Places in the Heart (1984)

PG | 111 mins | Drama | 21 September 1984

Director:

Robert Benton

Writer:

Robert Benton

Producer:

Arlene Donovan

Cinematographer:

Nestor Almendros

Editor:

Carol Littleton

Production Designer:

Gene Callahan

Production Company:

Tri-Star-Delphi II Productions
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HISTORY

According to production notes from AMPAS library files, the film’s working titles during development and production were Two Brothers, The Texas Picture, A Texas Story, The Texas Film, and Waiting for Morning. A 2 Nov 1984 BAM article reported that writer-director Robert Benton eventually settled on Places in the Heart because he did not want his film title to compete with other “geographically oriented titles” such as Country, The River, and Paris, Texas (1984, see entries) that were being opened close to the release of his film.
       The following acknowledgements appear at the end of the film: “Special Thanks to: Doc Watson; Merle Watson and The Texas Playboys: Leon Wm. McAuliffe; Alton M. Stricklin; Gene C. Gasaway; Bobby L. Boatright; Joe F. Ferguson; Smoky Dacus; Eldon E. Shamblin”; “Cheryl Hardwick, piano accompaniment on ‘Blessed Assurance’ and ‘In The Garden’”; “We wish to thank the people of Waxahachie and Ellis County, Texas for their generous support and cooperation”; and, “Vintage radio broadcasts from the archives of Radio Yesteryear, Sandy Hook, CT.”
       In a 23 Oct 1984 LAT article, writer and director Robert Benton revealed that the idea for the movie sprang from a lunch with director Arthur Penn in 1975. As Benton shared some of his family stories from his hometown, Waxahachie, TX, Penn suggested that Benton use the subject matter as the basis for a film. Production notes stated Benton also wanted his son, John, to have an appreciation of his family’s roots. On a visit to Waxahachie, father and son saw “where Benton’s ... More Less

