Starring Cher, Karen Black, Kathy Bates. The Disciples of James Dean meet up on the anniversary of his death and mull over their lives in the present and in flashback, revealing the truth behind their complicated lives.
With COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Robert Altman began to turn to theatrical plays as source material for his films, with the filmed plays STREAMERS and SECRET HONOR following in the wake of …JIMMY DEAN by playwright Ed Graczyk. The film concerns a group of women who reunite in their hometown of McCarthy, Texas in 1975 to hold a twenty-year reunion of their James Dean fan club. In 1955, they were an excited group of high school graduates who eagerly anticipated their hero’s arrival in a nearby town to film GIANT. As the story unfolds, the friends–Mona (Sandy Dennis), Sissy (Cher), Stella Mae (Kathy Bates), Edna Louise (Marta Heflin), and Juanita (Sudie Bond) reminisce fondly about the past, but when a mysterious woman arrives (Karen Black), a series of shocking revelations threatens to ruin the reunion. The actresses imbue their characters with a tragic honesty that makes their eventual confessions all the more heartbreaking and poignant (notably, Dennis’s troubled Mona). Altman, who directed the play both on and off Broadway before deciding to film it, employs visual dissolves, and mirrors to add a cinematic layering to the production. The result is a powerful, sobering portrait of a group of women who allowed deception to take control of their lives.
A group of women friends–members of the James Dean fan club they formed in 1955 in McCarthy, Texas–hold their 20-year reunion at a “5 & Dime” drugstore. The different directions their lives have taken–and the varying degrees of success they have met with–creates numerous striking, insightful, and sometimes painful contrasts.
Robert Altman directed eighty performances of the play on and off Broadway before making the film.
The production was shot in super-16mm with a budget of $850,000 — which is not a typical film format or budget for other than a low-budget independent feature film. Most cost considerably more and are shot in the industry standard of 35mm.