The Long Walk Home (1990)

PG | 97 mins | Drama | 21 December 1990

Director:

Richard Pearce

Writer:

John Cork

Cinematographer:

Roger Deakins

Editor:

Bill Yahraus

Production Designer:

Blake Russell

Production Company:

New Visions Pictures
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HISTORY

The film ends with title cards that read: “On December 20, 1956, under Supreme Court order, the Negro citizens of Montgomery, for the first time in history, rode on city buses and sat where they wanted. The boycott had been won. Within weeks, four Negro churches and two homes were bombed. But a movement had begun. Montgomery was only the beginning, just the first step...”
       The story is told by the adult “Mary Catherine Thompson,” voiced by actress Mary Steenburgen. She begins with the following narration: “Her name was Odessa Cotter. I called her ‘Dessie.’ As best as anyone knows, she was the first woman to rock me to sleep. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about her, but I guess there’s always something extraordinary about someone who changes, and then changes those around her. That’s me, I was only seven years old.” At the end of the film, Mary Catherine says: “It would be years before I understood what standing in the line meant to my mother and, as I grew older, to me. Fifty thousand boycotted the buses in Montgomery. I knew one. Her name was Odessa Cotter.” Though Mary Catherine refers to herself as being seven years old in 1955, her mother, “Miriam Thompson,” says elsewhere in the story that she is nine.
       Child actress Lexi Randall, who played “Mary Catherine,” is listed in the end credits as Lexi Faith Randall. Actor Richard Habersham’s last name is misspelled in opening credits as “Halbersham.”
       Screenwriter John Cork originally submitted a workshop script for a short film, The Long Walk Home, when he was a film student at the University of Southern California (USC)’s School of Cinema-Television. ... More Less

