A Wedding
A Wedding poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Altman
Written byJohn Considine
Allan F. Nicholls
Patricia Resnick
Robert Altman
Produced byRobert Altman
StarringDesi Arnaz Jr.
Carol Burnett
Geraldine Chaplin
Howard Duff
Mia Farrow
Lillian Gish
CinematographyCharles Rosher Jr.
Edited byTony Lombardo
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 29, 1978 (1978-08-29)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.6 million (US/ Canada)[1]

A Wedding is a 1978 American satirical comedy-drama film directed by Robert Altman, with an ensemble cast that includes Desi Arnaz, Jr., Carol Burnett, Paul Dooley, Vittorio Gassman, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, Geraldine Chaplin, Howard Duff, Nina Van Pallandt, Amy Stryker, and Pat McCormick.[2] The story is told in typical Altman style, with multiple plots and overlapping humorous dialogue.

The story takes place in a single day during a lavish wedding that merges a nouveau riche Southern family with an established wealthy Chicago family having possible ties to organized crime.


Dino Corelli marries Muffin Brenner and attends the reception at the Corelli mansion. Bedridden matriarch Nettie Sloan, mother of Dino's mother Regina Sloan Corelli, is being tended by disreputable Dr. Jules Meecham. While speaking with wedding planner Rita Billingsley, Nettie suddenly dies. Meecham informs Dino's father, Luigi Corelli, but Luigi is unable to tell his wife Regina because she is mentally unstable. Nettie's corpse remains in bed throughout the reception, while various attendees visit her room without realizing she's dead. By the time bossy daughter Toni finds out and plans a dramatic announcement, other family members are mostly unsurprised or not even too upset.

The Brenners are a nouveau riche family from Louisville, Kentucky, where Muffin's father, "Snooks", made millions in the trucking industry. The Corellis are an old money family from North Shore Chicago. Because of rumors that Luigi has mob connections, virtually every invitee sent regrets. Only one guest (other than family members) attends. Nevertheless, Rita is determined to run the reception by the book, setting up a receiving line for the one guest and asking family members and staff to go down the line so it will not look empty.

A series of disasters unfolds, including the display of an embarrassing nude portrait of the bride; caterer Ingrid Hellstrom becoming ill, then getting high and causing a disturbance after Meecham gives her a pill; and a tornado when the cake is to be cut, forcing everyone to find shelter in the cellar. Two guests arrive late: the groom and bride's disgruntled exes, Tracy Farrell and Wilson Briggs, who bond over their shared anger.

Unsavory family drama unfolds. Regina is a drug addict. Her marriage was arranged by Nettie after Luigi met Regina while working as a waiter in Italy. Luigi was forced to change his name and be estranged from his Italian family for 22 years. His Italian-speaking brother unexpectedly shows up, and when Meecham reminds Luigi that Nettie is dead and can no longer impose the marriage conditions, Luigi is thrilled to see his long-lost brother. Regina's sister Clarice has a romance with her African-American butler, Randolph; her other sister, Toni, is married to Mack Goddard, who falls in love at first sight with Tulip Brenner, mother of the bride, and tries to woo her.

Snooks has a borderline incestuous attachment to his nearly mute daughter Buffy, the maid of honor, who speaks at the reception only once, to tell Dino she is pregnant and he is the father. Not wanting to be upstaged by the bride, Buffy disrobes in front of Muffin's nude portrait. Dino confides to Wilson about Buffy's pregnancy; Wilson tells Tracy, who vindictively spreads the news. Snooks confronts Dino, who admits to sleeping with Buffy but says she also slept with nearly every member of his military-school barracks. Snooks's sister from New Jersey, Marge Spar, starts romancing the Corellis' gardener, while bridesmaid Rosie Bean is unaware her shy friend Shelby Munker is having an affair with Rosie's husband Russell.

Muffin and Dino prepare to leave for their honeymoon in a new car, the Corellis' wedding gift. Muffin is rattled when Rita makes an unexpected pass at her. She then finds Dino in the shower with his groomsman, Reedley Roots, seemingly engaged in a gay sexual encounter. Actually, Dino has passed out drunk and Reedly is just holding him up straight while trying to sober him up. The newlyweds' car is seen driving away, and the families assume Dino and Muffin left without saying goodbye. Snooks drives his family back to their hotel. They see Dino's car wrecked and in flames, and rush back to the mansion to share the awful news. The families are grieving when Muffin and Dino appear from upstairs, having never left because of Dino's passing out. When Luigi remembers that the car keys were last seen in Wilson's possession, it becomes clear that Wilson (presumably accompanied by Tracy, since she is nowhere to be found), out for revenge, stole the car and died in the crash. Tulip privately declares the incident was God punishing her for sinful thoughts of having an affair with Mack.

Luigi pays his respects to Nettie. He tells her corpse he kept his bargain for 22 years, and no one there knows who he really is. Now he will take his leave. He finds his brother in the bushes, making love with Buffy. Luigi and his brother happily drive away as a half-dressed Buffy waves goodbye.


