Amy (1981)

G | 100 mins | Drama | 10 April 1981

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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Amy on the Lips.
       End credits include the following written statement: “Special thanks to the California School for the Deaf, Riverside [CA].”
       Amy was originally filmed as a television movie, and the 16 Jun 1980 HR noted that it was the first television movie that Disney Studios made for an adult audience. An article in the 5 Jun 1980 DV reported that the more adult-oriented scenes included an affair between the characters “Amy Medford” and “Dr. Ben Corcoran,” played by Jenny Agutter and Barry Newman. Both characters were married in the original script, but Dr. Corcoran’s character was not in the version ultimately filmed.
       The 8 Jul 1980 US reported that both Nanette Fabray and Louise Fletcher were interested in the role of “Malvina,” a teacher of deaf children. Fabray, who played the part, was hearing impaired, and Fletcher’s parents were deaf. According to the 10 Apr 1981 LAT review, the deaf children in the film, except for Brian Frishman, were students from the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, CA. One of the children, Otto Rechenberg, a native of Germany, was able to use sign language in both English and German. Production notes in AMPAS library files reveal that producers felt the authenticity of the film would be enhanced by casting hearing impaired students instead of professional actors. The 10 Jun 1980 DV noted that Dawn Jeffory, cast as “Caroline Chapman,” had a real-life role as a guest instructor at the school, and, therefore, was helpful to director Vincent McEveety ... More Less

The working title of the film was Amy on the Lips.
       End credits include the following written statement: “Special thanks to the California School for the Deaf, Riverside [CA].”
       Amy was originally filmed as a television movie, and the 16 Jun 1980 HR noted that it was the first television movie that Disney Studios made for an adult audience. An article in the 5 Jun 1980 DV reported that the more adult-oriented scenes included an affair between the characters “Amy Medford” and “Dr. Ben Corcoran,” played by Jenny Agutter and Barry Newman. Both characters were married in the original script, but Dr. Corcoran’s character was not in the version ultimately filmed.
       The 8 Jul 1980 US reported that both Nanette Fabray and Louise Fletcher were interested in the role of “Malvina,” a teacher of deaf children. Fabray, who played the part, was hearing impaired, and Fletcher’s parents were deaf. According to the 10 Apr 1981 LAT review, the deaf children in the film, except for Brian Frishman, were students from the California School for the Deaf in Riverside, CA. One of the children, Otto Rechenberg, a native of Germany, was able to use sign language in both English and German. Production notes in AMPAS library files reveal that producers felt the authenticity of the film would be enhanced by casting hearing impaired students instead of professional actors. The 10 Jun 1980 DV noted that Dawn Jeffory, cast as “Caroline Chapman,” had a real-life role as a guest instructor at the school, and, therefore, was helpful to director Vincent McEveety in working with the children. “Lyle Ferguson,” the school superintendent, was played by Lou Fant, a son of deaf parents, who helped establish the National Theatre for the Deaf.
       Production began on 28 May 1980 in Los Angeles, CA.
       Items in the 30 Dec 1980 HR and the 7 Jan 1981 Var reported that Amy on the Lips would be retitled Amy and released theatrically in the spring. The 2 Jan 1981 DV added that Walt Disney Productions felt the film was “so powerful” it warranted a theatrical release.
       The film was released on 10 Apr 1981. An undated Var article found in AMPAS library files reported that Walt Disney was the first major studio to introduce a plan to caption the film for hearing-impaired audiences. Screenings of Amy were captioned in ten cities: Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; Houston, TX; Cincinnati, OH; Dallas, TX; Milwaukee, WI; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; and Toronto, Canada. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jun 1980.
---
Daily Variety
2 Jan 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1981
p. 13.
US
8 Jul 1980.
---
Variety
7 Jan 1981.
---
Variety
25 Mar 1981
p. 20, 28.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Walt Disney Productions Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech advisor
STAND INS
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
SOURCES
SONGS
"So Many Ways," sung by Julie Budd, words Bruce Belland, music Robert F. Brunner.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Amy on the Lips
Release Date:
10 April 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 10 Apr 1981
Production Date:
began on 28 May 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
11 February 1982
Copyright Number:
PA129010
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Photophone Sound Recording
Color
Color by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the early 1900s, in Boston, Massachusetts, Amy Medford runs away from her wealthy husband, Elliot, to teach speech to deaf children at a rural school for the blind and deaf. Superintendent Lyle Ferguson greets Amy and warns that she will face opposition from many people, including veteran teacher Malvina Dodd, who believe that deaf children cannot learn to speak and can only be taught sign language. Amy meets deaf student Henry Watkins who takes her to the carpentry shop where woodworker Owen Corner nicknames her “Amy on the Lips.” At dinner, Amy meets the other teachers and admits this is her first job. Since she does not know sign language, Malvina assists during Amy’s class. Amy explains she will teach her six students to read lips and to speak. She places their hands on her cheek so they can feel the vibration as she speaks, but one boy becomes frightened, so Malvina steps in to calm him. Later, Amy meets Wesley Moody, the youngest blind child, who believes that he will gain sight when he turns five. Teacher Helen Gibbs tells Amy that none of the teachers want to tell him the truth yet. Meanwhile, in Boston, Elliot Medford hires Edgar Wamback, a private investigator, to find Amy. In her classroom, Amy insists that Malvina stop signing so the children can learn lip reading, and Malvina angrily leaves the room. When Walter Ray, one of Helen’s students, becomes ill, Amy is surprised that there is no doctor on staff. Ferguson informs Amy that funds are too limited, but Amy asks handyman Clyde Pruett to help and ... +


