On the eve of the municipal elections in 1934 Kansas City, a scrappy telegraph operator, Blondie O’Hara, has kidnapped wealthy Carolyn Stilton, a drug-addicted socialite wife married to an advisor to president Roosevelt.
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The stars of the film were the musicians, as Altman did a wonderful job putting together a band of young jazz musicians (at the time) who took on the personalities of the Kansas City greats, including Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. The movie itself appears aimless, which was probably as Altman intended, but he does create a strong sense of time and place.
Why isn't this movie talked about more? It's very well made, has top notch performances, and an awesome jazz score. It seems like it's been forgotten though, even by Altman fans, and that really bums me out. Kansas City may not be Altman's absolute best movie, but it certainly ranks among his better ones, and I would highly recommend it.
Just when Altman was working up a head of steam again, he went back to his hometown and produced this bafflingly dull jazz-age thriller. A film that shows how maddeningly inconsistent its director could be.