"Twenty-four of your favorite stars!"
"You get your hair cut; you don't belong in Nashville.
— Haven Hamilton
A 1975 film directed by Robert Altman
. It boasts a huge ensemble cast of 24 — count 'em, 24
— principal characters, and follows them around over the course of five days in the country music capital of Nashville
There is no exact definition of who's a main character and who's not, but here are the ones that get the most screen time:
- Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley), the darling of the country music world. She's frail, lonely, and emotionally spent, but tries to keep a smile on anyway. She's responsible for more than a few of the movie's best musical moments. Blakley got a Best Supporting Actress nom for her performance.
- Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson), an aging, egotistical country music legend with political aspirations.
- Barnett (Allen Garfield), Barbara Jean's emotionally abusive manager/husband. A Col. Parker type, he's more interested in his wife's career than his wife's crumbling sanity.
- Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin), a middle-aged gospel singer/housewife stuck with an inept husband and two deaf kids. She is torn between loyalty to her Homer Simpson-esque spouse and the advances of a charming womanizer. Tomlin also got a Best Supporting Actress nod for this.
- Tom Frank (Keith Carradine), the most famous third of the folk-rock trio Bill, Mary, and Tom.
This film provides examples of:
- Abusive Spouse: Barbara Jean's husband/manager Barnett emotionally belittles her and micromanages her career. This seems to be playing a part in her ongoing mental decline—which tends to make him more controlling and abusive.
- Bittersweet Ending: Barbara Jean has been shot, likely fatally, but Winifred's gotten her big break, and the crowd rallies admirably to refuse to let the assassin 'win'. Furthermore, this MIGHT have just derailed Hal Philip Walker's Replacement Party, a group that's wound up seeming more ominous as the film's gone along.
- The Cameo: Elliott Gould and Julie Christie appear as themselves in different scenes. The actors happened to be visiting the set when Altman decided to use them for Throw It In cameos.
- The Casanova: Folk rock singer Tom has a way with the ladies.
- Chekhov's Gun: Kenny's violin case which turns out to hold a gun.
- Creator Breakdown: Barbara Jean suffers this in-universe, in her first public performance after her accident.
- Creator Cameo: Richard Baskin, the film's musical director and co-writer of a bunch of the songs, plays long-haired session keyboardist Frog.
- Credits Gag: The film opens with a fake commercial for its own soundtrack album, with the cast members' names ("Twenty-four of your favorite stars!") being rattled off by a motormouthed voiceover announcer in the manner of an old K-Tel spot.
- Cult of Personality: The Replacement Party seems to function as this for the enigmatic Hal Philip Walker.
- The Ditz: Opal and Sueleen.
- Fictional Political Party: The Replacement Party is a third party, whose actual politics are kept vague and slightly ridiculous, making it rather hard to identify with any existing political group.
- Ice-Cream Koan: Hal Philip Walker seems to use these when he isn't dispensing home-spun wisdom—one that stands out is the question 'Does Christmas smell like oranges to you?'.
- Improv: While there was a solid script written by Altman and Joan Tewkesbury that dictated all the actions of all the characters, the dialog was largely improvised by the actors.
- Innocent Bigot: Opal obviously sees herself as the sophisticated, open-minded lady of the world traipsing through the racist South—however, it's just as obvious to the viewers that she's more racist than most of the Southerners in the film, all of whom are too polite or too baffled to call her on it.
- Jerkass: Haven Hamilton pretty much acts like a pompous, arrogant narcissist for most of the film.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: On the other hand, he's pretty supportive of his son. Also, his actions at the rally after Barbara Jean and himself are shot speak for themselves:
: This is Nashville! This ain't Dallas
, this is Nashville! They can't do this to us here in Nashville! Come on, sing! Sing, somebody, sing! I'm fine, I'm fine. You sing!
- Ladykiller in Love: Tom falls in love with Linnea, but she rejects him after they sleep together and leaves.
- Leno Device: Real life television correspondent Howard K. Smith gives a commentary about Hal Philip Walker.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: A frequent trope for Altman.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Several of the characters are thinly-veiled expies of real life country music stars of the era: Barbara Jean (Loretta Lynn), Haven Hamilton (Roy Acuff), Tommy Brown (Charley Pride), Connie White (Lynn Anderson), and Bill, Mary & Tom (Peter, Paul & Mary).
- There's also a fair bit of Hank Snow and Porter Wagoner in Haven Hamilton, and Word of God from screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury is that Conway Twitty and Tex Ritter inspired some elements of the character as well.
- Hal Philip Walker seems like a strange combination of George Wallace, George McGovern, and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
- No Name Given / The Voiceless: Jeff Goldblum's Tricycle Man, a local(?) eccentric who rides through the film on his three-wheeled motorcycle, blithely oblivious to everyone else.
- Notable Original Music: Carradine, Blakely, Gibson and Black all wrote their own songs for the film. Of special note is Carradine's "I'm Easy", which won the Oscar for Best Original Song and reached the Top 20 on the Billboard chart.
- Pet the Dog: Kenny clearly has... issues, but he gets along with Mr. Green better than the man's own niece, Martha. He even attends the funeral of the man's wife, something Martha conspicuously fails to do.
- Phoney Call: Type C. Lily Tomlin's character receives a booty call from Tom while having dinner with her husband and kids. She first goes for a Phoney Call Type B and after Tom has hung up she speaks a few more lines into the speaker to make the conversation sound less suspicious to her family.
- Playing Gertrude: Keenan Wynn was 58 at the time of filming, but Mr. Green is clearly supposed to be at least a decade older than that and Wynn plays it convincingly.
- Really Gets Around: Tom, who once again has a way with the ladies. And Martha (aka "L.A. Joan"), who's visiting Nashville to see her ailing aunt, and never gets around to it, finding plenty of other things to keep her busy.
- Red Herring: The soldier who serves as Barbara Jean's ominous apparent Stalker with a Crush. Turns out his mother is the one who saved her life from her earlier accident, and that she wants him to keep an eye on her. (Though he is a rather starstruck fan.) He even helps get her likely killer at the end.
- Staged Populist Uprising: The Replacement Party shows sign of being the democratic equivalent of one—while Hal Philip Walker takes great pains to paint himself as an honest man of the people out to save the nation, his underling John Triplette is a standard Sleazy Politician, and what we see of the Replacement Party's machinery seems closer to a cult than a political party.
- Stepford Smiler: Barbara Jean, Type A.
- The Voice: Presidential candidate Hal Philip Walker.
- Word Salad: Opal's "journalism" frequently passes through Purple Prose to wind up here.
- More tragically, Barbara Jean's stories during her onstage Creator Breakdown are filled with this, becoming increasingly incoherent as she talks.
- You Can Leave Your Hat On: Sueleen is pressured into doing a striptease while singing at a Walker fundraiser.