According to production notes from AMPAS library files, the film’s working titles during development and production were Two Brothers, The Texas Picture, A Texas Story, The Texas Film, and Waiting for Morning. A 2 Nov 1984 BAM article reported that writer-director Robert Benton eventually settled on Places in the Heart because he did not want his film title to compete with other “geographically oriented titles” such as Country, The River, and Paris, Texas (1984, see entries) that were being opened close to the release of his film.
       The following acknowledgements appear at the end of the film: “Special Thanks to: Doc Watson; Merle Watson and The Texas Playboys: Leon Wm. McAuliffe; Alton M. Stricklin; Gene C. Gasaway; Bobby L. Boatright; Joe F. Ferguson; Smoky Dacus; Eldon E. Shamblin”; “Cheryl Hardwick, piano accompaniment on ‘Blessed Assurance’ and ‘In The Garden’”; “We wish to thank the people of Waxahachie and Ellis County, Texas for their generous support and cooperation”; and, “Vintage radio broadcasts from the archives of Radio Yesteryear, Sandy Hook, CT.”
       In a 23 Oct 1984 LAT article, writer and director Robert Benton revealed that the idea for the movie sprang from a lunch with director Arthur Penn in 1975. As Benton shared some of his family stories from his hometown, Waxahachie, TX, Penn suggested that Benton use the subject matter as the basis for a film. Production notes stated Benton also wanted his son, John, to have an appreciation of his family’s roots. On a visit to Waxahachie, father and son saw “where Benton’s great-grandfather...the town’s sheriff, had been shot,” as well as where Benton’s “blind great-uncle had caned chairs and made brooms.” In an Aug 1984 Vogue article, Benton explained that the film began as a story about two brothers, who were bootleggers in TX during the Depression. A 25 Sep 1984 DV article stated that Benton’s bootlegger uncles were killed in the “liquor wars” of Prohibition, and his initial screenplay delved into the power struggle between local distributors and “big power interests,” but Benton ultimately felt that the telling of this story was “too dark, too violent.” On 21 Mar 1985, a Chicago Tribune article reported that Benton had created a 260-page screenplay, woven from the tapestry of his life. The original script had to be pared down, and according to the Aug 1984 Vogue article, the brothers’ story, based on Benton’s paternal side of the family, was nudged out by “Edna’s” story, based on Benton’s maternal [great] grandmother.
       As noted in the 25 Sep 1984 DV article, the film starts with the true story of Benton’s great-grandmother, who was widowed when her husband, the town sheriff, was “killed on the second Sunday before Christmas” in 1882. She raised four children while running a cotton farm and supplemented her income by selling vegetables, milk, and eggs to put two children through college. Her oldest son was Benton’s grandfather. The character “Moze” was based on an African-American man that worked for Benton’s maternal grandmother. An Oct 1984 Life article reported that Benton wrote more than fifteen drafts to arrive at a shooting script.
       Production notes stated that thousands of children from predominantly rural areas in TX were auditioned for the roles of Edna’s two children, “Frank” and “Possum”.
       Benton had originally written the part of Moze with an older man in mind. However, he was so impressed with Danny Glover’s readings that he “rewrote the character” to fit the actor. The Oct 1984 Life article stated that Benton gave extra and cameo roles to longtime friends from his hometown including his cousin, Margaret Spalding, and sisters Dorothy Moore and Ethel Coffer, who were caregivers for Benton’s mother. The women were not credited onscreen. Benton cast his longtime friend, Lynn Lasswell, an insurance agent, as a preacher and Lynn did receive a screen credit.
       Production notes stated that all the filming was done in Waxahachie. The crew converted a suitable house to be used as the Spalding home. The barn was relocated closer to the house to better facilitate the action. According to the 25 Sep 1984 DV article, Benton worked with production designer Gene Callahan to create “a two-story version” of his mother’s house to represent the Spalding home.
       For Edna’s visit to the bank, the crew remodeled an abandoned hotel in the center of town. An out-of-order cotton gin was restored, a grange and a large farmhouse were used for “two different dance sequences,” a schoolhouse was built, and for the tornado sequence, salvaged abandoned houses were used in conjunction with special effects. According to the Nov 1984 BAM article, all actresses and female extras in the film were required to wear girdles because Benton understood that the undergarments caused women to move differently.
