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Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (film)

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Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Three women are seen in different poses against an orange background. The one on the right smiles as she rests her hand on a jukebox; to her left, the lower one stoops before a table, next to a mask; and the one standing up is holding a glass, with a blunt look on her face. The film's title is displayed in a cursive script inside a tilted pink square.
Original theatrical poster
Directed byRobert Altman
Screenplay byEd Graczyk
Based onCome Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
by Ed Graczyk
Produced byScott Bushnell
StarringSandy Dennis
Karen Black
Sudie Bond
Kathy Bates
CinematographyPierre Mignot
Edited byJason Rosenfield
Distributed byCinecom International Films
Release dates
  • September 30, 1982 (1982-09-30) (Chicago[1])
  • November 12, 1982 (1982-11-12) (United States[2])
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million[4]

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is a 1982 comedy-drama film and an adaptation of Ed Graczyk's 1976 play. The Broadway and screen versions were directed by Robert Altman, and stars Sandy Dennis, Cher, Mark Patton, Karen Black, Sudie Bond, and Kathy Bates.[5]

As with the original play, the film takes place inside a small Woolworth's five-and-dime store in a small Texas town, where an all-female fan club for actor James Dean reunites in 1975.[6] According to a 2014 interview with playwright Ed Graczyk the setting of the play is actually an H. L. Kressmont & Co. Five and Dime.[7] Through a series of flashbacks, the six members also reveal secrets dating back to 1955.

Jimmy Dean was the first of several feature adaptations of plays by Altman in the 1980s, after the director's departure from Hollywood. It was screened at various film festivals in North America and Europe, and won the top prize at the 1982 Chicago International Film Festival. It was well received by critics, who praised Altman's direction and the performances by the female cast. This was the first release for New York–based independent outlet Cinecom Pictures, which Altman chose over a major studio "to guarantee a long play" in art house venues.



Early on September 30, 1975, in McCarthy, Texas, at a Woolworth's five-and-dime store, its owner Juanita listens to gospel music on the radio. She gets ready for the day, opens the store, and addresses someone as "Jimmy Dean".

The All-Female Fan Club Disciples of James Dean is having a reunion meeting at the store, to honor the twentieth anniversary of the actor's death. Disciple Sissy comes in tardy; she had been helping out at the truck stop. Juanita says that more members could arrive soon: Disciple Mona ought to have already been there, but her bus is running far behind schedule. Sissy worries about the weather, as it is "118 degrees in the shade".

The story flashes back to a stormy night in 1955. Sissy shelters inside the store and asks after three employees who are friends of hers: Mona, Sydney, and Joseph "Joe" Qualley. Joe is there, busy stocking new issues of Photoplay magazine. Mona arrives, having been delayed by the weather. Sissy, Mona, and Joe go up to the front counter and sing the contemporary doo-wop song "Sincerely". Juanita is chagrined, as she only approves of gospel music.

The main storyline returns. Disciples Stella Mae and Edna Louise make their way to the five-and-dime; they have one of the red jackets that the club members used to wear. Mona joins them and explains that her bus had broken down and required repair. Amidst the excited reunion celebration, she looks at a group picture made with James Dean. Mona recalls the last time that the Disciples—all dressed in their jackets—had come together.

Mona's 20-year-old memory segues into another flashback. Mona has recently moved back to McCarthy from college, claiming that the atmosphere at college had inflamed her asthma and led to an attack, with her doctors then advising her to return to McCarthy. Later, the overjoyed Disciples find Sissy and break the news that Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean will be in Marfa, Texas, to film Giant—62 miles away from McCarthy. Auditions for extra cast members will be carried out across the area. Mona idolizes Dean and she dreams of playing beside him in the film. Joe drives her to Marfa so she can fulfill her desire.

In the modern storyline, Mona claims that when she went to Marfa, Dean chose her to bear his son, and on that night he fathered her child Jimmy Dean. She says that her boy Jimmy Dean is mentally deficient, and she isolates him from the community. Sissy says that Mona has been "warped and demented" to hide her son. Mona loses her temper and insults Sissy, who goes outside to "cool off".

