The Great American Road Trip
Movie: Nashville (1974), directed by Robert Altman
Nashville is a honky tonk of a movie: confusing, full of music and full of star-worshiping people with big hair.
When I saw this Robert Altman film, I became an instant fan of the controversial director. He assembles a constellation of talented people and sets them free. Within a lose framework of a vague story-line the actors improvise their dialogue. So I chose to make Nashville the travel movie representing Tennessee on our road trip.
In Nashville, many of the actors also write and perform their own music. In fact Keith Carradine won an Oscar for his contribution, I’m Easy. Henry Gibson, comedian who became a famous face in the old TV show Laugh-In, and more recently played a curmudgeonly judge on Boston Legal, struts around in a white, fringed, cowboy suit with rhinestones. His musical turns are sappy patriotic but too close to country western music to sound entirely like satire.
Lily Tomlin sings gospel with a black gospel choir, other characters represent well known acts like Loretta Lynn (Ronee Blakely) and Peter Paul and Mary. Other big names include Karen Black, Keith Carradine, Ned Beatty and Geraldine Chaplin. And the list goes on.
All kinds of music thrive in what is now called Music City. I never did like country music. So when I had a chance to go to Nashville, I was in for a surprise.
The Country Music Hall of Fame changed forever my take on country music. Not only is it one of the most engrossing museums I have ever been in, it clearly shows the evolution of present day country western from folk and evolving in to rock and roll.
Before the Civil War, Nashville led the South in education and culture. And for the World’s Fair of 1897, they built a Parthenon so accurate in its dimensions that the Greeks studied it during the current restoration of the ancient Parthenon.
The Civil War left its mark on Nashville, but the city has proved resilient. Even the recent horrendous flooding brought people together to fight to save their town.
Stretched along that river that became the enemy after record rains, the downtown area includes the beautiful Centennial Park, cultural venues, and an outdoor market as well as the famous honky-tonks.
Thinking again about the movie, Nashville, I read a conversation on line in which people wondered about the shooting at the end–which seems to have no point. The parallel seems clear to me, particularly since the entire movie leads to a political rally and a loudspeaker truck booms inane political slogans of the Replacement Party throughout the film. The movie was made while audience members had clear memories of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and of Martin Luther King. Indeed one of the characters drunkenly mourns for the Kennedys. And after the shooting, Henry Gibson’s character tries to calm people down by saying “This isn’t Dallas, it is Tennessee.”
As with every state we visit, there’s a great deal of variety to see in Tennessee–history, beautiful scenery, theme parks and all.
But you cannot think of Tennessee without the music thumping from Nashville and Memphis and Chattanooga. And the movie Nashville, filmed in that city, captures a large component of the spirit of Tennessee. Which reminds me–be sure and visit Music Road to get your music to accompany our road trip stop in Tennessee.
According to Wikipedia, “In 1992, Nashville was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.”
All of the photos in this post were taken by Vera Marie Badertscher and are protected by copyright. If you wish to reproduce a photo, contact me first. My trip to Nashville was funded by the Nashville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Are you a Country Music Fan? Have you been to the Grand Ol’ Opry? Maybe its blues that you like? Share your musical thoughts here. And if you missed any of the earlier stops along the road trip, you might want to look at other movies for Connecticut and West Virginia.