The River (1984)

PG-13 | 124 mins | Drama | 19 December 1984

Director:

Mark Rydell

Cinematographer:

Vilmos Zsigmond

Editor:

Sidney Levin

Production Designer:

Charles Rosen

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

As reported in a 16 Dec 1984 NYT article, the screenplay developed from a true story about farmers who lost their crop to bad weather and reluctantly accepted jobs in a foundry to avoid foreclosure on their land. However, they were unaware they were replacing steel workers on strike, and were harassed by picketers outside the factory. In addition to living like prisoners on the job site, the farmers felt out of place working in an industrial setting. Director Mark Rydell noted that the concept became the first scene written for the script.
       The project marked the third collaboration between Rydell and director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond, following Cinderella Liberty (1973) and The Rose (1979, see entries).
       An item from the Feb 1984 issue of Playboy magazine mentioned that Harrison Ford was among the actors considered for the lead role of “Tom Garvey.” According to the 16 Dec 1984 NYT article, Australian Mel Gibson was cast after convincing Rydell that he could master a rural American accent. Actress Jessica Lange, who produced and starred in Country (see entry), another 1984 film about a struggling farm family, revealed in a 29 Jan 1984 LAT article that she was offered the part of “Mae Garvey,” but turned it down because “it wasn’t the story [she] wanted to tell.”
       As described in production notes from AMPAS library files and a 13 Nov 1983 LAT article, the filmmakers relied on helicopter surveys of several states before selecting the Appalachian Valley in East Tennessee, near Kingsport, to shoot the majority of the ... More Less

