After the commercial success, but critical failure of Popeye (1980), Robert Altman turned away from Hollywood, selling his share in Lion’s Gate studios and directing the play by Ed Graczyk, originally staged in Columbus, Ohio, on which Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean was based. Altman not only made a deal with stage producer Peter Newman to retain his original cast, but also the unique set by David Gropman, which featured two identical Texas “5¢ & 10¢’s”, separated by two-way mirrors, allowing his story to move from the present to the past and vice versa. To save costs, Altman shot the film on Super-16mm color negative, then blew up his answer print to 35mm. Rather than bank on a major studio, Altman financed the film through a television company, Viacom Enterprises, and distributed it through a small independent company, Cinecom, which opened the film in New York to critical acclaim. In fact, the film had already received a standing ovation at the Chicago Film Festival.
Starring Sandy Dennis, Cher and Karen Black, the play relates a twenty-year reunion in 1975 of a James Dean fan club, “The Disciples of James Dean.” They meet at the local hangout in a small Texas town, near where GIANT had been shot in 1955 and where the club had formed decades earlier. The waitress in the soda fountain area is the same, but the fan club members have gotten older, some successful, others beaten down by life. Each of them, as well as other female friends and neighbors relate (often in flashbacks) their dreams, aspirations and failures over the last twenty years. While all of Altman’s actresses give stellar performances, it was Cher who most surprised the critics, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her work and garnering respect as a serious actress for the first time. And given the focus on female fans—only one male appears in flashback in the film—it’s not surprising that the film should tackle themes of feminism, power in gender relations and sexuality.
With this film, UCLA Film & Television Archive begins a major project to restore Robert Altman’s legacy on film.
35mm, Color, Sound, 109 min. Sandcastle 5 Productions/Cinecom International Films. Producer: Scott Bushnell. Director: Robert Altman: Screenwriter: Ed Graczyk. Cinematography: Pierre Mignot. Editor: Jason Rosenfield. Cast: Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, Sudie Bond, Kathy Bates.
Preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Sandcastle 5 Productions, and with thanks to Paramount Archives, from the original Super-16mm color negative, a 35mm CRI, a 35mm print, and the original ½ inch analog discreet mono D-M-E track. Laboratory services by Cineric, Technicolor, NT Picture and Sound, and Audio Mechanics. Special thanks to: Barry Allen, Kathryn Altman, Shawn Jones, Andrea Kalas, Matthew Seig, Laura Thornburg.