       Reviews were mostly positive. Comments ranged from “a loving, reflective homage to his hometown” in the 12 Sep 1984 DV review (by Jagr.) to “an affectionate but hard look at the people of a small Depression-era Texas town” in a 12 Sep 1984 HR review by Duane Byrge. Actress Sally Field was singled out by many critics for her exceptional performance supported by strong performances from the rest of the cast. In contrast, a 15 Oct 1984 New Yorker review by Pauline Kael enjoyed the performances of Amy Madigan and Danny Glover but felt Field’s acting did not have “much depth or subtext” and the actors who played her children were not anything special. Kael also dismissed Benton’s screenplay as “hollow craft” and stated that the people depicted in the film were more mean than Christian in their behavior.
       The film received a total of seven Academy Award nominations. Award winners included Sally Field for “Actress in a Leading Role,” and Robert Benton for “Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen).” Nominations were earned in the following categories: Benton for “Directing;” Lindsey Crouse for “Actress in a Supporting Role;” John Malkovich for “Actor in a Supporting Role;” and Ann Roth for “Costume Design.” The film also received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Picture,” with Arlene Donovan as producer. Sally Field won a Golden Globe for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.” Robert Benton received a nomination for “Best Screenplay – Motion Picture,” and the film received a nomination for “Best Motion Picture – Drama." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
BAM
2 Nov 1984
p. 18, 20.
Chicago Tribune
21 Mar 1985.
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1984
p. 3, 12.
Daily Variety
25 Sep 1984
p. 2, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1984
p. 3, 7.
LAHExam
21 Sep 1984.
---
Life
Oct 1984
pp. 27-28, 32.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1984
Section VI, p. 1, 16.
Los Angeles Times
23 Oct 1984.
---
New York Times
21 Sep 1984
Section C, p. 8.
New York Times
23 Sep 1984
p.19.
New Yorker
15 Oct 1984.
---
Time
24 Sep 1984
p. 70.
Variety
19 Sep 1984
p. 20.
Vogue
Aug 1984
p. 353, 414.
WSJ
20 Sep 1984.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Tri-Star Pictures Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
Still photog
Video playback op
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Film layout
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost
Asst to cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and adpt
Addl mus prod and adpt
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff by
Spec eff
Wind eff
Title des
DANCE
Dance coord
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Hair des
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Prod office coord
Loc mgr
Loc coord
Loc coord
Transportation capt
Prod auditor
Texas casting
Texas casting
Extras casting coord
Asst to Mr. Benton
Consultant to Mr. Benton
Period car coord
Period car coord
Asst prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Post-prod coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double #1
Stunt double #2
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Two Brothers
The Texas Picture
A Texas Story
The Texas Film
Waiting for Morning
Release Date:
21 September 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 September 1984
Production Date:
21 September -15 December 1983 -- Waxahachie, Texas
Copyright Claimant:
Tri-Star Pictures
Copyright Date:
3 October 1984
Copyright Number:
PA228302
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27296
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1935, the Sunday dinner of Sheriff Royce Spalding is interrupted when he summoned to deal with Wylie, a drunk African-American teenager. During the confrontation, Royce is accidentally shot and killed. The town men bring Royce’s body home, where his wife Edna explains to their children, Frank and Possum, that their father is dead. A car arrives at the Spalding house, dragging Wylie’s dead body, as Edna’s sister, Margaret Lomax, stops by to console her sister. In another part of town, two lovers, Wayne Lomax and Viola Kelsey, meet in secret in an abandoned house. When Wayne returns home, he consoles his wife Margaret, and she confesses her fear that he too will end up dead. Wayne says that he loves her and nothing will happen to him. After church, Margaret brings food to Edna, but she is not hungry. She is worried about her family’s future because Royce was the breadwinner. In the town’s African-American community, Wylie is buried in a plain pine coffin, while Royce is buried in grandeur in the cemetery for white people. Sometime later, Edna gives dinner to Moze, an African-American man passing through town, who proposes that he could grow cotton on her farm and sell it. She declines his offer, and he leaves in the morning with some of her silverware. Mr. Denby from First Farmer’s Bank visits Edna and informs her that a mortgage payment on the farm is due in the middle of the month. When Denby suggests that she sell the farm and split up her family until she settles her finances, she tells him to leave. Later, Edna asks Margaret if she can ... +


