Melvin and Howard (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes

Melvin and Howard1980

Melvin and Howard (1980)




Critic Consensus: A spirited character study and clear-eyed treatise of the American Dream, Melvin and Howard hits the jackpot with its lovable cast and director Jonathan Demme's humanism.

Melvin and Howard Photos

Movie Info

Outside Las Vegas, truck driver, milkman and aspiring songwriter Melvin Dummar gives a ride to a desert drifter who claims to be billionaire Howard Hughes. Several years later, Melvin produces a will that names him as an heir to the Hughes fortune!


Paul Le Mat
as Melvin Dummar
Jason Robards
as Howard Hughes
Mary Steenburgen
as Lynda Dummar
Jack Kehoe
as Jim Delgado
Elizabeth Cheshire
as Darcy Dummar
Chip Taylor
as Clark Taylor
Melvin E. Dummar
as Bus Depot Counterman
Gloria Grahame
as Mrs. Sisk
Pamela Reed
as Bonnie Dummar
Dabney Coleman
as Judge Keith Hayes
Joe Ragno
as Attorney Maxwell
John Glover
as Attorney Freese
Robert Ridgely
as TV Master of Ceremonies
Susan Peretz
as Chapel Owner
Charlene Holt
as Mrs. Worth
Melissa Williams
as Sherry Dummar
Rick Lenz
as Melvin's Lawyer
Danny Dark
as Easy Street Announcer
Martine Beswick
as Real Estate Woman
Gene Borkan
as Go-Go Club Owner #1
Wendy Lee Couch
as Go-Go Dancer
Marguerite Baierski
as Go-Go Dancer
Janice King
as Go-Go Dancer
Deborah Ann Klein
as Go-Go Dancer
Theodora Thomas
as Go-Go Dancer
Elise Hudson
as "Easy Street" Singer
Robert Wentz
as Justice of the Peace
Cheryl Smith
as Patient Ronnie
Melissa Prophet
as Easy Street Model
Herbie Faye
as Witness
Sonny Carl Davis
as Milkman George
John Levin
as Reporter
Jack Verbois
as Holdup Man
Brendan Kelly
as Milkman Ralph
Danny Tucker
as Milkman Pete
Shirley Washington
as Patient Debbie
Rainbeaux Smith
as Patient Ronnie
John Thundercloud
as Chief Thundercloud
Gary Goetzman
as Melvin's Cousin Fred
View All

Critic Reviews for Melvin and Howard

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (3)

Affectionately good-humoured as much of the observation is... the film's eye is, if never savage, then sometimes at least moderately scathing.

July 11, 2018 | Full Review…

Robards is a chillingly effective Hughes. But this movie belongs to Paul Le Mat, as Dummar.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Tak Fujimoto's photography and Craig McKay's editing are without fault.

May 27, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Hypnotic shots of asphalt echo Two-Lane Blacktop, Easy Rider and other American road movies while forging its own human path - not of counterculture, but of connection.

August 28, 2018 | Full Review…

Everything is all right really -- it tells us -- as long as there are good guys like Melvin to add a little human decency and a touch of naive fun to the great game show of life. I found this melancholy, however, rather than inspiring.

March 29, 2018 | Full Review…

Shambling yet delicate, Demme's screwball tall tale gazes at TV contests and novelty ballads and sees not derisive kitsch but the warm connective tissue of human yearning

July 29, 2013 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Melvin and Howard

After picking up a random hitchhiker who claims to be Howard Hughes, a truck driver goes on with the rest of his boring life until he finds out that Hughes left him a fortune. This film should be called Melvin because Howard appears for ten minutes and his presence is felt for about twenty. And the problem is that Melvin is a terribly boring character. He has a job problem and a love problem, but these aren't interesting conflicts, and frankly, Melvin is a douche. When he gets Howard's inheritance in the final act, it's a stroke of good fortune for a guy who could've withered away without anyone noticing. Overall, I'm surprised that Jonathan Demme is capable of Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs but also capable of this and Rachel Getting Married.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

"Melvin and Howard" is a charming but mediocre dramedy based on fact. Melvin Dummar is a Utah man (he is still alive) who claimed in 1976 to have received a hand-written will authored by Howard Hughes, in which he, Dummar, was named one of the beneficiaries of Hughes's estate. This happened just four years after another man, Clifford Irving, claimed to be collaborating with Mr. Hughes (who died in 1976) on an authorized autobiography. Hughes, who by then was a complete recluse, eventually came out publicly and stated that Irving's story was a hoax. This triggered a wave of fascination with hoaxes and forgeries. (See Orson Welles's terrible 1973 semi-documentary "F for Fake," which contains a lot of footage of Irving.) "Melvin and Howard" presents the Dummar story as if it were true. Bo Goldman, who won an Oscar for the screenplay, imagines what Dummar's life must have been like. Mary Steenburgen, who won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in the film, plays Dummar's wife. Goldman and director Jonathan Demme (this was Demme's sixth film) present Dummar and his wife as semi-retarded. But somehow it comes across as an affectionate portrayal. There's a lot that's charming about the film. It captures the milieu of down-and-out Western folk as well as "Five Easy Pieces" did, but with more comedy than tragedy. But both the comedy and drama are pretty light. I just kind of sat there limply watching it. Almost everything about it is flaccid. (Just incidentally, 1980 was the year of "Raging Bull," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "The Elephant Man," and "Ordinary People," which won the Oscar for Best Picture -- four of my all-time favorite films. What a good year for film.)

William Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer


This movie weird-ed me out. Robards doesn't have much screen time though his character is part of the title. La Mat plays a really odd guy who I didn't understand much. And Mary Steenburgen plays a stripper!? She thinks she dances really well and supposedly everyone around her gives her positive feedback, but she doesn't. I guess it's kind of funny, but not really, to watch all these sad hopeless people.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

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