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Lance

Welcome to the discussion, folks. Hit your refresh button regularly to see the latest comments.

Lance

I'll start with this. The main cast of Thieves Like Us is made up of actors who had been supporting players in Altman's previous films. Bert Remsen, John Schuck, and even Keith Carradine were not among Altman's leading men before Thieves. Nor would they be in future movies.

William Rennie

Could be Altman's adversion to pretty people. American film only recognizes certain types of people as existing. Altman was as likely as not to cast off the street. Keith Carradine is as attractive a leading as was available at the time. Like Depp as Dillinger, he doesn't really look like a guy thats ever been forced to miss a meal, or work on something that made his hands bleed.

Hate this interface. You have no idea how much security I have to defeat on my system to post here.

Lance

Altman was always happy to work with movie stars, he just didn't use them as movie stars. He could have had Elliott Gould playing John Schuck's character, the out of control drunk and killer Chickamaw, could have had Gould playing Remsen's goofily optimistic and lascivious T-Dub, for that matter. He could have gotten a certifiable and bankable star instead of a rising one in place of Carradine. And he certainly could have found a more conventional starlet instead of Duvall.

The question is, why did he go with the character actors instead of stars here.

Lance

There is a leading man in the cast, Tom Skerritt, but he's playing the sort of part Remsen or Schuck would have been the more obvious choices for. Skerritt's part amounts to an extended cameo.

Cassandra

I love B & C, but Beatty and Dunaway were without a doubt a little too pretty for the subject, the region and the era.

Lance

Sorry about that, Bill. But I'm afraid if I take this off the blog readers won't go looking for it. Is there anything I can do here to fix the problem?

Lance

Hey there, Cassandra. Duvall v. Dunaway, there's a study in comparison and contrast.

William Rennie

Maybe working with Beatty soured him to stars. Duval was easy. Shes one of the few actresses in the period that can play a working class character without being condescending. As a redneck, I appreciate it. Working class characters are always heros or villains in hollywood.

She made her living on playing rednecks for the next decade or so. In Roxanne, Steve Martin promoted her and she got to be the owner of the diner.

Lance

Bill, speaking of Altman casting off the street, I didn't get to this last week. Most of the extras and bit players in California Split were from a 12 step program for people with gambling problems.

William Rennie

How about fleshing out the war movie comment Lance.

Lance

Cassandra, at least there's a hardness to Dunaway's face. Did you know that Natalie Wood and Jane Fonda were in line to play Bonnie at different points.

Cassandra

I certainly think he wanted us to see these characters as losers, or at least people with limited horizons.

William Rennie

Great about California Split. I wonder how much they all took the crew for. ;-)

Lance

Bill, Beatty soured him on working with a certain kind of star that's for sure. But Altman made two movies with Paul Newman in this period. And later on he built a whole movie around Richard Gere playing Richard Gere.

Cassandra

Well, Beatty was less convincing for me as depression-era west Dallas than Dunaway.

Lance

C, that's what I was thinking.

William Rennie

Same problem with Depp in Public Enemies. Also, he was about a foot short.

Lance

Bill, you want me to get into the ways the director of god knows how many episodes of Combat made an anti-war movie out of what was supposed to be a service comedy like Captain Newman MD, Operation Mad Ball, or The Wackiest Ship in the Army?

William Rennie

Always been a Paul Newman fan, so I have stars in my eyes, but I always made him as a character actor stuck with a pretty face. "Buffalo Bill" is an interesting role for him.

What was the other Altman role?

William Rennie

No Lance, was wondering what elements of a war movie are in this movie. MASH is another couple of days worth of blogging.

Lance

C, I'm not sure, but from what Beatty says in the oral biography of Altman, it sounds as though he recognized how Altman was keeping him from making Pudgy McCabe into something like his Clyde Barrow, and he was appreciated it.

William Rennie

Risking multithreading. Cassandra, I like your point about limited horizons. Carradine's characters bounds are obvious. What do you think about Duval.

Lance

The other thing about using his supporting players in place of leads---Skerritt and Schuck could have switched roles easily---is that their less than familiar faces blend more convincingly into the period look of the film.

Lance

Oh, I see. That would have been an interesting point, but I was referring to MASH up there. MASH, The Long Goodbye, McCabe, and Thieves.

Cassandra

As L. said above, Duval's character isn't the least interested in a glamorous life of crime. She's very sweet, with conventional dreams for her future, and pretty oblivious to how much bleakness there is around her.

Lance

Altman made a bunch of genre movies in the 70s. Didn't do another one till Gingerbread Man in 1998.

Lance

Good question for C there Bill. Last we see of Keechie she's on her way to what she regards as a big city.

Lance

Actually, she's on her way to becoming part of a more typical Altman film, crowded with idiosyncratic characters, noisy, more social.

Lance

Is that escape? Is it happiness?

Cassandra

With Father Coughlin, the Limbaugh of his day, on the soundtrack...

Lance

Oh, and Bill, Newman's other film with Altman was called Quintet. It's completely disappeared. It's more gone than Health and Brewster McCloud, both of which at least live through their reputations.

Lance

C, yeah, scary, isn't it? Funny thing, though. I think that's first time I've ever actually heard Coughlin's voice but I knew at once that it was him.

William Rennie

I had no idea Quintet was his. Its sort of a cult Sci Fi film. Rare but it exists, though not in circles you frequent.

Lance

Speaking of Father Coughlin on the radio, though, C, what did you think of the way Altman used radio voices throughout the movie?

Lance

For instance, FDR's delivering his second inaugural address during the bank robbery scene.

Cassandra

Gave a nice period feel, and the crime dramas, with their supervillians and G-men heroes, an ironic commentary on what seems an entire society of losers.

Cassandra

I need to go back and listen to that FDR part.

Lance

I'm replaying the scene now, just to be sure I'm remembering it right.

Lance

While I'm looking, any lurkers want to say hello?

Lance

Yep. It's the Second Inaugural all right.

Cassandra

I do have to go myself right now, Lance; thanks so much for the invitation! I'll tune into this thread again later, and see you next week.

Lance

That means the robbery takes place on January 20, 1937. Doesn't look like January, even for the deep South.

Lance

Thanks for joining in, Cassandra. Good night.

Lance

No lurkers willing to out themselves? Oh well. Thanks for stopping by anyway. Time for me to go. Good night.

Dan Leo

This is based on a really cool novel by the way, by Edward Anderson. Very hard core for its time. Also, Nicholas Ray's noir adaptation, They Live By Night, is also very worth checking out.

By the way, I think Combat was a pretty cool series. Pretty non-rah-rah, too. Its creator, a WWII vet named Robert Pirosh, also co-wrote Hell Is For Heroes, one of the best American war movies, with one of Steve McQueen's best performances.

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