Kansas City

Introduction to the Kansas City Film

Kansas City is an American crime film set in the jazzy city in the 1930’s. The film was directed by Robert Altman and starred Jennifer Jason Leigh; Miranda Richardson; Steve Buscemi; Michael Murphy and Harry Belafonte.

Frank Barhydt co-wrote the script alongside Altman who also produced the film. It was distributed by Fine Line Features and was released in the United States on the 16th of August 1996. The budget for filming Kansas City was set at $19 million and even though the film received mixed reviews which were mostly positive, the film only grossed just over $1 300 000 at the box office. Filming took place in both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City Awards and Nominations

The director, Robert Altman, was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards in 1996 awarded Hal Milner the best music award and Harry Belafonte won best supporting actor at the New York Critics Circle Awards in 1996.

The Kansas City Film Soundtrack

Kansas City is most notable for the integration of the musical score into its 1934 jazz scene. The musical milieu sets the scene for the entertainment at the Hey Hey Club which is reminiscent of when solo jazz artists would duel onstage in cutting contests.

The film shows scenes where this happens amongst some of the now well-known jazz artists of yesteryear. These jazz artists like Coleman Hawkins; Mary Lou Williams and Ben Webster are played by modern day contemporary artists like Craig Handy; Geri Allen and James Carter. The soundtrack which featured songs and music from the film was produced by Hal Winer and Steven Bernstein.

The Story of 1930’s Kansas City

Robert Altman grew up in Kansas City and reminisced about the time jazz flourished amidst the colourful vivacity of the city regardless of the great depression. The film portrays this and explores themes of love; crime and politics.

The film begins with Blondie O’Hara, whose gangster husband, Johnny, has been kidnapped and held captive by the notorious gangster, called Seldom Seen, at the Hey Hey Club which is one of the local hot spots in the city that Johnny had attempted robbing. She ends up kidnapping Mrs Stilton, the wife of a powerful politician, in an attempt to bribe him into helping her.

The politician, Mr Stilton, decides to help Blondie despite it being election time. He risks his re-election campaign by doing anything possible to get his wife back and free Blondie’s husband. While Mrs Stilton is being held captive by Blondie, they form a friendship as she is intrigued and fascinated by the devotion and love Blondie has for her husband Johnny which is the complete opposite of what she feels for her own husband, Mr Stilton.

Steve Buscemi’s character, Johnny Flynn, is the lead for the subplot within the film. He is a political fixer that is involved in the election. He ends up paying various street vagabonds and drug addicts to vote in the forthcoming elections in order to sway the outcome to be in his favour.