A Prairie Home Companion (film)

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A Prairie Home Companion
A film poster with photographs of the cast surrounding a microphone
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Altman
Produced by Robert Altman
Fisher Stevens
Written by Garrison Keillor
Starring Woody Harrelson
Tommy Lee Jones
Garrison Keillor
Kevin Kline
Lindsay Lohan
Virginia Madsen
John C. Reilly
Maya Rudolph
Meryl Streep
Lily Tomlin
Music by Garrison Keillor
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by Jacob Craycroft
Distributed by Picturehouse
New Line Cinema
Release date
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $26 million

A Prairie Home Companion is a 2006 American ensemble comedy film directed by Robert Altman and is his final film. The film is a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show of the same name. The film received mostly positive reviews and was a moderate box office success on its small budget.

The film features an ensemble cast including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin, Garrison Keillor, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, and Lindsay Lohan.


A long-running live radio show is in danger of being canceled by new owners of the company that holds both radio station "WLT" and the theater where the show is broadcast. The film takes place on the night of the show's last performance. The show has two visitors: an angel calling herself Asphodel (Virginia Madsen) comes to comfort the people who work on the show and to escort one of them to the afterlife, while "the Axeman" (Tommy Lee Jones), a representative of the new owners, arrives to judge whether the show should be canceled. He makes it clear that the show is not what he considers modern popular programming, and though he too is escorted by the angel, the show is shut down anyway. In an epilogue at the end of the film the former cast members are reunited at Mickey's Diner. Their conversation pauses as they are joined by Asphodel.


Production notes

To receive insurance for the shoot, Robert Altman had to hire Paul Thomas Anderson as a "backup" director to observe filming at all times and be prepared to take over for Altman in case of his incapacity. Using the working title The Last Show, principal photography for the film began on June 29, 2005, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota (the usual venue for the radio show). Filming ended on July 28, 2005.[2][3][4][5] Because the Fitzgerald is a rather small building, other stage theaters in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region had been considered as stand-ins, but in the end, the necessary film equipment was crammed into the structure.[citation needed] The lack of space led to the basement also being used for some sets.[citation needed] Set design had to make the show more visually interesting, and fake dressing rooms were used in the film.[citation needed] The movie's production designer noted that Keillor's actual dressing room is "about the size of a very, very small bathroom."[This quote needs a citation]

Mickey's Diner, a downtown St. Paul landmark, is also featured in the film.[citation needed]

On November 1, 2005, the Star Tribune reported that an early screening in New York City for film distributors resulted in a heavy bidding war.[full citation needed] Picturehouse bought the rights, and company president Bob Berney, "aiming to capitalize on the name recognition of the 31-year-old radio program, recommended that the title revert to A Prairie Home Companion. 'At the screening, Garrison said that to broaden the film's appeal, they were thinking about changing the name to Savage Love, so we may have an argument there,' Berney said."[This quote needs a citation]



A Prairie Home Companion opened the 2006 South by Southwest film festival on March 10, then premiered in St. Paul, on May 3, 2006, at the Fitzgerald Theater, which had projection and sound equipment brought in for that purpose. The film's stars arrived in ten horse-drawn carriages. Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News anchored his newscast from neighboring Minneapolis, Minnesota, that night so that he would be able to attend.

Critics' general reaction to the film was favorable, and it garnered an 82% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, saying, "What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound",[6] and later added the film to his "Great Movies" list.[7]

Michael Medved (himself a radio host) gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying, "The entertainment value stands somewhere between thin and nonexistent" and "[it may be] the worst movie ever made that pooled the talents of four (count ‘em – four!) Oscar winners".[8]

Desson Thomson from The Washington Post fell in between, saying in a review headlined "Honey, You Could Ask for More" (a reference to the theme song of the radio show and film) that while the movie had its strengths, it was weaker than it should have been.[9]


Meryl Streep won the Best Supporting Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics for her role; Altman was also posthumously nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Director.

