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I Am What I Am

Released in 1980 by Walt Disney and Paramount

Directed By Robert Altman
Written by Jules Feiffer and E. C. Segar
Starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duval

Music by Harry Nilsson

"Popeye" is a live action film which features Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall as Popeye and Olive Oyl. In the film, everyone's favorite spinach-eating sailor hero falls for Olive Oyl and battles his arch-rival Bluto.

Near the end of the 1970's, Producer Robert Evans commissioned screenwriter (and political cartoonist, novelist, and playwright) Jules Feiffer to write a script for a live action version of "Popeye." The script was passed from one director to another (including Hal Ashby, Arthur Penn and Mike Nichols) before Robert Altman ("M*A*S*H", "Nashville") ended up heading the project. At one point Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin were signed on as Popeye and Olive.

Ray Walston (as "Poopdeck Pappy") and Robin Williams (as "Popeye")
[Click photo to enlarge]

Altman took the cast and crew to Anchor Bay on the island of Malta. Over 100 men worked seven months to construct the Popeye set. Wood had to be imported from Canada. When they finished, the fictional village of Sweethaven consisted of nineteen buildings including a hotel, a school-house, a store, a post office, a church, and, of course, a tavern.

The film's score and songs are by Harry Nilsson. "Nobody wanted him at first except Robin Williams. Everyone said 'You'll get in trouble with him -- he'll get drunk; he won't do it; he's all washed up.' As a matter of fact I said all of those things about Harry to Robin myself one day. Then I went home and thought about it and said to myself, 'Jesus, that's what some people are saying about me!' So I called Harry Nilsson, because I had never met him in my life, and we got along terrifically." -- Robert Altman.

Harry Nilsson took the musicians to Malta where a studio was constructed for their use. The musicians dubbed themselves, "The Falcons." Ray Cooper, Doug Dillard, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Klaus Voormann, and "The Mysterious Karsten" recorded the basic tracks on the island as the set was finished and filming began. Van Dyke Parks arranged and conducted the music. Ray Cooper, Doug Dillard, Van Dyke Parks, and Klaus Voormann make breif appearances in the film.

The climatic octopus fight was filmed in Fifla. The Sweethaven set still stands in Anchor Bay as a tourist attraction.


Popeye Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album
A Nilsson House Production
Manufactured by Boardwalk Records, Inc. a division of The Boardwalk Entertainment Company
Copyright 1980 Paramount Pictures Corporation and Walt Disney Productions

The soundtrack album was engineered by Rick Riccio and Mike Hatcher. Harry wrote all of the songs except for "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man". It was released on LP and may have been briefly available as a CD in Europe.

Mark Guerrero, son of singer/composer Lalo Guerrero, provided background vocals for the demo of "I'm Mean."

The New Jersey group Guitari incorporated samples of "I Yam What I Yam," "Sailin'," and "It's Not Easy Being Me," from the Popeye soundtrack album in their songs "Hero" and "I Yam What I Yam (Popeye Rap)."

Home Video

"Popeye" is available on VHS video tape. You can find it at your local video store or order it online from retailers such as Amazon.com and Videoflicks.

"If you watch it backwards, it has a plot." -- Robin Williams



The following are links to pages about the Popeye film and its soundtrack.

See Also: Harry Nilsson's The Point!