In the early 1900s, in Boston, Massachusetts, Amy Medford runs away from her wealthy husband, Elliot, to teach speech to deaf children at a rural school for the blind and deaf. Superintendent Lyle Ferguson greets Amy and warns that she will face opposition from many people, including veteran teacher Malvina Dodd, who believe that deaf children cannot learn to speak and can only be taught sign language. Amy meets deaf student Henry Watkins who takes her to the carpentry shop where woodworker Owen Corner nicknames her “Amy on the Lips.” At dinner, Amy meets the other teachers and admits this is her first job. Since she does not know sign language, Malvina assists during Amy’s class. Amy explains she will teach her six students to read lips and to speak. She places their hands on her cheek so they can feel the vibration as she speaks, but one boy becomes frightened, so Malvina steps in to calm him. Later, Amy meets Wesley Moody, the youngest blind child, who believes that he will gain sight when he turns five. Teacher Helen Gibbs tells Amy that none of the teachers want to tell him the truth yet. Meanwhile, in Boston, Elliot Medford hires Edgar Wamback, a private investigator, to find Amy. In her classroom, Amy insists that Malvina stop signing so the children can learn lip reading, and Malvina angrily leaves the room. When Walter Ray, one of Helen’s students, becomes ill, Amy is surprised that there is no doctor on staff. Ferguson informs Amy that funds are too limited, but Amy asks handyman Clyde Pruett to help and he returns with a slightly inebriated Dr. Ben Corcoran. Amy suggests that Ben needs coffee and he insists that she leave the room. Ben diagnoses Walter Ray as suffering indigestion from eating green apples. When Amy offers to pay him, Ben instead gives the kids a ride in his car. Malvina pulls Amy aside to assert that the children only need to learn simple skills, and words will give them false hope. Later, Amy confides to Helen that she left her husband, and Helen is concerned that Ferguson does not know the truth. Ben visits the school to see Amy and helps her fly a kite with the children, but she asks him to leave. Meanwhile, Wamback questions the Medfords’ maid and is surprised to learn that Amy had a deaf child. Elliot was ashamed, but Amy was devoted to her son, took him daily to a special school, and was never the same after his death. Back at the school, Henry says his first word: “kite.” Amy and Ferguson are excited, but Malvina is not impressed. When Mr. Caruthers, from the State Board, visits to discuss the “articulation program,” Malvina is outspoken against subsidizing it, and Caruthers demands a full report from Ferguson. That night, Wesley becomes ill with rheumatic fever, and Amy is heartbroken when he dies. As Ben comforts her, Amy tells him about her son. She worked with the boy for two years to teach him to speak, but when it was discovered he had a congenital heart defect, her husband put him in an institution where he died. Her husband refused to have another child, claiming that Amy was incapable of bearing normal children. Later, Mr. Grimes asks Ferguson to enroll his nineteen year old son, Mervin, in the school, but Ferguson insists Mervin is too old. Although Mervin is tall and strong, Grimes insists he is more like a baby and needs help; he adds that Mervin will never hurt the other children. Ferguson relents and puts Mervin in Amy’s class. Meanwhile, Elliot is surprised when Wambaugh’s investigation reveals