As reported in a 16 Dec 1984 NYT article, the screenplay developed from a true story about farmers who lost their crop to bad weather and reluctantly accepted jobs in a foundry to avoid foreclosure on their land. However, they were unaware they were replacing steel workers on strike, and were harassed by picketers outside the factory. In addition to living like prisoners on the job site, the farmers felt out of place working in an industrial setting. Director Mark Rydell noted that the concept became the first scene written for the script.
       The project marked the third collaboration between Rydell and director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond, following Cinderella Liberty (1973) and The Rose (1979, see entries).
       An item from the Feb 1984 issue of Playboy magazine mentioned that Harrison Ford was among the actors considered for the lead role of “Tom Garvey.” According to the 16 Dec 1984 NYT article, Australian Mel Gibson was cast after convincing Rydell that he could master a rural American accent. Actress Jessica Lange, who produced and starred in Country (see entry), another 1984 film about a struggling farm family, revealed in a 29 Jan 1984 LAT article that she was offered the part of “Mae Garvey,” but turned it down because “it wasn’t the story [she] wanted to tell.”
       As described in production notes from AMPAS library files and a 13 Nov 1983 LAT article, the filmmakers relied on helicopter surveys of several states before selecting the Appalachian Valley in East Tennessee, near Kingsport, to shoot the majority of the story. To capture the complicated flood sequences and the “Garvey farm,” Universal Pictures purchased approximately 440 hilly acres near the Holston River. During ten weeks of pre-production, the art department built a sixty-acre homestead that included a levee, farmhouse, barn, sheds, garden, pump house, cornfield, and animal pens, while aging lumbar to match the antique buildings in the area. In an arrangement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and in accordance with the U.S. Army of Engineers, the filmmakers devised a means to regulate water along the Holston River in order to create a false flood. An artificial river dam and large pit were constructed at the location site to receive water released from another dam that the TVA had scheduled for repairs. The flood sequence was expected to take ten days to shoot. Initially, the extent of the operation led to rumors that the production was planning to actually flood the neighboring farmlands, but the locals were reassured that the flood scenes would only take place at the filming site and special effects would give the impression of rapids careening through the valley. The actors arrived on location a month before shooting for rehearsal and to assimilate the dialect, behaviors, and skills of the local farming community, such as operating machinery and baking bread.
       According to production notes, principal photography took place from 12 Sep 1983 to 3 Dec 1983. In addition to the primary location in East TN, the production shot scenes in nearby Jonesborough, TN, which provided the auction setting, and Gate City, VA, which represented the small town near the Garvey farm. The shooting schedule concluded at a deserted steel mill on the outskirts of Birmingham, AL, to capture Tom and “Roy” working as replacements for the strikers.
       Two locals, Becky Jo Lynch from Jonesborough and Shane Bailey from Surgoinsville, TN, were selected to portray the Garvey children, in addition to the many other residents who appeared as background actors.
       The 13 Nov 1983 LAT reported a budget of $17 million.
       According to news items from the 17 Oct 1984 Var and the 18 Oct 1984 DV, the picture originally received an “R” from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)’s rating board. After Rydell removed profanity, the film was granted a PG-13 rating in a 12 Oct 1984 appeal decision.
       Following Places in the Heart (see entry) and Country, The River was the last of a trio of Hollywood “farm films” released in 1984, all starring well-known actresses and concerning similar rural themes. As noted in a 26 Oct 1984 LAT article, Universal Pictures rescheduled The River’s opening for later in the year, 19 Dec 1984, to provide “more spacing” between Country and Places in the Heart and was prepared to market the story as a “romance” to distinguish it from the other two.
       A 30 Sep 1984 LAT article announced that the world premiere was set for 8 Nov 1984 at AMPAS’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, as a benefit gala for the American Film Institute’s new support organization, AFI Associates. As reported in the 15 Jan 1985 DV, the film opened in wide release 11 Jan 1984 on approximately 1,000 screens and earned a “lukewarm” $2.9 million during the first three days.
       The picture received an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Sound Effects Editing for Kay Rose, and was nominated in four other categories: Actress In A Leading Role (Sissy Spacek), Cinematography, Music (Original Score), and Sound. The film also garnered Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama for Spacek and Best Original Score–Motion Picture.
       End credits include “Special thanks to: the Tennessee Tape, Film & Music Commission; and the people of East Tennessee; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Alabama Film Commission; and the people of Birmingham, Alabama.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1984
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1985
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1984
p. 3, 17.
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1983
Section T, p. 1, 22-24.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jan 1984
Section M, p. 1, 18-20, 22.
Los Angeles Times
30 Sep 1984
Section VI, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
26 Oct 1984
Section H, p. 1, 13.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1984
Section K, p. 1, 4.
New York Times
16 Dec 1984
Section H, p. 1, 28.
New York Times
19 Dec 1984
p. 19.
Playboy
Feb 1984.
---
Variety
17 Oct 1984
p. 7.
Variety
14 Nov 1984
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Edward Lewis Production
A Mark Rydell Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Generator op
Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Grip
2d unit dir of photog
Addl 2d unit photog
Addl 2d unit photog
2d unit cam asst
2d unit gaffer
2d unit key grip
AFI cine intern
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Set des
Set des
Swing gang
Drapery
Const coord
Carpenter foreman
Carpenter foreman
Painter foreman
Greensman
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Asst mus ed
Mus rec mixer
Orch mgr
Trumpet solo
Guitar solo
Flute solo
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Sd ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
Sd asst
Sd asst
Sd apprentice
Sd apprentice
2d unit sd rec
2d unit sd rec
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley rec by
Foley rec by, Taj Soundworks
Foley rec by, Taj Soundworks
Foley rec by, Taj Soundworks
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Matte artist
Matte photog
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Asst makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv by
Casting consultant
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
2d unit prod asst
Voice casting
Animal trainer
Dialect coach
Extras casting
Asst to Mr. Rydell
Asst to Mr. Lewis
Asst to Mr. Cortes
Prod coord
Unit pub
Agricultural consultant
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Loc projectionist
Craft service
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod secy, Tennessee
Prod secy, Alabama
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“The Fireman,” performed by George Strait, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“Rock-A-Billy,” performed by The Bellamy Brothers, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“A Little Heaven’s Rubbing Off On Me,” performed by George Strait, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
“The Fireman,” performed by George Strait, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“Rock-A-Billy,” performed by The Bellamy Brothers, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“A Little Heaven’s Rubbing Off On Me,” performed by George Strait, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“Radio Lover,” performed by John Conlee, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1984
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 8 November 1984
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 December 1984
Production Date:
12 September--3 December 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 January 1985
Copyright Number:
PA241488
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® Camera and Lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27570
SYNOPSIS

In the midst of heavy rainstorms and flooding, East Tennessee farmer Tom Garvey, his wife Mae, and their two young children, Lewis and Beth, work through the night to reinforce the river embankment on their land. Tom almost drowns in the rapids when his bulldozer overturns in the mud and his leg becomes trapped underneath. As the water rises, Tom rescues the cattle from the barn and Mae retrieves family heirlooms on the first floor of their house. After the rains, agricultural developer, Joe Wade, of the Leutz Corporation surveys the flooded valley in a helicopter with Senator Neiswinder. Wade wants to build a dam in the area to irrigate 11,000 acres in need of water. Although the dam will permanently drown the farms in the river valley, including the Garvey’s, he claims the families will get a fair price for their land, while the county will benefit from the dam’s hydroelectric power and jobs. Unaware of the plan, Tom applies for a $9,700 bank loan to cover the cost of replanting his crop and fixing his bulldozer. Since land value has dropped, bank officer Howard Simpson rejects the application and suggest Tom inquire with Joe Wade about selling the farm. At home, Tom reads a letter from Wade, offering $25,000 for the farm, but tells Mae he is not interested in giving up the home that has belonged to his family for generations. Mae is more open to the idea and wonders if her husband’s resistance is related to the fact that Wade is her former boyfriend. Later, the family brings items to sell at auction, but a ... +


