Harper Valley P. T. A. (1978)

PG | 102 mins | Comedy | 23 May 1978

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HISTORY

       On 8 Jun 1977, DV announced that production company April Fools Productions acquired the feature film rights to the hit song, “Harper Valley PTA.” While the 26 Aug 1977 Var stated that filming would start 3 Oct 1977 in Lebanon, OH, followed by six weeks of filming in Hollywood, CA, news items in the 7 Sep 1977 HR and 28 Nov 1977 Box confirmed that principal photography began 1 Oct 1977. Scheduled to shoot for twenty-seven days, the movie filmed for one week in Lebanon, then moved to Los Angeles, CA, with locations including the Pomona Fairgrounds, according to the 21 Oct 1977 HR. News briefs in the 11 Nov 1977 HR and the 22 Nov 1977 LAHExam reported that production temporarily ceased on 31 Oct 1977 when co-star Nanette Fabray was injured by an elephant during a scene and suffered a concussion that led to neurological and eye problems. The production was scheduled to resume 29 Nov 1977. On 8 Dec 1977, HR announced the conclusion of principal photography. Although the 21 Feb 1978 HR noted that executive producer Phil Borack secured Barbara Eden for a sequel scheduled to begin shooting late Sep 1978, it could not be determined as of the writing of this Note whether a sequel was written or produced.
       Borack had been a successful distributor in the Midwest since 1974, but Harper Valley PTA was his first attempt at production. After purchasing the song’s film rights from Nashville, TN, record producer, Shelby Singleton, for $200,000, Borack ... More Less