A Porsche sports car roars into town and its driver peers in through the storefront window. Mona and Juanita greet the window shopper, who identifies herself as Joanne. She had seen writing on an old highway sign that noted Dean's son was to be found at the store. The Disciples learn that Joanne was formerly Joe Qualley, the only male who had been a part of their social circle.

The story flashes back to a young Joanne - as Joe - recounting the events some days after a McCarthy High School dance, which Joe had attended wearing a dress. Leicester T, a boy their age who had had an ambiguous triste with Joanne on that night before finding out she was in fact 'Joe' crossdressing, assault and drag Joe out to a graveyard, before proceeding to assault her while locals from the town jeer behind a fence. All this is recounted to Mona and Sissy by a young 'Joe,' with them tending to the bruises and wounds on his face. Unable to recount what Leicester T proceeded to do whilst spreading him over a gravestone and pulling down his overalls, Joe is only able to scream how he kept calling him Joanne.

The Disciples in 1975 have just heard the story. Stella Mae asks whether Joanne is "half-man, half-woman"—a hermaphrodite, in case people ask. Joanne says that she had a sex-change operation thirteen years ago and, when pressed by Stella, remarks that she can simply call her 'a freak,' as her friends are more likely to understand the term.

Later that day, Juanita thinks she hears thunder and she warns the Disciples to brace themselves for stormy weather. But the noise was from a loud sports car motor—Mona's son Jimmy Dean had stolen Joanne's Porsche and was racing its engine. Joanne phones the Texas Highway Patrol to tell them about Jimmy Dean, which triggers a final storyline transition.

The Disciples of yesteryear listen as a man on the radio announces that an automobile accident has killed 24-year-old Hollywood film star James Dean. The girls pledge to hold a vigil.

The 1975 reunion winds down among further questions and answers. Mona remarks again how, as soon as she tried to leave McCarthy, she almost died from asthma attacks, so she has found the town's warm and dry atmosphere to be vital. She then goes on to reminisce about her part as an extra on the set of Giant, which the others have never been able to find in the film. Meanwhile, certain details from her two accounts combine to clearly indicate that Joanne is in fact the father of Mona's son, as Sissy reveals that the young Jimmy Dean has never seen a doctor, and is probably unencumbered by any disability. In the fallout from the revelation, The Disciples drink together, laughing, and make a pact to hold another reunion in another twenty years; Mona alone demurs. Left alone, she, Sissy, and Joanne stand together before the mirrors as they had done before, and again sing "Sincerely" in concert. The song fades into blowing wind over shots of a decrepit, decayed, abandoned five-and-dime store building as the film ends.





After directing 1980's critically panned Popeye and selling his Lion's Gate studio (not to be confused with Lionsgate), Altman turned his attention to the stage.[10] One of his first tasks in this field was acquiring and directing Ed Graczyk's Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,[11][10] a drama originally performed in Columbus, Ohio in 1976.[12] Altman's work on the play, despite its bad reviews and short run, convinced him that a film version was imminent.[13] "On stage it was humorous and bawdy," he commented. "On film it's more emotional."[14] Jimmy Dean was his first feature adaptation of a play; he followed this effort with 1983's Streamers and 1987's Beyond Therapy, among others.[15]

Altman then made a deal with the play's production executive, Peter Newman, and retained the original cast members.[3] The filmmaker received over US$800,000 from Viacom Enterprises, through game show company Mark Goodson Productions,[1] almost as much money as the play had cost him.[16] It was his intention to shoot Jimmy Dean for the cinema; "the initial press report that it was made for cable is not true," he said.[1]