In the midst of heavy rainstorms and flooding, East Tennessee farmer Tom Garvey, his wife Mae, and their two young children, Lewis and Beth, work through the night to reinforce the river embankment on their land. Tom almost drowns in the rapids when his bulldozer overturns in the mud and his leg becomes trapped underneath. As the water rises, Tom rescues the cattle from the barn and Mae retrieves family heirlooms on the first floor of their house. After the rains, agricultural developer, Joe Wade, of the Leutz Corporation surveys the flooded valley in a helicopter with Senator Neiswinder. Wade wants to build a dam in the area to irrigate 11,000 acres in need of water. Although the dam will permanently drown the farms in the river valley, including the Garvey’s, he claims the families will get a fair price for their land, while the county will benefit from the dam’s hydroelectric power and jobs. Unaware of the plan, Tom applies for a $9,700 bank loan to cover the cost of replanting his crop and fixing his bulldozer. Since land value has dropped, bank officer Howard Simpson rejects the application and suggest Tom inquire with Joe Wade about selling the farm. At home, Tom reads a letter from Wade, offering $25,000 for the farm, but tells Mae he is not interested in giving up the home that has belonged to his family for generations. Mae is more open to the idea and wonders if her husband’s resistance is related to the fact that Wade is her former boyfriend. Later, the family brings items to sell at auction, but a piece of machinery worth $6,000 sells for only $1,100. The Garveys watch as their neighbors, the Gaumers, are forced to put all their assets on the auction block following the foreclosure of their farm. Meanwhile, Wade tells Howard Simpson to put more pressure on the river valley farmers to sell, or he will move his business to another bank. The animosity between Wade and Tom extends to the softball field, as Tom nearly scores a home run off one of Wade’s pitches. Tom and the children return home from the game and discover that the family’s beloved cow, Jessica, has just died. In tears, Mae regrets not calling the veterinarian, but says they owed him too much money. In need of income before the next harvest, Tom takes a job out of town in a steel mill, along with his cousin Roy. However, he is upset to learn they are replacements for striking workers, who try to attack him and the other “scabs” at the picket line. The conditions inside the factory are tough, as Tom helps carry a burn victim to safety. Meanwhile, at home, Mae handles the farm chores and growing crop. After Lewis and Beth leave for school one day, her arm becomes stuck in a cog and chain while trying to repair a tractor, and is severely injured. She struggles to make it back to the house and calls Joe Wade, who waits with her at the hospital. He confesses he still has feelings for her, but Mae dismisses his offer to make her life easier. At the factory, Tom suffers a beating from the strikers when he jumps the gate to rescue a fellow scab who tries to flee. Sometime later, Mae and the children are thrilled when Tom finally telephones and invites them to visit for a weekend. While Roy and his wife look after the children, Tom and Mae temporarily set aside their concerns and enjoy an evening together at a local hotel. When the strike ends, Tom and his fellow replacement workers are asked to leave the factory, but the management refuses to escort them out in trucks and protect them from the strikers and their families, who are waiting with sticks. Although a woman spits in Tom’s face, the scabs are allowed to walk out peacefully. Tom arrives back home in time for the corn harvest and compliments Mae and his children on raising a good crop. However, Harve Stanley, a Leutz Corporation employee, claims the corn is too dry and refuses to honor the price Tom originally negotiated. When Tom confronts Wade at the Leutz Corporation, he is shown a scale model of the company’s plan to build a hydroelectric dam and flood the valley. Tom reminds Wade that both their ancestors are buried on that land and refuses to vacate his homestead. During the next heavy rainstorm, Tom loses his temper with his family as he struggles to protect his property, crops, and cattle. Mae slaps him, angry that he is too stubborn to ask for help. As the rain continues, Tom and his neighboring farmers use bulldozers and sandbags to fortify a river embankment, and finally rejoice when the sun emerges. Meanwhile, Wade and Stanley assemble the desperate, homeless farmers living in campers and tents in town and offer them wages to tear down the embankment. Facing the standoff at the river, Wade announces to Tom and the other surviving farm families that he will raise the sale price on their land, but Tom and his allies refuse to budge. With a rifle in hand, Tom threatens to shoot anyone who destroys the levee and reminds the homeless farmers they are on the wrong side. As the rising river breaks through the levee, the valley farmers appear rejected, but Tom refuses to give up and grabs sandbags to seal the opening. His family and neighbors soon join him, followed by the homeless farmers, who abandon their deal with Wade and help hold back the water. Wade watches as his Jeep is used to plug the levee, but the businessman states he is patient and will wait for the day when Tom will be forced to sell. In the meantime, the Garveys enjoy the victory of harvesting their corn crop and keeping their way of life alive for the time being. +

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

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