PRINT September 2019



Joel Schumacher, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, 1981, 35 mm, color, sound, 88 minutes. Pat Kramer (Lily Tomlin).

WHEN LILY TOMLIN’S FIRST FILM, Robert Altman’s Nashville, was released in June 1975, the actress and comedian had been a star for at least five years, celebrated for her array of voluble characters. Some of these personae—Ernestine, the floridly passive-aggressive telephone operator; Edith Ann, an uninhibited five-year-old emotional savant—made their debut during her 1969–73 tenure on NBC’s Laugh-In. Others, like Bobbi Jeanine, a bromide-dispensing lounge-circuit organist, premiered on The Lily Tomlin Show (1973), the first of her four eponymous TV specials from the ’70s. These personalities illustrate Tomlin’s tremendous gifts with voice. But in one of the best scenes from Altman’s superb ensemble movie, itself dense with talk and song, she mesmerizes with her silence.

In the final hour of Nashville, Tomlin’s Linnea Reese—dutiful wife to a self-involved attorney, devoted mother

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. Please sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW at the discounted holiday rate of $45 a year—70% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the September 2019 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.