Several actors who later had notable film or television careers appeared as extras, including John Malkovich,[3] Gary Sinise,[citation needed] Laurie Metcalf,[citation needed] Dennis Franz,[3] Alan Wilder,[3] and George Wendt.[3]


The film was inspired by a remark Altman made while doing publicity for 3 Women. Upon being asked what his next movie would be, Altman jokingly replied that he was going to shoot a wedding next. Later, Altman and his production assistant decided to follow through on the idea and began planning the film.[4]

The film was shot almost exclusively over an 8-week period at the Lester Armor House in Lake Bluff, Illinois.

The role of Bishop Martin was the final film appearance by longtime actor and director John Cromwell, who died on September 26, 1979, at age 91.[5] Cromwell's wife of 33 years, Ruth Nelson, appeared as Aunt Beatrice Sloan Cory.

A Wedding was the 100th film in which Lillian Gish appeared.[6]


Roger Ebert gave A Wedding three-and-a-half out of four stars, writing "It begins in comedy, it moves into realms of social observation, it descends into personal revelations that are sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, and then it ends in a way that turns everything back upon itself. The more you think about what Altman's done, the more impressive his accomplishment becomes".[7] Gene Siskel gave it one-and-a-half stars out of four, writing "Altman mistreats us to one boob after another. He appears not to care for any one of the people involved here. He creates pompous straw men and women and then he ridicules them. It's a particularly mean-spirited movie likely to please no one".[8] Variety wrote "Altman's loose, seemingly unstructured style backfires in this comedy drama. Even the innovative director-producer's legion of fans will be disappointed. Those already not a member of his cult will find this work tedious".[9] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote "Altman in A Wedding, for all his undifferentiated sport with the upper reaches of the middle class, remains the entertaining satirist rather more than the angry scold. Still we have all come a long way from Father of the Bride, and A Wedding is an original and funny piece of work".[10] Jack Kroll of Newsweek called it "one of Altman's best films, at once one of his funniest and one of his darkest visions of a crazy, contradictory America".[11] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote "Musically and pictorially, Altman can't hide his condescension. He has invented a wedding party, ostensibly a misalliance between old but tarnished Midwestern aristocracy and new, uncouth Southern wealth, but that seems to inspire him to nothing but stale jokes and complacent contempt".[12] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote "There's no way to get into the movie; it's like a busted bag of marbles—people are running every way at once".[13]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73%, based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10.[14]

Awards and nominations

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Burnett won the Best Actress Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Spain's equivalent of France's Cannes Film Festival.

Burnett won the People's Choice Award for Favorite All-Around Female Entertainer Film and Television.

Burnett was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.


Main article: A Wedding (opera)

A Wedding is a 2004 comic opera based on Altman's film, composed by William Bolcom, with a libretto written by Robert Altman and Arnold Weinstein.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

See also


  1. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 234.
  2. ^ "A Wedding". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d George Wendt in Lovece, Frank (December 5, 2017). "George Wendt plays Santa in 'Elf: The Musical'". Newsday. New York City / Long Island. Retrieved January 3, 2018. I don’t remember “Bronco Billy,” but there was one summer they shot “A Wedding” in Chicago and they were looking for extras to play caterers, waiters and waitresses and the like. So all these guys from [The Second City and] Steppenwolf were waiters: Me and Dennis Franz, John Malkovich, Alan Wilder, Tim Evans — lots of people. And we had fun; it was a bonding summer with the Steppenwolf guys. We’d turn up at dawn every morning and just hang out and wait around in our outfits. Except for Malkovich — we were in this big old mansion in [the Chicago suburb of] Lake Forest and he would find a bedroom way out of the way and just sleep there all day. He didn’t care about being in the background of any of the shots. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know if anything I shot is in the movie.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006, p. 55. ISBN 978-0-226-18200-1.
  5. ^ "Los Angeles Times Hollywood Star Walk: John Cromwell", latimes.com, accessed Mar. 9, 2015.
  6. ^ Oderman, Stuart. Lillian Gish: A Life on Stage and Screen. McFarland & Co., 2000, p. 324. ISBN 0-7864-0644-5.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 7, 1978). "A Wedding (1978)". Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Siskel, Gene (September 29, 1978). "Wedding: A marriage of spite, malice". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 3.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: A Wedding". Variety. September 6, 1978. p. 22.
  10. ^ Champlin, Charles (September 27, 1978). "Matrimony and Acrimony". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 12.
  11. ^ Kroll, Jack (September 25, 1978). "Altman's Wedding Day". Newsweek. p. 109.
  12. ^ Arnold, Gary (October 4, 1978). "A Wedding: Stumbling Down the Aisle". The Washington Post. E1.
  13. ^ Kael, Pauline (October 2, 1978). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 113.
  14. ^ "A Wedding". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  15. ^ Travers, Andrew. "William Bolcom marries opera and comedy in 'A Wedding'". The Aspen Times. Aspen, Colorado: Swift Communications. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Swed, Mark (August 11, 2008). "'Wedding's' banquet". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles: Tronc, Inc. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  17. ^ Griffel 1999, p. 534.
  18. ^ "'Wedding' opera debuts". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Seattle: Hearst Corporation. Associated Press. December 11, 2004. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  19. ^ Hutcheon 2006, p. 48.
  20. ^ von Rhein, John (December 10, 2004). "A night at the opera: A guide to Lyric's 'Wedding' premiere". Chicago Tribune. Chicago: Tronc, Inc. Retrieved October 24, 2016.