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Melvin and Howard (1980)

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The story of hard-luck Melvin E. Dummar, who claimed to have received a will naming him an heir to the fortune of Howard Hughes.



Won 2 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elizabeth Cheshire ...
Darcy Dummar
Chip Taylor ...
Clark Taylor
Melvin E. Dummar ...
Bus Depot Counterman
Little Red
Gene Borkan ...
Go-Go Club Owner #1
Lesley Margret Burton ...
Go-Go Dancer
Wendy Lee Couch ...
Go-Go Dancer
Marguerite Baierski ...
Go-Go Dancer
Janice King ...
Go-Go Dancer
Deborah Ann Klein ...
Go-Go Dancer
Theodora Thomas ...
Go-Go Dancer


This movie tells the possibly true story of Melvin E. Dummar. Melvin is a nice guy, but he is a total loser: unlucky, impractical and can't keep a job. One night, however, he helps an old man who has had a motorcycle accident in the desert. Melvin laughs when the old man says he is Howard Hughes, the eccentric multimillionaire. But when Howard Hughes dies, Melvin is mailed a will leaving him part of the estate! Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Poor Melvin. All he wanted was to be Milkman of the Month. Instead, he lost his job, his truck, and his wife. Then Howard Hughes left him $156,000,000. See more »


Comedy | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Melvin (and Howard)  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Melvin Dummar, though he did pass on the script to Mary Steenburgen. See more »


While the men are in the truck talking, a sandwich being eaten has the bite area alternately changing from one side of the bread between shots. See more »


Lynda Dummar: C'est la vie.
Melvin Dummar: What's that?
Lynda Dummar: French, Melvin. I used to dream of becoming a French interpreter.
Melvin Dummar: You don't speak French.
Lynda Dummar: I told you it was only a dream.
See more »


Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »


It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Performed by Ray Conniff
Courtesy of CBS Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Wistful film is so lovely it is almost a fluke...
19 October 2006 | by (las vegas, nv) – See all my reviews

Winning combination of scattershot comedy and wry, wistful drama tells the (alleged) true story of a milkman with big dreams and no money who is curiously named a recipient in the will of multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. Melvin Dummar (played by Paul LeMat, in a terrific performance) had been saying all along he once helped out an old guy in the desert near Las Vegas who claimed he was Hughes, but Dummar didn't really believe him (they had a nice chat anyway, and Melvin got Howard to sing one of his self-written novelty songs as well as "Bye Bye Blackbird"). Good-natured film directed by Jonathan Demme rarely loses its way, and features an endearing collection of screwballs who make the loopy craziness of the situations and dialogue immediate and real--their eccentricities are the roots of the story. Mary Steenburgen won a Supporting Oscar as Dummar's first wife, a dreamer like Melvin who is far less satisfied with struggling and who just wants to amount to something (but to Melvin, the struggles are the best part). Jason Robards is perfect as Hughes; the normally bombastic actor takes a small role and lets it bloom subtly and beautifully for us, giving the movie a misty hue and making all of Melvin's hopes sweetly credible. ***1/2 from ****

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