Crimes of the Heart (1986)

PG-13 | 105 mins | Comedy-drama | 12 December 1986

Director:

Bruce Beresford

Writer:

Beth Henley

Producer:

Freddie Fields

Cinematographer:

Dante Spinotti

Editor:

Anne Goursaud

Production Designer:

Ken Adam
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HISTORY

Jonathan Demme was originally attached to direct for executive producer Burt Sugarman, as reported in a 16 Nov 1981 DV. At the time, Diane Keaton was in talks to star.
       A 12 Dec 1986 NYT article quoted producer Freddie Fields's claims that a film without gratuitous sex, violence, or car chases was a tough sell. According to Fields, every major studio declined to finance Crimes of the Heart. By the time the producer convinced mogul Dino De Laurentiis to take a chance on the project, actresses Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek had agreed to a seventy-five-percent pay cut. In addition, director Bruce Beresford and all other employees involved agreed to work for significantly less than their usual fees.
       A 13 May 1986 HR production chart announced that principal photography began on 5 May 1986 in Southport, NC. The 12 Dec 1986 NYT reported that the original budget was set at $11 million, but was adjusted to $10 million at the start of shooting. Beresford was ultimately able to bring the film in, under budget, in for $9 million. A 24 Jul 1986 HR brief stated that after a nine-week shoot, principal photography was completed.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, when playwright Beth Henley came to Australia to work with Beresford on the screenplay, they specifically looked for ways to move scenes “out of the kitchen,” which was the play’s sole location. While location scouting, Fields, Beresford, and production designer Ken Adam found the town of Southport, which had once been a pirate’s port and a fishing village, by accident. ... More Less

Jonathan Demme was originally attached to direct for executive producer Burt Sugarman, as reported in a 16 Nov 1981 DV. At the time, Diane Keaton was in talks to star.
       A 12 Dec 1986 NYT article quoted producer Freddie Fields's claims that a film without gratuitous sex, violence, or car chases was a tough sell. According to Fields, every major studio declined to finance Crimes of the Heart. By the time the producer convinced mogul Dino De Laurentiis to take a chance on the project, actresses Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek had agreed to a seventy-five-percent pay cut. In addition, director Bruce Beresford and all other employees involved agreed to work for significantly less than their usual fees.
       A 13 May 1986 HR production chart announced that principal photography began on 5 May 1986 in Southport, NC. The 12 Dec 1986 NYT reported that the original budget was set at $11 million, but was adjusted to $10 million at the start of shooting. Beresford was ultimately able to bring the film in, under budget, in for $9 million. A 24 Jul 1986 HR brief stated that after a nine-week shoot, principal photography was completed.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, when playwright Beth Henley came to Australia to work with Beresford on the screenplay, they specifically looked for ways to move scenes “out of the kitchen,” which was the play’s sole location. While location scouting, Fields, Beresford, and production designer Ken Adam found the town of Southport, which had once been a pirate’s port and a fishing village, by accident. Articles in 6 Oct 1986 Us magazine and Nov 1986 Horizon reported that filmmakers rented or bought every house on North Caswell Street in Southport to stand in for Hazlehurst, MS. A Victorian home on the street became the "Magrath" residence while an antebellum home known as the Orton Plantation doubled as the "Botrelle" mansion. Production notes state that porches, a tower, a gazebo, and gingerbread molding were added to the Magrath home exterior, while decorative items purchased at nearby thrift and antique stores added character to interior spaces.
       A 9 Oct 1986 DV news item announced that the picture would premiere in Los Angeles, CA, on 3 Dec to benefit the Women’s Guild of Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. A benefit screening was scheduled to take place on 9 Dec at the Uptown Theatre in Washington, D. C., according to a 26 Nov 1986 HR brief.
       The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), Best Supporting Actress (Tess Harper), and Writing--Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Beth Henley). Spacek received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “Special Acknowledgment of thanks to: the citizens and officials of Southport, North Carolina; Mayor Norman Holden; County Manager Billy Carter; City Manager Nelson Smith; Police Chief William Coring; Governor James Martin; the North Carolina Film Commission.” End credits also state: “Produced on the Broadway stage by Warner Theatre Productions, Inc. Claire Nichtern, Mary Lea Johnson, Martin Richards and Francine Lefrak”; and, “In Memory of Stan Kamen.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1981.