The film ends with title cards that read: “On December 20, 1956, under Supreme Court order, the Negro citizens of Montgomery, for the first time in history, rode on city buses and sat where they wanted. The boycott had been won. Within weeks, four Negro churches and two homes were bombed. But a movement had begun. Montgomery was only the beginning, just the first step...”
       The story is told by the adult “Mary Catherine Thompson,” voiced by actress Mary Steenburgen. She begins with the following narration: “Her name was Odessa Cotter. I called her ‘Dessie.’ As best as anyone knows, she was the first woman to rock me to sleep. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about her, but I guess there’s always something extraordinary about someone who changes, and then changes those around her. That’s me, I was only seven years old.” At the end of the film, Mary Catherine says: “It would be years before I understood what standing in the line meant to my mother and, as I grew older, to me. Fifty thousand boycotted the buses in Montgomery. I knew one. Her name was Odessa Cotter.” Though Mary Catherine refers to herself as being seven years old in 1955, her mother, “Miriam Thompson,” says elsewhere in the story that she is nine.
       Child actress Lexi Randall, who played “Mary Catherine,” is listed in the end credits as Lexi Faith Randall. Actor Richard Habersham’s last name is misspelled in opening credits as “Halbersham.”
       Screenwriter John Cork originally submitted a workshop script for a short film, The Long Walk Home, when he was a film student at the University of Southern California (USC)’s School of Cinema-Television. Fellow student Beverlyn Fray directed the twenty-nine-minute, roughly $35,000 film, starring Irene Nettles as “Odessa Cotter” and Deborah G. Dalton as “Miriam Thompson,” according to the 4 Feb 1988 and 20 Apr 1988 editions of the LAT. Cork filed a $1 million lawsuit against USC, claiming it unfairly assigned Fray, an African American woman, to direct the movie instead of him, and thus deprived him of a directorial credit. The Long Walk Home won first prize at the Black American Cinema Society’s student film competition, and opened as part of a short film program at a Los Angeles theater after a federal judge denied John Cork’s request for an injunction, the 6 Feb 1988 LAT noted.
       The 14 Jul 1989 DV reported that principal photography on the feature film began in Montgomery, AL, on 22 May 1989, and three months later, the 17 Aug 1989 DV noted that the film was in postproduction. According to the 8 Jun 1989 HR, director John Bailey, who had previously worked as a cinematographer, was fired from the $6 million film after production fell “a few days behind schedule.” Publicist Chappy Hardy also cited Bailey’s “creative differences” with New Visions Pictures.
       Harvey Weinstein, co-owner of Miramax Films, told the 29 Apr 1991 Var that his company rereleased The Long Walk Home in 1991 because the original Dec 1990 release garnered only $300,000 in two weeks, despite generally good reviews. Weinstein and his brother, Bob Weinstein, had not yet spent the $4 million they had promised to promote the film. Also, they wanted to “erase the stigma” that The Long Walk Home was not “historically accurate” before the eventual video release.
       End credits contain the following information: “Documentary footage courtesy The Fellowship of Reconciliation. Dr. King’s ‘First Address at Mass Meeting,’ Holt Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 12-5-55 and ‘How Long, Not Long!,’ Montgomery, Alabama, March 1965 by Martin Luther King, Jr. used with permission of the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ©1955 and 1965, the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Courtesy of the King Center, Atlanta, Georgia.” Additionally, “The producers wish to thank the following without whose help this film could not have been made: John Lyons and Donna Isaacson; WSFA-TV, Montgomery, Alabama; WLWI FM & AM; Golden Flake Snack Foods; Governors House Hotel; Rhodes Furniture; Capitol Chevrolet; Klein and Sons; Big Bear Super Foods; Apple Computer, Inc.; Waterford Wedgwood USA; Bryan Foods, Inc.; The State of Alabama, Governor Guy Hunt; the residents, businessmen, and the City of Montgomery, Alabama, Emory Folmar, Mayor; Mary Motley Kalergis; Alabama Film Office, Mark Stricklin, Executive Director, Courtney Murphy, Ray Quinn; The choirs and congregations of: A.M.E. Mount Zion Church, Rev. Claude Shuford, pastor; Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Rev. G. Murray Branch, pastor; King Hill Baptist Church, Rev. Bobby Howard, pastor; Holt Street Baptist Church, Rev. John Duncan, pastor. And a special thanks for the outstanding cooperation of Lilly Baptist Church, Rev. Thomas Jordan, pastor.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 July 1989
p. 21.
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1989
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1990
p. 2, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1990
10, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1990
p. 6, 24.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jan 1988
Section G, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