       On 8 Jun 1977, DV announced that production company April Fools Productions acquired the feature film rights to the hit song, “Harper Valley PTA.” While the 26 Aug 1977 Var stated that filming would start 3 Oct 1977 in Lebanon, OH, followed by six weeks of filming in Hollywood, CA, news items in the 7 Sep 1977 HR and 28 Nov 1977 Box confirmed that principal photography began 1 Oct 1977. Scheduled to shoot for twenty-seven days, the movie filmed for one week in Lebanon, then moved to Los Angeles, CA, with locations including the Pomona Fairgrounds, according to the 21 Oct 1977 HR. News briefs in the 11 Nov 1977 HR and the 22 Nov 1977 LAHExam reported that production temporarily ceased on 31 Oct 1977 when co-star Nanette Fabray was injured by an elephant during a scene and suffered a concussion that led to neurological and eye problems. The production was scheduled to resume 29 Nov 1977. On 8 Dec 1977, HR announced the conclusion of principal photography. Although the 21 Feb 1978 HR noted that executive producer Phil Borack secured Barbara Eden for a sequel scheduled to begin shooting late Sep 1978, it could not be determined as of the writing of this Note whether a sequel was written or produced.
       Borack had been a successful distributor in the Midwest since 1974, but Harper Valley PTA was his first attempt at production. After purchasing the song’s film rights from Nashville, TN, record producer, Shelby Singleton, for $200,000, Borack raised $3.5 million to make the film, which was budgeted between $1.2 and $2 million, according to articles in the 12 Dec 1977 DV, the 4 May 1978 HR and the 15 May 1978 LAT .
       While the 7 Sep 1977 HR announced that producer-writer George Edwards hired Ralph Senensky to direct, he is not credited in the film and the 15 May 1978 LAT subsequently reported that Borack hired Richard Bennett as director.
       Harper Valley PTA opened in six theaters in Lebanon, Cincinnati and Dayton, OH, on 23 May 1978 in accordance with Borack’s plan to release the movie first in smaller markets, where regional success could encourage exhibitors in bigger cities to book the movie, according to news items in the 22 Feb 1978 Var and the 4 May 1978 HR. HR later reported in news briefs on 6 Jun and 21 Aug 1978 and in an advertisement on 21 Jun 1978 that the film grossed over $2 million its opening weekend, $5.8 million in its first three weeks and over $16 million after twelve weeks. The movie opened in Los Angeles on 2 Aug 1978 and in New York City on 12 Jan 1979.
       On 8 Nov 1978, Var announced that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) acquired broadcast television rights to two airings of Harper Valley PTA for $1.25 million.
       Reviews were mild to positive, with the 7 Jun 1978 Var calling Harper Valley PTA “good enough for laughs,” the 4 Aug 1978 LAT labeling it “a nice and easy summer comedy” and the 5 Jun 1978 Box praising the lead performances. The harshest critique came from the 4 Aug 1978 LAHExam, which, quoting an onscreen credit from the film, compared the movie to “manure courtesy of ‘Seattle Slew.’”
       Based on the success of the movie’s broadcast network debut on 24 Feb 1980, Universal Television optioned television rights from Borack as a possible series project for star Barbara Eden, reported the 25 Feb 1980 HR. The 19 May 1980 HR and 28 Jul 1980 LAHExam announced that Universal TV had begun shooting Harper Valley, a one-hour comedy-drama television series based on the feature film, for a Sep 1980 television debut. Instead, the series debuted 16 Jan 1981 on the NBC television network as a mid-season replacement. The series ran two seasons and a total of thirty episodes, with the final installment airing on 1 May 1982.
      After the end credits, the following text appears: “We gratefully acknowledge the aid and cooperation of Melvin Baily and Emperor Productions, Inc., in the making of this film.” Also, “We would also like to express our deepest thanks to the town of Lebanon, Ohio.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Sep 1977.
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Box Office
28 Nov 1977.
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Box Office
5 Jun 1978.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
19 Sep 1977.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1977.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1978
p. 6, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1980.
---
LAHExam
26 Oct 1977.
---
LAHExam
22 Nov 1977.
---
LAHExam
4 Aug 1978.
---
LAHExam
28 Jul 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 May 1978
Section IV, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1978.
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Variety
26 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
22 Feb 1978.
---
Variety
7 Jun 1978.
---
Variety
8 Nov 1978.
---
Variety
27 Dec 1978.
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CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An April Fools film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Key grip
Best boy
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Stills
1st asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Props
COSTUMES
Cost des
Special fashions from
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus supv
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd boom
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opt
Title des
Graphics
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
Makeup asst
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Manure courtesy of
Scr supv
Scr supv
Asst to prod
Loc auditor
Prod coord
Transportation capt
Asst to Mr. Rasmussen
Public relations
Loc mgr
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Harper Valley P.T.A.," words and music by Tom T. Hall, sung by Jeannie C. Riley
"Shady Sadie," words and music by Gary Carver, Luana Anders and George Edwards.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Harper Valley PTA
Release Date:
23 May 1978
Premiere Information:
Midwest opening: 23 May 1978
Los Angeles opening: 2 August 1978
New York City opening: 12 January 1979
Production Date:
1 October--early December 1977 in Lebanon, OH and Los Angeles, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Camera and lenses by Panavision ®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Junior high student Dee Johnson comes home from school with a note from the Harper Valley Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to her free-spirited, widowed mother, Stella, expressing disapproval of Stella’s wardrobe and lifestyle. The PTA warns Stella to change her ways or else they will recommend that Dee be expelled from school. Furious, Stella interrupts that afternoon’s PTA meeting and demands to address the board. PTA president Flora Simpson Reilly tries to prevent her from speaking but board member Willis “Will” Newton insists they allow Stella to talk. Stella reveals gossip about several PTA board members: Bobby Taylor constantly propositions her, though he is married to Holly Taylor, who is running up a big bill at the neighborhood liquor store; the secretary of Kirby Baker, the local realtor, left town unexpectedly to see an abortion doctor; teacher Willa Mae Jones leaves her blinds up to put on a show for the town’s peeping toms; Otis Harper, Jr., spends all his time at the local bar; Shirley Thompson is always drinking gin, and board secretary Olive Glover has a gambling problem. Stella pronounces them all hypocrites and leaves. The next day, Dee comes home from school to find the house and yard strewn with toilet paper. Will Newton stops by to help clean and assures Stella that his signature was forged on the letter from the PTA. At dinner that night, someone throws a nasty note attached to a rock through Stella’s window. The next morning, Stella muses to her friend, hairdresser Alice Finley, that while kids were responsible for the toilet paper, an adult is behind the note. Stella ... +


