Since Cannes is still ongoing I thought I'd pick a previous Cannes winner for today's Saturday Matinee. M.A.S.H. took the award in 1970.
The huge hit starred Elliot Gould as Trapper John, Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, Tom Skerritt as Duke with Rene Auberjonois as the hospital pastor,Robert Duvall as Frank Burns the sanctimonious married doctor and Sally Kellerman as Hot Lips Houlihan, Frank's mistress. The film was based on the novel by Richard Hooker.
Hooker—real name H.Richard Hornberger—was a M.A.S.H. surgeon and writer who had worked on his novel for over ten years, only to see it rejected time and again by publishers. After collaborating with an acclaimed sportswriter, the book was finally picked up by William Morrow in 1968, with the film rights being sold not long after.
According to John Baxter in his book, A Pound of Paper, Confessions of a Book Addict, Hooker was furious for selling his rights for a few hundred dollars. Considering that none of Hooker's other books—also based on his M.A.S.H. experience got any traction, I can imagine his fury.
The movie, scripted by Ring Lardner, Jr. and directed by Robert Altman was a tremendous hit, a five time Academy Award nominee including Best Picture, Best Directing, Editing and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips.
The movie won the screenwriter an Oscar for his adaptation of Hooker's book and in addition to the Palme D'Or at Cannes, M.A.S.H. also took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture. They say movies based on books always increase the book's sales so I hope for Hooker's sake that some of the money Hollywood made from his work—remember there was the beloved TV series too—came back to him. A lesson to you writers out there, don't sell your film rights for a few hundred bucks. Hold out for a solid thou.
In his original 1970 review, Roger Ebert gave M.A.S.H. 4 stars:
'One of the reasons "MASH" is so funny is that it's so desperate. It is set in a surgical hospital just behind the front lines in Korea, and it is drenched in blood. The surgeons work rapidly and with a gory detachment, sawing off legs and tying up arteries, and making their work possible by pretending they don't care. And when they are at last out of the operating tent, they devote their lives to remaining sane.
Watch the trailer. Try not to laugh. Remember War is Hell!
You can stream M.A.S.H. for $2.99 on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu and YouTube.