complex film. Through interviews with just about everyone involved in the film, Mr. Stuart gives us an insider's view of not only the movie itself, but of the film's maverick director. We are transported back to the July & August, 1974 when the cast and crew invades the Music City. Mr. Stuart paints a vivid picture of the town at that time and the feelings of the city's residents towards the Hollywood people. We get detailed accounts of the origins of the film, the path screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury took to creating the 24 characters and writing the script, the casting choices for the roles (how some actors like Robert Duvall, Louise Fletcher and Susan Anspach backed out), the filming of the scenes and the mood off camera. Mr. Stuart offers so much detail that you feel as if you were actually on the set. As with any book written about a movie, Mr. Stuart obviously considers Nashville to be a masterpiece and Mr. Altman to be a genius. Although he does praise both, the book is not a gushing love letter towards them. He does not overtly interject his feelings and tempers the praise by detailing the criticism the film received. All in all, Mr. Stuart lives up to the high standards of the movie, by writing a superb book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reasonably detailed and absorbing account of one of the best movies ever add. The planned sequels sound dreadful. Glad they never happened. Oddly, none of the talented cast went on to greater heights. Altman saw what they had and exhausted it. This was particularly true of Ronne Blakely who everyone expected great things from. Some of the cast survived though not spectacularly: like Lilly Tomlinson, the only one who had an important career before 'Nashville." Henry Gibson stuck around and Jeff Goldblum got some meaty parts but most of rest faded away or disappeared altogether.
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Format: Hardcover
A creditable piece of work by Mr. Stuart. I would have liked a little more on the artistic process and a little less on the soap opera of the cast and crew. It IS interesting to see how people have such complete misapprehension of one another and the motives of others. I guess that's what "Nashville" is really about, too. Stuart also tells us what happened to the cast in subsequent years, which I've alway wondered about and was glad to know. You come away with a reality-tempered respect for Tewkesbury, the screenwriter, Altman, the director, and most of the cast -- who obviously threw themselves into the parts and did the best they knew how to do. For some, their best was transcendent, and Stuart gives us the story behind those moments. A fine book that was obviously a labor of love -- and just a lot of pains-taking labor -- for Stuart.
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Format: Paperback
I had no idea that there was so much anecdotal material to be had from the making of Robert Altman's country and western music opus, NASHVILLE but Jan Stuart has managed to interview nearly everyone involved. He traces the film's origins right up to what everyone involved (including country music insiders) thinks of it now. This is an exhaustive, detailed account of every aspect of how Altman's film was made but written in a very entertaining, engaging style.
If you're a fan of Altman's films then this is definitely required reading as Stuart provides fascinating insights into how the man works and collaborates with others. The best thing I can say about this book is that it makes you immediately want to watch NASHVILLE all over again and appreciate how much hard work went into it. Great reading.
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Format: Paperback
Rightly considered both a critical and popular masterpiece, director Altman's 1975 film, Nashville, is a sprawling, audacious and brilliant mixture of political analysis and soap opera that features 23 major characters, all on a collision course with the American dream.

This love letter to the film, the director and the cast is based on Newsweek movie critic Stuart's interviews with all of the cast and crew members who are still alive. He ably evokes the artistic excitement that galvanized the set amid the chaos of the filming (Altman, a great believer in improvisation, told his actors to ignore the script on the first day of filming), as well as the tensions that surfaced when the exacting, often cranky director clashed with many of his stars.

Highlights are the insights of performers like Lily Tomlin, who relates how feminism and lesbianism shaped her wonderfully tender sex scenes with Keith Carradine (who claims to have "just wanted to get laid" during the filming"), and Barbara Harris, whose insistence on relying on her improvisational training at the Second City put her at odds with Altman. Stuart is at his best detailing the strained and often painful relationships between the starsAparticularly Ronee Blakley, who played the film's central characterAand the director.

More an overview of the film and its principal players than a sustained critical analysis or a day-by-day account of the filming, this amiable journalistic account will please the film's legion of fans more than it will film critics or historians.
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