that Amy had volunteered at her son’s school. Wamback believes she might be continuing her work elsewhere. At the school, Henry receives a letter that his parents can afford to visit for the first time. He asks Amy to teach him to say “Mother” and Amy works extensively with him to fulfill his request. Ben takes Amy and the children for a picnic, and Henry sees local kids playing football. Ben and Pruett agree to teach the deaf children how to play, and Amy cheers as they practice. Ferguson arranges a game between the village school’s team and the deaf children. At the game, Mervin is a strong player, but he runs to give Amy the ball instead of making a touchdown. The deaf kids are losing until Ben asks Amy to move to the end zone; Mervin gets the ball and scores a touchdown when he runs toward Amy. Then Henry scores the winning point with a field goal. The newspaper report that celebrates their win features a photograph of Amy, and Wamback shows the picture to Elliot. At a celebration picnic, Ben asks Amy to dinner and she accepts. Amy feels a romance would be wrong, but Ben insists it would only be wrong to deny their feelings, and they kiss. Henry’s parents arrive for their visit. His mother is blind, and everyone, including Malvina, is overjoyed when Henry says, “Mother.” When Ferguson meets with the State Board, they want to end funding for the articulation program. However, Amy and Henry burst into the meeting as the board members insist the deaf cannot speak, so Henry shocks them into silence when he reads their lips and says, “Yes, I can.” Later, one of the deaf boys draws a caricature of Mervin, and Henry fights with the boy. Ben tries to teach Amy to drive and, as they repair the fence she runs over, they admit their love for each other. Ferguson receives a letter from Wamback and confronts Amy. Malvina is present as Amy admits she is married, and that she also forged her recommendation letter. Amy refuses to go home and says that, if fired, she will move on. Later, as the staff and children decorate a tree for Christmas, Henry gets into another fight when the mean deaf boy throws ornaments at Mervin. At the Christmas celebration, Mervin gives Henry a carved animal and, when the mean boy smashes the gift, Mervin hits him, then horrified, rushes off. At that moment, Elliot arrives at the school to take Amy home. When she refuses, he offers to have another child with her, but they are interrupted with the news that Henry has gone after Mervin. Ferguson believes Mervin will go to his home on the other side of the train tracks, fearing that the children will not hear an approaching train. Ben, Amy and Ferguson drive after the boys. On the tracks, Henry has almost reached Mervin when he trips and feels the vibrations of an oncoming train. Henry runs to warn Mervin, but cannot reach him in time. Henry dives out of the way as the train passes, but Mervin is killed. Mervin’s parents are bereft, and think they should have kept Mervin at home because deaf children cannot be taught. Henry, however, points to Mervin and says, “My friend.” Realizing there is hope, Mervin’s parents ask Amy to teach their daughter, Pearl, who is also deaf. When they return to the school, Elliot waits to take Amy home, claiming she belongs to him. Amy, however, refuses to leave the deaf children. She puts her arm around Henry and turns her back on Elliot. +

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

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