---
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1986
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1986
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1986
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1986
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1986
p. 3, 44.
Horizon
Nov 1986
p. 33-35
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 1986
p. 1, 15.
New York Times
12 Dec 1986
p. 19.
Us
6 Oct 1986
p. 36-38
Variety
10 Dec 1986
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group Presents
A Freddie Fields/Burt Sugarman Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Best boy elec
Rigging gaffer
Key grip/Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser/Leadman
Const coord
Const leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Key costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Supv mus ed, Segue Music
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Sd apprentice
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Opticals
MAKEUP
Hair and makeup by
With, Hair and makeup by
With, Hair and makeup by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Scr supv
Dial consultant
Unit pub
Asst to Bruce Beresford
Asst to Freddie Fields
Prod coord
Loc auditor
Asst auditor
Loc mgr
Casting dir
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation capt
Craft service
Financial consultant
Portable air conditioning by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Timer
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley (New York, 4 Nov 1981).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Happy Birthday To You," written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill, publisher Summy-Birchard Music, division of Birch Tree Group Ltd.
"Sunday In The South," performed and written by Jay Booker, published by Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc.
"Don't Fence Me In," performed by Willie Nelson and Leon Russell, written by Cole Porter, publisher Warner Bros. Music, a division of Warner Bros. Inc., courtesy of CBS Records
+
SONGS
"Happy Birthday To You," written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill, publisher Summy-Birchard Music, division of Birch Tree Group Ltd.
"Sunday In The South," performed and written by Jay Booker, published by Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc.
"Don't Fence Me In," performed by Willie Nelson and Leon Russell, written by Cole Porter, publisher Warner Bros. Music, a division of Warner Bros. Inc., courtesy of CBS Records
"Fallen Angel Flying High," performed by Dann Rogers, written by Jack Keller, Dann Rogers, Don Huber, published by Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc., Colgems-EMI Music, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 December 1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 3 December 1986
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 December 1986
Production Date:
5 May--early or mid July 1986
Copyright Claimant:
DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 May 1987
Copyright Number:
PA333111
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28232
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the Botrelle mansion, Lenny Magrath packs her sister Babe’s things, and returns to her childhood home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. There, Doc Porter drops off a bag of pecans, and informs Lenny that “Billy Boy,” her childhood pet horse, was struck by lightning and killed the previous night. Lenny cries as she thinks of Babe’s problems, the declining health of her “Old Granddaddy,” and now, Billy Boy. As Doc comforts her, Lenny mentions that her sister, Meg, is returning from Hollywood, California. Doc tells Lenny he would like to see Meg when she is in town. Meg arrives, and Lenny explains that Babe’s husband, Zachery Botrelle, is in the hospital after being shot in the stomach. Meg is shocked to learn that Babe has been charged with the crime. Lenny heard Babe confess and suspects she might be mentally ill. Meg, however, believes that Babe must have had a good reason for her actions. Lenny reveals that their Uncle Watson told her she would be doing their friend, Annie Lloyd, a favor by hiring her attorney son, Barnette Lloyd, as Babe’s lawyer. Meg worries there is no guarantee that Babe will avoid prison. She also discovers that Old Granddaddy is in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Later, the sisters joyfully reunite with Babe after she her release from jail. Back home, their cousin, Chick Boyle, visits. She accuses Babe of failing to cooperate with her lawyer, and warns that if she does not give an explanation for her crime, she will end up in prison for a long time. Babe petulantly claims that she shot her husband because she did not like his looks, nor does ... +


