Working with Composers

John Williams, the prolific American film composer who wrote memorable scores for films like Star Wars and Jaws, worked with Altman on Images (1972)and The Long Goodbye (1973).  His score for Images, matching the film’s psychological tone, was nominated for an Oscar.  The Robert Altman Archive contains items that show many behind-the-scenes agreements and working documents that were part of the complex world of creating films.




Cover letter from John Williams accompanying a letter from Robert Altman, both addressed to Hal Davis, President of the American Federation of Musicians, requesting permission for Williams to work abroad on Altman’s film Images

Popeye (1980), Altman's first and only attempt at a musical, was riddled with drama throughout its production.  Harry Nilsson, the composer who wrote the featured songs, didn't expect Altman's changeability with the score and left the island of Malta halfway through filming.  Altman trusted Nilsson to finish the production and claimed to get on with him terrifically despite the disagreement.  In the end the dispute was settled, and all of Nilsson's songs are featured in the final film.

Daub Popeye.tif

Typed draft of liner notes by John Williams for a planned release of a recording of his score for Images.

After Ronee Blakley starred as Altman's fragile country singer Barbara Jean in Nashville, she released an album within that same year featuring several songs she wrote, composed, and performed from the film.  This violated the contract between Blakely and Altman, which spiraled into a series of lawsuits that extended 1975 to 2005.

Tolios 056.01.jpg

Ronee Blakely sings to a crowd as Barbara Jean in Altman's hit Nashville.

Tolios05201 copy.jpg

Typed letter from the legal firm of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp to Robert Altman, September 23, 1975, alerting Altman that Blakely has violated her contract not to record any songs from Nashville within one year of the film's release.

Songs & Rights