4 Feb 1988
Section H, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1988
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1988
Section H, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1989
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1990
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
21 Dec 1990
p. 28.
Variety
19 Jul 1989
p. 26.
Variety
24 Sep 1990
p. 84.
Variety
29 Apr 1991
p. 135.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
New Visions Pictures Presents
A Howard W. Koch, Jr. Dave Bell Associates Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit photog
Still photog
Key grip
Best boy grip
Best boy elec
Elec
Film laboratory
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Graphic des
FILM EDITORS
Dir of post prod
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Ed intern
Negative cutting by
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Lead man
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dec asst
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Const coord
Asst to const coord
Key const grip
2d const grip
Key set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Men's costumer
Ward asst
MUSIC
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Addl orch and mus prod
Alabama mus coord
Mus scoring mixer
Mus scoring mixer
Mus contractor
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Sd ed facilities
Dolby Stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des by
Titles & opt eff by
Titles & opt eff by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hair stylist
Makeup artist
Ms. Spacek's hair & makeup
Makeup artist
Local makeup
Local makeup
Local makeup
Local hair stylist
Local hair stylist
Local hair stylist
Local hair stylist
Local hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Addl casting (Chicago)
New Visions development exec
New Visions pub exec
Marketing consultant
Unit pub
2d unit supv
Casting asst
Casting asst
Casting asst
Extras casting
Extras casting asst
Scr supv
Picture car coord
Asst car coord
Asst car coord
Insert car driver
Loc auditor
Asst loc auditor
Loc mgr
Loc scout
Loc scout
Prod office coord
Asst office coord
Office receptionist
Office asst
Office asst
Office asst
Local promotions coord
Research coord
Asst to Dave Bell
Catering by
Catering by, Michaelson's Catering
Catering by, Michaelson's Catering
Craft service
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Bus mechanic/Driver
Travel services by
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Intern
Intern
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Prod equip
Prod equip
Prod services provided by, The Long Walk Home
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Ms. Goldberg's stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Going Through Jesus," featured vocal performance by Dorothy Love Coates
"Picnic," written by George Duning and Steve Allen, performed by The McGuire Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records
"Mister Sandman," written by Pat Ballard, performed by The Chordettes, courtesy of Barnaby Records, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing, Inc.
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1990
Production Date:
began 22 May 1989
Copyright Claimant:
New Visions Pictures
Copyright Date:
4 June 1991
Copyright Number:
PA540901
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed With Panavision® Cameras & Lenses
Prints
AGFA
Duration(in mins):
97
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30147
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In late 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, Odessa Cotter, an African-American maid, rides a city bus across town to the home of Norman and Miriam Thompson, a prominent white couple. After Odessa prepares breakfast, Miriam sends her to a park with the Thompsons’ younger daughter, Mary Catherine, and two of her friends, but a city patrolman orders Odessa out of the park and insults her in front of the children. Miriam is outraged when Odessa returns, and telephones City Commissioner Clyde Sellers. The patrolman later visits the Thompson house and apologizes to Miriam, Odessa Cotter, and the children. At a house party, Norman’s younger brother, Tunker Thompson, tells a racist joke near the black servers and chides Miriam for humiliating the policeman in front of a black maid. Miriam explains that she has lived with maids all her life and knows what is right and wrong. Meanwhile, Odessa’s sons, Theodore and Franklin Cotter, bring home a handbill addressed to Montgomery’s black citizens. Local woman Rosa Parks was arrested and jailed on December 1 for not giving up her seat on a city bus, and black leaders are calling for a boycott of all buses on Monday. Odessa’s husband, Herbert Cotter, and his fellow black workers at Montgomery Glass read the same flyer. Selma Cotter, Odessa’s teenage daughter, thinks the boycott is a bad idea because black people without cars may have a hard time getting to work. At dinner, Herbert tells his family he supports the boycott because he is tired of riding in the back of the bus. On Monday, buses run with only a few white passengers. When Odessa telephones Miriam to say she will be late, Mirian ... +