Of his preparations for Jimmy Dean, Altman added, "I didn't do what they told me I had to do, I hired the people I wanted."[1] The production was his first to involve Pierre Mignot, a Canadian cinematographer;[17][18] they would collaborate on five more films.[17] Filming took place on just one set:[3] a "redressed" version of its Broadway counterpart.[1] Altman used Super 16 equipment[1] during the nineteen-day shoot;[19] this was later converted to 35 mm stock for the first answer print.[1] For the film's flashbacks, he built a double set with two-way mirrors that were controlled by computerized lighting techniques—which became problematic for both him and the film's critics.[6]



Robert Altman took Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean to the Montreal and Toronto film festivals in Canada, as well as those in Belgium, Venice and Deauville.[20] The film received its U.S. premiere on September 30, 1982 (the 27th anniversary of the late actor's death) at the Chicago International Film Festival, where it received a ten-minute standing ovation. After this screening, Altman discussed various aspects of the production during a question-and-answer session.[1]

The filmmaker refused to let any major U.S. studio handle Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, due to the problems he had with 20th Century-Fox over his 1979 production HealtH.[1] Instead, he let Cinecom Pictures, an independent distributor in New York City, open it in arthouse theaters "to guarantee a long play";[1] it became the first release for that company.[21] The film opened on a limited basis in just two theaters on November 12, 1982, grossing US$22,298 and placing 18th at the North American box office that weekend.[2] By its fourth week, it made US$177,500 after going to four venues;[2] during its entire run, it grossed US$840,958.[4]

Jimmy Dean aired on the Showtime cable network in May 1983.[22] Embassy Home Entertainment released it on VHS that same year,[23] and on laserdisc in 1984;[24] a video re-issue from Virgin Vision followed in June 1989.[25] It was released on Blu-ray on November 18, 2014, by Olive Films, under license from Paramount Pictures.[26]

Restoration and re-release


A restored version of the film was released in 2011. The film was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive (in cooperation with Sandcastle 5 Productions) as "the first fruit of a new, larger project ... to preserve Mr. Altman's artistic legacy."[27] The preservation was funded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.[28]

The new print was made "from the original Super-16mm color negative, a 35mm CRI, a 35mm print, and the original ½ inch analog discreet mono D-M-E track."[28]

The restoration premiered at the UCLA Festival of Preservation on March 3, 2011[28][29] and was screened at other North American cities in 2011 including New York City,[30] Chicago,[31][32] and Vancouver.[33]

Critical reception


On its original release, The Boston Globe's Michael Blowen hailed Jimmy Dean as "[Altman's] best film since Nashville". He added, "[The director] is having fun again. He seems more comfortable in a desolate Woolworth's than he did on the frozen tundra of Quintet. In contrast with A Wedding, in which Altman cynically patronized his characters, he seems to love these three women. And why not?"[34] The Associated Press' Bob Thomas said, "The film is a heartening example of how good writing ..., gifted direction and solid acting can produce something worthwhile on a tiny (under $1 million) budget."[35]

The New York Times' Vincent Canby gave Jimmy Dean a mixed review. "There are some interesting things about [the film]," he observed, "but they have less to do with anything on the screen than with the manner in which the film was produced and with Mr. Altman's unflagging if misguided faith in the project." He complained that "The actresses are not treated kindly, either by the material or by the camera," and noted that Sandy Dennis' character, Mona, received most of the close-ups. "The only person in the film who comes off well," he said, "is Miss [Sudie] Bond."[9] New York's David Denby wrote: "Altman uses cinema to celebrate theater, and his technique is so fluidly self-assured that he almost makes you forget the rubbishy situations and lines created by playwright Ed Graczyk. Almost, but not quite."[36]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and wrote: "This is not a great drama, but two things make the movie worth seeing: Altman's visual inventiveness and the interesting performances given by everyone in the cast."[37] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that "only the Karen Black character develops any appealing substance, and Altman must share the credit for that with Black herself, who turns in the film's best performance. Cher's role is nothing more than a country-western sketch. Surprisingly, she isn't bad, and I suspect that this explains the plaudits her performance has earned."[38]