Box office

The film had a successful limited release in the United States and grossed $20,338,609 domestically and $25,978,442 worldwide.


New Line released a soundtrack album featuring a mixture of old time music classics and contemporary songs written by Keillor.

A Prairie Home Companion
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released May 23, 2006 (2006-05-23)
Recorded Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota
Genre Country
Length 64:24
Label New Line
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[10]

A Prairie Home Companion is the soundtrack the 2006 film A Prairie Home Companion. It was released on May 23, 2006 via New Line Records.

Track listing

No. Title Writer(s) Artist(s) Length
1. "Tishomingo Blues" Garrison Keillor, Spencer Williams Garrison Keillor 1:58
2. "Gold Watch and Chain" A. P. Carter Garrison Keillor and Meryl Streep 2:39
3. "Mudslide" Pat Donohue The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 3:06
4. "Let Your Light Shine on Me" Blind Willie Johnson Garrison Keillor, Robin and Linda Williams and Prudence Johnson 2:50
5. "Coffee Jingle" Keillor, Kate MacKenzie Garrison Keillor and Jearlyn Steele 0:52
6. "Summit Avenue Rag" Richard Dworsky The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:44
7. "Guy's Shoes" Donohue The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 0:42
8. "Whoop-I-Ti-Yi-Yo" Keillor, Traditional Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly 2:32
9. "Coming Down from Red Lodge" Peter Ostroushko The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 1:55
10. "You Have Been a Friend to Me" Carter L. Q. Jones 2:27
11. "Old Plank Road" Robin and Linda Williams Robin and Linda Williams 2:50
12. "My Minnesota Home" Stephen Foster, Keillor Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin 3:38
13. "A Bunch of Guys" Dworsky The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:01
14. "Slow Days of Summer" Keillor Garrison Keillor 3:02
15. "Frankie and Johnny" Keillor, Traditional Lindsay Lohan 2:05
16. "Waitin' for You" Donohue The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:41
17. "Jens Jensen's Herring" Keillor, Traditional The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 0:47
18. "Red River Valley" Traditional Garrison Keillor and Jearlyn Steele 3:23
19. "Strappin' the Strings" Andy Stein The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:27
20. "Goodbye to My Mama" Keillor Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin 3:28
21. "Bad Jokes" Keillor Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly 4:42
22. "The Day Is Short" Dworsky, Keillor Jearlyn Steele 3:13
23. "Atlanta Twilight" Dworsky The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:36
24. "Red River Valley"/"In the Sweet By-and-By" Traditional Cast Ensemble 3:20
25. "Guy Noir" Keillor The Guys All-Star Shoe Band 2:26

Chart performance

Chart (2006) Peak
US Billboard 200[11] 160
US Billboard Top Country Albums[11] 35
US Billboard Top Independent Albums[11] 10
US Billboard Top Soundtracks[11] 7

Home media

The DVD was released on October 10, 2006. Special features included deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and commentary by Altman and Kline. A Prairie Home Companion Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on May 23, 2006, by New Line.


  1. ^ Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 26
  2. ^ The film was the second major picture (after North Country, starring Charlize Theron and Harrelson) to be filmed in Minnesota in 2005.[citation needed]
  3. ^ Indie Wire Archived June 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Kaufman, Peter. "Radio for the Eyes". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Carr, David (July 23, 2005). "Lake Wobegon Goes Hollywood (or Is It Vice Versa?), With a Pretty Good Cast". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion". Chicago Sun-Times. June 8, 2006.
  7. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion (2006)". Chicago Sun-Times. November 12, 2008.
  8. ^ Michael Medved's Movie Minute Archived 2008-03-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Thomson, Desson (June 9, 2006). "Honey, You Could Ask for More". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Monger, James Christopher. "A Prairie Home Companion [New Line] – Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d "A Prairie Home Companion [New Line] – Original Soundtrack | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved September 13, 2013.

External links

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