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Kansas City (1996)

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A pair of kidnappings expose the complex power dynamics within the corrupt and unpredictable workings of 1930s Kansas City.

Director:

Robert Altman
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jennifer Jason Leigh ... Blondie O'Hara
Miranda Richardson ... Carolyn Stilton
Harry Belafonte ... Seldom Seen
Michael Murphy ... Henry Stilton
Dermot Mulroney ... Johnny O'Hara
Steve Buscemi ... Johnny Flynn
Brooke Smith ... Babe Flynn
Jane Adams ... Nettie Bolt
Jeff Feringa Jeff Feringa ... Addie Parker
A.C. Tony Smith A.C. Tony Smith ... Sheepshan Red (as A.C. Smith)
Martin Martin Martin Martin ... 'Blue' Green
Albert J. Burnes Albert J. Burnes ... Charlie Parker
Ajia Mignon Johnson Ajia Mignon Johnson ... Pearl Cummings
Tim Snay ... Rally Speaker
Tawanna Benbow Tawanna Benbow ... Rose
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Storyline

Robert Altman's jazz-scored film explores themes of love, crime, race, and politics in 1930s Kansas City. When Blondie O'Hara's husband, a petty thief, is captured by Seldom Seen and held at the Hey Hey Club, she launches a desperate plan to release him. She kidnaps the wife of a powerful local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Despite this being election time, he risks exposure by putting the political machine into action to free Johnny and thereby save his wife. Mrs. Stilton, meanwhile, has befriended Blondie and is impressed by her love and devotion to Johnny, especially in contrast to her own loveless marriage. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Kansas City, 1934. Anything could happen here. One night it did.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Music | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, and for some violence and drug use | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Fine Line

Country:

France | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 August 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Канзас Сити See more »

Filming Locations:

Kansas City, Kansas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$19,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$432,183, 18 August 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,353,824, 22 September 1996

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Kansas City" is partially based on a true incident. In 1933, Mary McElroy, the opium-addicted daughter of Henry McElroy, Kansas City's City Manager, was kidnapped from her home by a group of amateur kidnappers. After a $30,000 ransom was paid, Mary McElroy was released unharmed. Her four kidnappers were later caught and sentenced to life in prison. See more »

Goofs

After his wife is kidnapped by a robber's wife, Stilton uses a phone to enlist the aid of the governor to free the robber, who is being held by some Kansas City jazz club characters he ripped off. And the governor complies, even though Stilton never identifies the robber by name, the name of the people who were robbed or even the name of the club were the robber is being held captive. See more »

Quotes

Carolyn Stilton: He's got a lot of customers.
Blondie O'Hara: Those aren't customers, those are voters. They ship 'em from all over the state. Each of 'em vote ten, twelve times. Used to get their names outta the cemetary, but I don't even think they bother anymore.
Johnny Flynn: [to crowd of men] You'll be exercising your God-given right to vote. However, you'll be voting the way I tell you to vote, and as many times as I tell you. That understood? Understood? Shut up!
Carolyn Stilton: Democrats do that?
Blondie O'Hara: Democrats? They're what they're paid to be. This is ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Robert Altman (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Rich Textured Visuals
12 February 2012 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

A kidnapping and a robbery move the plot forward in a film that's less about plot than about cultural ambiance. "Kansas City" is mostly a cinematic expression of place and time. It's 1934, when gangsters and jazz ruled and Blacks and Whites went their separate ways.

Visuals are very dark. And though the film is in color, tints are muted, which conveys a nostalgic, sentimental mood. The thin plot takes place largely at night. And the plot alternates with dark interior scenes at the Hey Hey Club, a risqué, all-Black speakeasy where an all-Black band jives free-form jazz, and where illegal gambling fills the back rooms.

None of the characters are sympathetic. But I don't think they're supposed to be. They're archetypes, models of desperate people in desperate times. A gun-wielding gangster's girl named Blondie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wants to be like Jean Harlow. Mrs. Stilton (Miranda Richardson) is a wealthy, spaced-out politician's wife. Seldom Seen (based on a real-life person and played by Harry Belafonte) is the cigar smoking godfather who rules the dark, smoky Hey Hey Club with an iron fist and who likes to stand around giving lectures to people.

The script's dialogue is mostly subtext, with message directed less at other characters than at viewers. And, as in other Altman films, then-current politics dance around the edges of the seedy story. The overall tone mixes depression with desperation.

For me this is an easy film to judge. The characters and plot I cared for not at all. Jennifer Jason Leigh was painful to watch. And though the jazz is performed with great competence, its free-form, improvisational style is too contemporary to reflect the 1930s. On the other hand, Miranda Richardson gives a fine performance. Attention to detail in costumes, sets, props, and storefront exteriors make the film come alive with era realism. And lighting is absolutely terrific.

If you go into this movie expecting a deep story and well-constructed plot, you'll be disappointed. Absorb the overall texture of the film's visuals. "Kansas City" is a terrific visual portrait of a specific place at a specific time.


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