Junior high student Dee Johnson comes home from school with a note from the Harper Valley Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to her free-spirited, widowed mother, Stella, expressing disapproval of Stella’s wardrobe and lifestyle. The PTA warns Stella to change her ways or else they will recommend that Dee be expelled from school. Furious, Stella interrupts that afternoon’s PTA meeting and demands to address the board. PTA president Flora Simpson Reilly tries to prevent her from speaking but board member Willis “Will” Newton insists they allow Stella to talk. Stella reveals gossip about several PTA board members: Bobby Taylor constantly propositions her, though he is married to Holly Taylor, who is running up a big bill at the neighborhood liquor store; the secretary of Kirby Baker, the local realtor, left town unexpectedly to see an abortion doctor; teacher Willa Mae Jones leaves her blinds up to put on a show for the town’s peeping toms; Otis Harper, Jr., spends all his time at the local bar; Shirley Thompson is always drinking gin, and board secretary Olive Glover has a gambling problem. Stella pronounces them all hypocrites and leaves. The next day, Dee comes home from school to find the house and yard strewn with toilet paper. Will Newton stops by to help clean and assures Stella that his signature was forged on the letter from the PTA. At dinner that night, someone throws a nasty note attached to a rock through Stella’s window. The next morning, Stella muses to her friend, hairdresser Alice Finley, that while kids were responsible for the toilet paper, an adult is behind the note. Stella decides to get even with members of the school board. That night, Stella lures Bobby to a motel, entices him to undress, then steals his clothes and leaves him stranded. The next morning, Dee wonders if her mother was always beautiful and Stella reassures her that she was plain when she was Dee’s age. Stella receives a dozen red roses from Will and goes to the hair salon to show the flowers to Alice. When Mrs. Reilly calls to confirm her hair appointment, Stella gets an idea and has Alice modify the solution for Mrs. Reilly’s permanent. That afternoon, as Mrs. Reilly hosts a fundraiser for the school’s Milk Fund, her hair falls out. At school, Dee speaks with her unrequited crush, Carlyle, until Mrs. Reilly’s granddaughter lures him away. That night, Stella borrows camera equipment from her friend, Herbie, and sets it up outside the open bedroom window of Willa Mae Jones, who invites in the mailman, Barney Crunk. A week later, Stella receives the processed film and splices it into the film Willa Mae shows in her sex education class, unwittingly exposing her students to the sight of her having sex with Crunk. Sometime later, during their date at the carnival, Will encourages Stella to run for political office. She could start by campaigning for PTA president in the upcoming school board election, since the current board is corrupt, ineffective and shortchanging the children and their parents. Stella agrees to think about it. Later that night, Stella and Alice get into a rented truck for their next act of revenge. When they realize Dee has stowed away, they let her accompany them. They drive to the carnival and load something into the truck. Elsewhere, a drunken Otis arrives home and collapses on his bed while Stella drives up to his house and releases her cargo, three elephants painted pink. The animals walk through the French doors of the Harpers’ bedroom, frightening Otis and Bertha. A few days later, after getting her braces removed and receiving a new hairstyle from Alice, Dee is transformed into a beautiful young woman. At school, Dee receives new attention from Carlyle but wonders if he really likes her or just her new look. Later, Will convinces Stella to run for PTA president. When word of Stella’s intentions reaches the board members, Mrs. Reilly calls an emergency meeting and urges her friends to think of a way to stop Stella. Kirby reveals that he has the means to foreclose on Stella’s house. When she receives a foreclosure notice in the mail, Stella despairs until she comes up with an idea and calls a friend. The next day, the beautiful Myrna Wong goes to Kirby’s realty office to look at listings. Kirby leads her into his private office where Myrna flirts with him. When Kirby reciprocates, however, Myrna knocks him about using her martial arts skills, then tells his secretary to call the police, claiming Kirby assaulted her. Kirby is arrested and unable to foreclose. When Mrs. Reilly gets the news, she plots another way to prevent Stella from running for PTA president and has Bobby hire a couple of thugs to kidnap board member Skeeter Dugan until after the board votes. That night, the thugs take Skeeter to a nearby monastery. The next morning, Dee’s friend, Mavis, spies Olive Glover stealing the Milk Fund money. Before the girls can report it to the police, Olive implicates Mavis in the theft. Will comes up with a plan: he will take Herbie up in his helicopter to find Skeeter and secure his swing vote, while Stella and Alice follow Olive to the racetrack and recover the stolen money, and Dee stalls the board meeting to prevent its members from completing the presidential vote. At the racetrack, Stella and Alice struggle with Olive over the stolen money in a fight that ends with Olive covered in manure. Dee holds up the board’s vote with parliamentary questions that cannot be addressed without Olive. Spotting Skeeter at the monastery, Will and Herbie alert Stella and Alice, who dress as nuns to smuggle him out. As they drive back to the school, Stella and Alice have to outrun the thugs who realize their captive is getting away. Back at school, Olive arrives just as the board prepares to vote but Stella, her friends, the thugs and the police burst in. The police arrest Olive, leaving Mrs. Reilly’s faction one vote short of the support it needs, and Stella wins the election. As Will asks Stella to marry him, they board his helicopter and fly away, with a “Stella for Mayor” sign streaming behind. +

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

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