In 1935, the Sunday dinner of Sheriff Royce Spalding is interrupted when he summoned to deal with Wylie, a drunk African-American teenager. During the confrontation, Royce is accidentally shot and killed. The town men bring Royce’s body home, where his wife Edna explains to their children, Frank and Possum, that their father is dead. A car arrives at the Spalding house, dragging Wylie’s dead body, as Edna’s sister, Margaret Lomax, stops by to console her sister. In another part of town, two lovers, Wayne Lomax and Viola Kelsey, meet in secret in an abandoned house. When Wayne returns home, he consoles his wife Margaret, and she confesses her fear that he too will end up dead. Wayne says that he loves her and nothing will happen to him. After church, Margaret brings food to Edna, but she is not hungry. She is worried about her family’s future because Royce was the breadwinner. In the town’s African-American community, Wylie is buried in a plain pine coffin, while Royce is buried in grandeur in the cemetery for white people. Sometime later, Edna gives dinner to Moze, an African-American man passing through town, who proposes that he could grow cotton on her farm and sell it. She declines his offer, and he leaves in the morning with some of her silverware. Mr. Denby from First Farmer’s Bank visits Edna and informs her that a mortgage payment on the farm is due in the middle of the month. When Denby suggests that she sell the farm and split up her family until she settles her finances, she tells him to leave. Later, Edna asks Margaret if she can help out in her beauty shop, but her sister says there aren’t enough customers. At night, Deputy Jack Driscoll arrives at Edna’s house with Moze and the stolen silverware, but Edna covers for Moze and tells Jack that Moze is her new farmhand. After Jack leaves, Edna asks Moze to plant cotton on her farm and warns that if he steals again, she’ll shoot him. When Mr. Denby learns of Edna’s plan to grow cotton, he is pessimistic and shows her a stack of foreclosures but she is determined. Edna buys cottonseed and Moze makes sure that she is not cheated and purchases a quality product. Meanwhile, Denby persuades Edna that the bank will look upon her situation more favorably if she takes in a boarder like his blind brother-in-law, Mr. Will. Edna cooperates, although Will makes it clear that he is displeased with the arrangement. Wayne continues his affair with Viola but is still attracted to Margaret. When the couple arrives late at the local dance, Viola and her husband, Buddy, require an explanation, and as the men get drinks, Margaret tells Viola that her husband’s lovemaking caused their delay. Upset, Viola ends the affair with Wayne. Back at Edna’s farm, Will discovers that Edna’s children have been playing his records and demands that Edna keep them away from his possessions. Later, Frank is caught smoking by his teacher Viola, and receives a spanking from Edna, who has never had to punish her children in the past since discipline was always Royce’s responsibility. The violent act upsets her and she confesses to Will how she misses her husband. Soon, a tornado descends and the townspeople take cover. As Edna struggles to move her plow horse into the barn, the wind caves in the attic walls where Possum plays with her dollhouse, but Will hears her scream and runs to rescue her. Moze opens the storm cellar and everyone in the household steps down to safety, including Frank, who arrives just in time. Meanwhile, Buddy climbs over debris to rescue Viola and her students from the damaged schoolhouse. As Buddy hugs his wife, Viola sees Wayne watching from across the street, and suggests to her husband that they move to another town. Once the storm is over, Edna’s home is damaged but still standing. At the bank, Edna asks Denby for an extension on her mortgage payment and while she waits for approval, she sees photographs of the winners of cotton-picking contests. Later, Edna tells Moze and Will that she will win that contest even if it kills her, because it is the only way to save her farm. During an evening of card playing, Buddy and Viola announce their move to Houston, Texas, but Margaret suspects an affair between her friend and her husband when Wayne reaches for the deck of cards and Viola avoids his touch. After the friends leave, Margaret confronts Wayne about his affair and says that she is no longer in love with him. At Edna’s farm, the family picks cotton except Will, and Moze warns that Edna’s plan will not work unless they hire extra pickers. Edna promises that she’ll pay the pickers from the contest money and they pick all night. When Edna takes their crop to the cotton gin owner, Mr. W. E. Simmons, he offers a low price, but Edna threatens to sell her crop to the Wheeler gin and Simmons reconsiders, offering an above-market price. At night, Will hears a noise, and Moze goes to the barn, where several Ku Klux Klan members beat him. Will grabs Royce’s gun, heads toward the barn and shoots the Klansmen until he runs out of bullets. When Will makes it clear that he recognizes the voices of Mr. Simmons and his associates, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Shaw, they leave. Afraid of the Klan’s return, Moze says goodbye and leaves the farm. Later, Buddy and Viola leave for Houston and pass by their church. Inside, as the minister gives a sermon on love and forgiveness, Margaret takes Wayne’s hand, and the congregation passes a tray of wine glasses. Each member of the congregation takes a glass: Moze, Will, Possum, Frank, Edna, even their deceased loved ones, Royce, and Wylie. In the background, the hymn “Blessed Assurance” is sung by the choir.
+

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

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