Pauline Kael wrote in 5001 Nights at the Movies: "When Robert Altman gives a project everything he's got, his skills are such that he can make poetry out of fake poetry and magic out of fake magic. Moving in apparent freedom, the principal actresses ... go at their roles so creatively that they find some kind of acting truth in what they're doing. They bring conviction to their looneytunes characters."[39] Film critic Leonard Maltin gave Jimmy Dean two and a half stars out of four in his Movie Guide, writing, "Strong performances, and Altman's lively approach to filming [Graczyk's] Broadway play can't completely hide the fact that this is second-rate material."[40] Halliwell's Film Guide stated "[Jimmy Dean] descends from cynicism through gloom to hysteria and is never very revealing."[41]

At the Chicago premiere of Jimmy Dean, Altman spoke of its festival acclaim to his audience: "I never have had a film of mine received as well as this film—I don't understand it, but I like it!"[20] In a January 1983 interview with the Boston Globe, he stated that "The critical reaction doesn't surprise me. Nothing surprises me any more. I take that back. One thing surprised me when I showed Jimmy Dean at film festivals—no one walked out."[6]

Jimmy Dean won the Best Film Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, as well as a Best Screenplay Award at the Belgium International Film Festival.[20][42] Cher, who played Sissy in the film, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.[43]

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean currently holds an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on five reviews.[44]

Themes and criticism


Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean has been noted to address the subject of feminism.[45][17][46] In Robert Altman: Hollywood Survivor, Daniel O'Brien wrote that "[Jimmy Dean] is in part an attempt to explore the way women are forced to suppress their emotions and personalities in order to be accepted by the male-dominated society around them".[17] In his 1980 book A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, film historian and critic Robert P. Kolker noted that Come Back to the 5 & Dime dealt with the "crisis of women confronting the oppression of patriarchy by dissolving them into neuroses. Unable to struggle, these figures first collapse within themselves and then extrapolate their delusions as protections against the world that surrounds them."[47]

On the film's sexuality issues, Robin Wood said: "What is especially interesting about Come Back to the Five and Dime is the connection it makes between the oppression of women and patriarchy's dread of sexual deviation and gender ambiguity. Joe (the only male character to appear in the film, in flashback) is clearly (and sympathetically) presented as feminine (as opposed to the stereotypically effeminate), woman-identified, and gay; as Don Short has perceptively shown, the film implies that he has become a transsexual ... because his society had no place for a gay male."[46]

In his 1985 book on Altman, Gerard Plecki wrote: "The reference to the James Dean myth is a clue to Altman's pervasive film message. Altman knows that James Dean had the kind of screen presence and magic that caused people to 'give in' to cinema." He added that "In each film [the director] strives to reinforce and respond to that essential need—to give in to cinema." Plecki observed that "It is fascinating that, after The James Dean Story, Altman would select another project touching upon the life of [the late actor]."[45]

O'Brien criticized the character development of the supporting roles,[17] while Plecki said that, compared to those in previous Altman films, none of the characters "are immediately likable".[48] "The reasons for the limited appeal of the characters are quite complex," Plecki wrote. "Most of the women's problems are physical or sexual ones."[48]

