Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Haskell on Nashville

Great piece by Molly Haskell on Nashville, with particular attention to the contributions of writer Joan Tewkesbury.
Because of Altman’s way of working, of absorbing other people’s contributions into his own artistic pageantry, we may never be able to fully appreciate what Tewkesbury brought to the table. She was especially interested in the women and their conflicted ambitions (she herself had left her husband and child behind to work with Altman, first as script girl on 1971’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller). With a background in theater and dance that began with a stage mother, she had performed with, directed, and hung out with actors for most of her life—which served her well as a writer. She understood the symbiotic relationship between stars and the backup men and women who support and manage their careers. And from her perceptive take on the musicians she’d come to spy on, she grasped the particular fragility of women country singers, trying to keep their dignity in a world run by men. One can see her sympathetic hand in the breathtaking balance between defiance and humiliation maintained in the striptease performed by Welles’s Sueleen, and in the ferocious power duel between Blakley’s Barbara Jean and her husband-manager, played by Allen Garfield. Tewkesbury would step in when things got too sticky or one-sided and, working with the women, gently nudge the dialogue, the emotion of the scene, toward a more expansive sense of the women’s point of view.

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