Friday, September 6, 2013

"This film wasn't released - it escaped."…M*A*S*H Coming to Bigfork

This, according to Director Robert Altman, described the process of getting his film into distribution. M*A*S*H was a winner both at the box office and by other industry standards. It won an Academy Award and was nominated for five more, won a Golden Globe for Best picture, and the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  Deemed “culturally significant” in 1996, it is preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry.  This dark satirical comedy about the personnel in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit set during the Korean War but was really about the Vietnam war.  What a great way to start this year’s classic film series at The Edge Center in Bigfork. Jack Nachbar will show the movie along with a cartoon from the same period and provide his informative discussion.  All this on September 12 at 7PM. Admission is free along with appropriate goodies during intermission.

M*A*S*H  is an R rated movie. About the movie Jack Nachbar says, “1970 was a terrible year for the counter culture in America. There were bombings in Cambodia. And there were killings by troops of young people at Kent State and Jackson State. Cynicism, even despair, hung in the air like a black mist. Then M*A*S*H was released and taught a whole generation that a solution to the madness in the world was a bitter laughter.”

M*A*S*H featured doctors with little respect for Army procedures, protocols and rules, but were amazing combat surgeons.  They party, womanize, won’t wear uniforms and break any rule needed to save lives and get their jobs done.  Being released at the height of the Vietnam War in 1970, there was lots of discussion about whether it should be in a Korean War or Vietnam War setting.  But the controversial implications of having it in Vietnam were too significant, so the compromise was to do a Vietnam War movie not very well disguised as a Korean War movie.  “Actors Donald Sutherland, and other members of the original M*A*S*H cast, stated during interviews, that when they went to work (everyday), they always knew ‘...that they were in Vietnam and NOT Korea....’…” Quote from .

The director was Robert Bernard Altman, who died in 2006 (shown above at Cannes).  He was nominated for five Academy Awards for his directing and eventually recognized by the academy with an Academy Honorary Award.  He was known for movies that are “highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective”. Three of his movies are in The United States National Film Registry.

The cast (poster above from warmoviebuff.blogdpot)  included an amazingly ensemble group of performers that current movie producer only wish they could find and afford.  The producer, Robert Altman assembled so many unknowns, that after the short list of known actors at the beginning the rest were labeled as “introducing”.  The three top surgeons played by Donald Sutherland , Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt were the most mischievous rule-breakers with the less-talented doctor played by Robert Duvall.  One of the most memorable was actress Sally Kellerman being “unmasked” in the shower….come and see what we mean?  Kellerman was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress as “Hot Lips” in this movie.

Donald Sutherland (above in 1981) played Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce

Elliott Gould (above photo courtesy of WireImage) played Capt. John Francis Xavier "Trapper John" McIntyre

Tom Skerritt (above at 47th academy awards) played Capt. Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest

Sally Kellerman (at a movie premier in 1979) played Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan

Robert Duvall (shown above at President Bush's left at 2005 Medal of Arts photo) played Major Frank Burns

M*A*S*H had an “afterlife” that was amazing by itself.  The TV series Mash (above image from johnpostmblog.blogspot) and TV sitcoms had a long running career entertaining viewer up until 1985 with the end of  the TV sitcom “Trapper John. M.D.”.

The sign post from the television series (above image) is in the Smithsonian.

The whole M*A*S*H movie and television series family still has a loyal fan base and 20th Century Fox had significant success in selling them on VHS and DVDs (above DVD VHS movie jacket).

If you have been to a movie classic in Bigfork, this is a great one to start this year’s programs.  If you have not, you might consider coming to see M*A*S*H to find out for yourself why this movie made such an impression on a whole generation of movie goers and reached into TV land for so many years with its spin off series. The big screen showing of the movie will be in The Edge Center Theatre with its very comfortable seating and superb sound system.

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