In Jimmy Dean, Altman frequently uses mirrors as a device to seamlessly connect scenes between the present and the past. Reflections in mirrors are part of many of the film's frame compositions.[6][49] As noted by Daniel O'Brien in Robert Altman: Hollywood Survivor, they "[become] a window into 1955, enabling the characters to gaze into the past".[49]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Plecki 1985, p. 129.
  2. ^ a b c "Box office information for Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". The Numbers. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c O'Brien 1995, p. 90.
  4. ^ a b "Box office information for Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  5. ^ Rich, Frank (February 19, 1982). "Stage: Robert Altman Directs Cher". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d Plecki 1985, p. 130.
  7. ^ Playwright Ed Graczyk Interview / 2014, archived from the original on December 21, 2021, retrieved April 12, 2021
  8. ^ Altman, Robert (director) (1982). Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Motion picture). Cinecom International Films (distributor) / Mark Goodson Productions / Viacom Enterprises / Sandcastle 5.
  9. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (November 12, 1982). "Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  10. ^ a b O'Brien 1995, p. 89.
  11. ^ Plecki 1985, p. 126.
  12. ^ Erskine, Thomas L.; Welsh, James Michael; Tibbetts, John C. (2000). "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1976)". Video Versions: Film Adaptations of Plays on Video. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-3133-0185-8. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  13. ^ O'Brien 1995, p. pp. 89-90.
  14. ^ Warren, Ina (August 28, 1982). "Unorthodox film director hit of Montreal festival". Ottawa Citizen. p. 35. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  15. ^ Base, Ron (February 27, 1987). "Navel-gazing Baby Boomers find only a yuppie emptiness". Toronto Star. p. D 11. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  16. ^ Allen, Jennifer (February 1, 1982). "Cher and Altman On Broadway". New York. 15 (5): 26. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  17. ^ a b c d e O'Brien 1995, p. 92.
  18. ^ Sterritt 2000, p. xix.
  19. ^ Wolcott, James (December 1982). "Truth and Woolworth's". Texas Monthly. 10 (12). Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  20. ^ a b c Plecki 1985, p. 131.
  21. ^ Pierson & Smith (1995), p. 38.
  22. ^ Paseman, Lloyd (April 28, 1983). "'Jimmy Dean' has wit, poignancy". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 6D. Retrieved May 14, 2010. If you miss it in the movie theater, you'll have another chance to see it next month on Showtime...
  23. ^ Catalog Information for Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. OCLC 9365623 – via WorldCat.
  24. ^ "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". Moving Image Collections. Library of Congress. 1982. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  25. ^ Product information for Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
  26. ^ "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  27. ^ Horak, Dr. Jan-Christopher. "UCLA Festival of Preservation (2011)". UCLA Film & Television Archive. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  28. ^ a b c "UCLA Film & Television Archive: Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)". Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  29. ^ "Robert Altman Honored". March 1, 2011. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  30. ^ "The Believer, Preservation, Arthur Penn, More". MUBI. March 2, 2011. Archived from the original on September 20, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  31. ^ "2011 UCLA Festival of Preservation". Gene Siskel Film Center. Archived from the original on August 13, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  32. ^ Pate, Steven (September 2, 2011). "2011 UCLA Festival of Preservation Tour Comes To The Siskel". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  33. ^ "Recent Restorations: Treasures From The UCLA Festival Of Preservation » Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". Cinematheque. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  34. ^ Blowen, Michael (December 15, 1982). "Review / Movie; 'Jimmy Dean' a Comeback for Altman". The Boston Globe. p. 1 (ARTS/FILMS). Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  35. ^ Thomas, Bob (February 12, 1983). "'Back to Five and Dime' Honors Memory of Dean". The Sumter Daily Item. p. 7B. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  36. ^ Denby, David (November 22, 1982). "A Million-Dollar Baby in a 5-and-10-Cent Store". New York. 15 (46). Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  37. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  38. ^ Siskel, Gene (November 22, 1982). "Altman's 'Jimmy Dean' suffers disabling case of Texas twang". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 8.
  39. ^ Kael 2011, p. 148.
  40. ^ Maltin 2007, p. 266.
  41. ^ Gritten 2007, p. 246.
  42. ^ Graczyk 1989.
  43. ^ "Winners & Nominees 1983". Golden Globes. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  44. ^ "Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  45. ^ a b Plecki 1985, p. 135.
  46. ^ a b Wood 2003.
  47. ^ Niemi, Robert (2016). "In the Wilderness". The Cinema of Robert Altman: Hollywood Maverick. Columbia University Press. doi:10.7312/niem17626. ISBN 9780231850865. JSTOR 10.7312/niem17626. Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  48. ^ a b Plecki 1985, p. 133.
  49. ^ a b O'Brien 1995, p. 93.