In late 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, Odessa Cotter, an African-American maid, rides a city bus across town to the home of Norman and Miriam Thompson, a prominent white couple. After Odessa prepares breakfast, Miriam sends her to a park with the Thompsons’ younger daughter, Mary Catherine, and two of her friends, but a city patrolman orders Odessa out of the park and insults her in front of the children. Miriam is outraged when Odessa returns, and telephones City Commissioner Clyde Sellers. The patrolman later visits the Thompson house and apologizes to Miriam, Odessa Cotter, and the children. At a house party, Norman’s younger brother, Tunker Thompson, tells a racist joke near the black servers and chides Miriam for humiliating the policeman in front of a black maid. Miriam explains that she has lived with maids all her life and knows what is right and wrong. Meanwhile, Odessa’s sons, Theodore and Franklin Cotter, bring home a handbill addressed to Montgomery’s black citizens. Local woman Rosa Parks was arrested and jailed on December 1 for not giving up her seat on a city bus, and black leaders are calling for a boycott of all buses on Monday. Odessa’s husband, Herbert Cotter, and his fellow black workers at Montgomery Glass read the same flyer. Selma Cotter, Odessa’s teenage daughter, thinks the boycott is a bad idea because black people without cars may have a hard time getting to work. At dinner, Herbert tells his family he supports the boycott because he is tired of riding in the back of the bus. On Monday, buses run with only a few white passengers. When Odessa telephones Miriam to say she will be late, Mirian drives across town and picks her up. However, Miriam is busy later and cannot drive her home, so Odessa walks the long distance in heels. Her feet are bleeding when she arrives home, but she puts on another pair of shoes and walks with the family to the Holt Street Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. is preaching. The church is crowded, so the Cotters stand outside and listen to the sermon on speakers. The boycott continues, and Odessa walks to the Thompsons’ house and joins the family’s other maid, Claudia, whose husband drives her to work. Suffering from exhaustion, Odessa requests a couple of days off until the boycott ends. However, with Christmas approaching, Miriam needs Odessa, so she volunteers to pick her up on Tuesdays and Fridays. Miriam asks daughter Mary Catherine not to tell her father she is driving Odessa to work. When the Thompsons’ older daughter, Sarah, comes home from college, Norman Thompson takes the family to a housing tract he is building and shows them new streets named “Miriam,” “Mary,” “Catherine,” and “Sarah.” Odessa puts presents in her children’s Christmas stockings and takes a small gift to Mary Catherine, but after seeing the girl’s elaborate new doll, she keeps the present in her coat pocket. As Odessa and Claudia serve Christmas dinner, Tunker Thompson, Miriam’s parents, and “Grandmother Thompson” discuss how “coloreds” are taking over the city, and Miriam is embarrassed by what the family says in front of the maids. After dinner, Norman gives Christmas checks to the maids and asks Odessa how she gets to work during the boycott. To protect Miriam, Odessa says she walks or finds a ride. When Norman asks if she prefers walking to sitting at the back of the bus, Odessa admits that she does. Miriam’s parents tell Norman that Odessa is part of “the problem” and suggest he hire a white maid. When Odessa goes home, her family gives her a pair of comfortable shoes and a new coat for Christmas. Meanwhile, Miriam discovers Odessa’s undelivered present for Mary Catherine. To get to her boyfriend’s house in a nearby town, Selma Cotter takes the bus. Theodore Cotter sees her getting on, runs home, and breaks his piggy bank for money. On the bus, three white teenagers harass Selma, and when the driver throws them off, they chase Selma into a park. A taxi pulls up, Theodore gets out, and jumps the older boys, but they beat him. The black cab driver chases the boys off with a tire iron. When Odessa comes home, a contrite Selma confesses to riding the bus and being responsible for Theodore’s battered face. At church, the preacher sets up car pools, so parishioners with automobiles can help those without. Later, Miriam Thompson picks up Odessa, and a policeman briefly follows. Odessa explains that police are trying to break the boycott by harassing black drivers and giving tickets. Miriam drives past the “car pool stop,” where a white woman stands with several blacks. Odessa says that women from Maxwell Field, a nearby Air Force base, are helping. At her Junior League card game, Miriam reports what she saw to her white friends. They blame the “Yankees” from the North and chide Miriam for driving her maid to work. When Norman decides to accompany Tunker to a “White Citizens’ Council” meeting, Miriam pulls her husband aside because he has always looked down on council members as “white trash.” Norman explains that the mayor, city commissioners, and business leaders have joined the council, and berates Miriam for questioning his motives. At a black church, a young man hurries among the parishioners with the news that whites bombed Rev. King’s house, and the preacher gives a prayer of thanks for sparing King’s life. Miriam watches her two maids working dutifully in the kitchen. She drives by Rev. King’s damaged house. She pulls out her scrapbook and looks at her childhood photographs, every one showing her black nanny at her side. In the morning, when Norman stays home with a cold, he prevents Miriam from picking up the maid. Miriam telephones Odessa to tell her she will have to walk in the rain. As Miriam cries in the bathroom, Norman apologizes, but insists that chauffeuring the maid is bad because it tells Odessa that she is as good as whites. Also, there are whites ready to do terrible things to other whites who “go against their own.” Odessa eventually arrives, soaking wet. She asks why Miriam can no longer drive her to work, and is told that it was Norman’s edict. Odessa announces that she will have to find another job in order to take care of her own children. Miriam defends her husband as a good provider, but also praises Odessa as a good “mother” for Mary Catherine, and wonders if she could do the same for Odessa’s daughter. Miriam reminisces about traveling to Oregon as a teenager and being initially shocked at how white people there had no problem fraternizing with blacks. Odessa assures Miriam that she does not want her or her children to be scared of black people. When Norman comes home, Miriam threatens to get an outside job and let him arrange the housekeeping. Silently, Norman packs his clothes and moves to another bedroom. The next day, Miriam picks up Odessa at home and asks her to sit in the front seat. She volunteers to join the car pool, but Odessa warns that if Miriam steps over the color line, she will have a hard time stepping back. Odessa makes it clear to Miriam that the bus boycott is only the start, and colored people will someday want to move into her neighborhood. That night, during her dinner prayer, Odessa asks Jesus to look out for Miriam. The next day, Miriam becomes a volunteer driver for black passengers. Before long, Tunker Thompson takes Norman to the car pool stop to watch Miriam talking with black people. Little Mary Catherine is with her. As Tunker approaches Miriam and tells her to leave, dozens of white men from the Citizen’s Council descend on the lot and push black people around. Odessa pulls Mary Catherine away from the fray. A white man blocks Miriam’s car, smashes the windows, and orders her to "walk with the Negroes." When Tunker slaps Miriam, Norman becomes enraged and knocks his brother down. Blacks and whites face off against each another, and Odessa sees that Miriam is on the white side. However, as Odessa and other black women hold hands and sing a spiritual, Miriam and Mary Catherine join in. Norman stands nearby, staring in shock. +

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

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