At the Botrelle mansion, Lenny Magrath packs her sister Babe’s things, and returns to her childhood home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. There, Doc Porter drops off a bag of pecans, and informs Lenny that “Billy Boy,” her childhood pet horse, was struck by lightning and killed the previous night. Lenny cries as she thinks of Babe’s problems, the declining health of her “Old Granddaddy,” and now, Billy Boy. As Doc comforts her, Lenny mentions that her sister, Meg, is returning from Hollywood, California. Doc tells Lenny he would like to see Meg when she is in town. Meg arrives, and Lenny explains that Babe’s husband, Zachery Botrelle, is in the hospital after being shot in the stomach. Meg is shocked to learn that Babe has been charged with the crime. Lenny heard Babe confess and suspects she might be mentally ill. Meg, however, believes that Babe must have had a good reason for her actions. Lenny reveals that their Uncle Watson told her she would be doing their friend, Annie Lloyd, a favor by hiring her attorney son, Barnette Lloyd, as Babe’s lawyer. Meg worries there is no guarantee that Babe will avoid prison. She also discovers that Old Granddaddy is in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Later, the sisters joyfully reunite with Babe after she her release from jail. Back home, their cousin, Chick Boyle, visits. She accuses Babe of failing to cooperate with her lawyer, and warns that if she does not give an explanation for her crime, she will end up in prison for a long time. Babe petulantly claims that she shot her husband because she did not like his looks, nor does she like Chick’s. The sisters recall an earlier family scandal centered on the double hanging deaths of their mother and the family cat. Lenny yells at Babe for making a mess as she fixes fresh lemonade with too much sugar, and stalks out to the garden. Babe comments that Lenny is becoming a cranky old person. They wonder if her shrunken ovary will prevent her from finding love. Meg believes her sister is a virgin, but Babe tells her that Lenny met a man after posting her information in a “Lonely Hearts Club” listing. Lenny began dating, and lost her virginity when she visited her boyfriend, Charlie, in Memphis, Tennessee. However, on a visit to Hazelhurst, Charlie met Old Granddaddy, learned about Lenny’s missing ovary, and soon the relationship was over. Barnette Lloyd visits, and Babe hides. As Meg asks about his strategy, Babe watches the conversation from a roof tower. Barnette suggests that Babe may have acted in self-defense or they might claim she was temporarily insane. He produces medical photographs showing Babe seeking treatment at the hospital for physical abuse. Later, Babe places a colorful bouquet of flowers at her mother Margaret’s grave, and Meg insists that someone in the family has to know the truth about her crime. Babe relents and explains that she adopted a dog, belonging to Willie Jay, a fifteen-year-old African American boy who could no longer care for it. Since Willie Jay was attached to his pet, Babe invited him to visit the dog anytime. However, Babe was lonely because of her failing marriage, and began an affair. One day, Zachery found Willie Jay playing with the dog, beat him, and warned the youth not to return. Babe grabbed a loaded pistol and pointed it at her head, but decided that she did not want to die like her mother. Instead, she shot Zachery in the stomach, then fixed a pitcher of lemonade, and drank three glasses to relieve her terrible thirst. As Zachery writhed on the dining room floor, she offered him a glass. Babe repeats the story for Barnette, who believes she has a reasonable case. As they talk, Zachery calls Barnette to offer pertinent information about the case. At the hospital, Meg tells Old Granddaddy about her career as an actress and singer. Granddaddy wants to hear all the details but Lenny is skeptical of her sister’s exploits. Lenny returns home and complains that Meg has taken a bite of every chocolate in her box of birthday candy. Since they were children, Meg has always received preferential treatment. Lenny remembers that Meg had eight jingle bells sewn into her petticoat, while she and Babe were only allowed three. Babe reminds Lenny that Meg was the one who found their mother, and started acting strangely thereafter. Lenny does not approve of Meg’s decision to go to California and break off her relationship with Doc Porter. Later, Meg returns home with a bottle of alcohol. She apologizes to Lenny for telling Old Granddaddy lies about her life in California, but she could not help herself. The sisters look through Babe’s family album and reminisce. Doc Porter calls, and Meg invites him to the house. Lenny and Babe are disappointed when Meg decides not to play cards with them. Lenny lashes out and demands an explanation why Meg partially ate her chocolates. Meg claims that she was searching for the pieces containing nuts. Lenny points out that the box was a cream assortment. There were no nuts in the box. Meg offers to buy another box, but Lenny is more intent on letting Meg know she has no respect for other people’s property. Lenny is also agitated that Meg always gets what she wants. When Lenny criticizes Meg’s multiple male relationships, Meg insinuates that Lenny is jealous because she only had one boyfriend from Memphis. Lenny is angry with Babe for revealing her secret, and claims she will never be able to trust her sisters again. She worries that no one will ever love her. When Meg does not believe her sister’s story about her breakup, Lenny locks herself in the bathroom to cry. On the porch, Meg offers Doc a sip of bourbon from her bottle. They go for a drive, and talk about their last date, which took place during Hurricane Cordelia, just before Meg left to pursue her career. Meg admits things have not gone as well as she hoped. She lost her voice, then her job, and ended up in a psychiatric ward over the holidays. Barnette stops by the house to show Babe photographs of her with Willie Jay, taken by a private detective hired by Zachery’s sister, Lucille Botrelle. Lenny comes downstairs when she hears Babe’s reaction, but Babe pretends that she and Barnette are dancing. A phone call from the hospital tells Lenny that Old Granddaddy has lapsed into a coma. Babe and Lenny keep a vigil at Granddaddy’s bedside, while Meg and Doc get drunk and dance as the sun rises. Meg arrives home and announces how great she feels. After being out with Doc, her singing voice has returned. When her sisters are depressed about Old Granddaddy, Meg promises to tell him the truth even if it sends him into a coma. Lenny and Babe burst out laughing, telling her that Old Granddaddy is already in a coma. Lenny comments that her life will change dramatically when Old Granddaddy dies because she will no longer be a caregiver. Meg encourages her to throw a party, go on dates, and see Charlie again. Later, Babe shows the incriminating photographs to Meg. Still later, Barnette negotiates with Zachery to drop all charges against his wife, since the public will think the evidence is a poor reflection of Zachery’s manhood. As a condition of the settlement, Willie Jay is pressured to leave town. Soon, Lenny summons the courage to call Charlie, and they arrange to see each other. After a surprise telephone call from Zachery, Babe believes her only recourse is to hang herself. However, the suicide attempt fails, and she crashes to the ground, pulling a light fixture from the ceiling. Dragging the rope still tied to the fixture, she attempts to answer the telephone but it stops ringing. She considers stabbing herself with a kitchen knife, then turns on the stove and sticks her head inside. Meg returns home and pulls Babe away from the gas. As Meg revives her sister, Babe has figured out why their mother hung the cat -- she did not want to die alone. People supposed that she hated the animal but she needed to have it with her. Babe confesses that she tried to kill herself because Zachery threatened to have her declared insane and committed to a mental institution. Meg convinces Babe that she is quite sane, and is not at all alone like their mother. The sisters hug. As Lenny returns from the garden, Meg and Babe surprise her with a birthday cake and candles. Meg and Babe sing as Lenny blows out the candles. The sisters laugh and enjoy the cake. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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