by Ken Korman
Many of us dream of finding a lost Picasso hidden behind that velvet painting of dogs playing poker we always see at the local thrift store. Filmmaker Gary Huggins recently realized his own variation on that fantasy when he discovered the only known copy of the first film made by the great Robert Altman at a drive-in flea market in Kansas City.
Altman, who died in 2006, was one of the original "New Hollywood" fillmakers that came to prominence in the 1970s, and was responsible for such classics as the original MASH, Nashville, and one of our all-time favorites here at the Gambit Film Dept., McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
Huggins bought a stack of old instructional films for $10 at that flea market. He took his time getting around to watching them, but knew he was onto something when he spotted a young Altman making a cameo appearance as a sports reporter in Modern Football, made in 1951. The film is believed to be the first of 27 instructionals sponsored by Wheaties and Wilson Sporting goods and made by Altman for the Kansas City-based Calvin Communications at the start of his career.
Higgins decided to put the entire 26-minute film on YouTube, along with a pitch for his kickstarter campaign to fund his own first film, a horror comedy called Kick Me.