Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

PG | 99 mins | Comedy-drama | 13 December 1989

Director:

Bruce Beresford

Writer:

Alfred Uhry

Cinematographer:

Peter James

Editor:

Mark Warner

Production Designer:

Bruno Rubeo

Production Company:

The Zanuck Company
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HISTORY

       A 4 Jun 1989 NYT article reported that Alfred Uhry sold film rights to his 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, to Zanuck-Brown Productions for $300,000. According to a 10 Aug 1987 DV article, Zanuck-Brown outbid Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Terms included a provision for Urhy to adapt the screenplay, and an eighteen-month “release restriction” dating from the play’s 24 Jul 1987 commercial off-Broadway premiere, guaranteeing that the film could not be released before Feb 1989, as noted in a 10 Aug 1987 DV item. The $300,000 rights fee was to be split on a “40-60 basis” between the stage production and Uhry.
       The project was initially set up at MGM/UA Entertainment Company, but when president, Alan Ladd, Jr., left, the studio was no longer committed to the picture. Director Bruce Beresford had already been hired and promised a $1.2 million fee. In addition, Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman had been cast in the lead roles with “pay-or-play” deals, making Zanuck-Brown obligated to pay their salaries whether or not the movie was produced. With an estimated budget of roughly $12.5 million, the producers had a difficult time obtaining financing, as stated in a 6 Mar 1990 NYT article, and the project was turned down by major studios including Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Pictures. Stipulating a reduced budget of $7.5 million, Warner Bros. Pictures agreed to fund $5 million in exchange for domestic distribution rights, while the remaining financing came from two British companies, Allied Filmmakers and Majestic Films, who received distribution rights to all ... More Less

       A 4 Jun 1989 NYT article reported that Alfred Uhry sold film rights to his 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, to Zanuck-Brown Productions for $300,000. According to a 10 Aug 1987 DV article, Zanuck-Brown outbid Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Terms included a provision for Urhy to adapt the screenplay, and an eighteen-month “release restriction” dating from the play’s 24 Jul 1987 commercial off-Broadway premiere, guaranteeing that the film could not be released before Feb 1989, as noted in a 10 Aug 1987 DV item. The $300,000 rights fee was to be split on a “40-60 basis” between the stage production and Uhry.
       The project was initially set up at MGM/UA Entertainment Company, but when president, Alan Ladd, Jr., left, the studio was no longer committed to the picture. Director Bruce Beresford had already been hired and promised a $1.2 million fee. In addition, Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman had been cast in the lead roles with “pay-or-play” deals, making Zanuck-Brown obligated to pay their salaries whether or not the movie was produced. With an estimated budget of roughly $12.5 million, the producers had a difficult time obtaining financing, as stated in a 6 Mar 1990 NYT article, and the project was turned down by major studios including Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Pictures. Stipulating a reduced budget of $7.5 million, Warner Bros. Pictures agreed to fund $5 million in exchange for domestic distribution rights, while the remaining financing came from two British companies, Allied Filmmakers and Majestic Films, who received distribution rights to all territories outside North America. An 8 Apr 1990 NYT article provided conflicting figures, however, stating that Warner Bros. provided $4.5 million, while Allied’s Jake Eberts provided $3.25 million. According to the 6 Mar 1990 NYT, Warner Bros. later bought British distribution rights back from Majestic and Allied for $1 million.
       A 6 Apr 1988 Var article announced that Uhry’s play had won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for drama. At the time, casting for the film was underway. Although Dana Ivey, who originated the role of “Daisy Werthan” off-Broadway, expressed her desire to reprise the role onscreen, a 30 May 1988 People news item stated that the actress was not being considered. According to a 3 Mar 1988 HR brief, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, and Maggie Smith were interested in the leading role; additionally, a 16 Apr 1988 Screen International item stated that Meryl Streep was contending for the role despite only being in her late thirties at the time. A 16 Feb 1988 HR item mentioned the interest of Ann Sothern, who allegedly wanted to star opposite Richard Pryor, and a 14 Oct 1988 NYT item reported that Audrey Hepburn had turned down the chance to replace Dame Wendy Hiller in the London production of the play but was considering the film role. Other actresses mentioned as candidates for the role of Daisy Werthan included Olympia Dukakis, Elizabeth Taylor, Olivia de Havilland, and Shirley MacLaine. Jessica Tandy’s casting was announced in a 28 Nov 1988 LAHExam brief, and, although Bruce Beresford had not considered him for the role, the 21 Dec 1989 L.B. Press-Telegram stated that Dan Aykroyd sought an audition for “Boolie Werthan” and agreed to act in the film for “relatively nothing.” Robert De Niro’s casting was announced in a 5 May 1989 HR item, however the actor does not appear in the film.
       As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, the screenplay spanned the years 1948 to 1973. The scene in which “Hoke Colburn” and Daisy Werthan discover that the Jewish temple was bombed is based on the real-life 1958 bombing of Atlanta, GA’s oldest Jewish temple. In addition, the Martin Luther King benefit dinner is based on an actual ceremony at which King was honored in Jan 1965 at the Dinkler Plaza Hotel. In the scene depicting the dinner, Jane Harmon and Nina Keneally, two of the stage play’s producers, appear as extras, according to a 9 Jun 1989 NYT brief.
       Filming began 8 May 1989, according to a 12 May 1989 HR brief. The shooting schedule was originally set at sixty-three days, but was cut to forty days due to budget restrictions, as noted in the 6 Mar 1990 NYT. Jessica Tandy celebrated her eightieth birthday on set, according to a 7 Jun 1989 LAT item, and the completion of principal photography was announced in the 1 Sep 1989 DV.
       According to production notes, the house standing in for Daisy Werthan’s residence was in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta. Location scouts were unaware that the house was once owned by one of Alfred Uhry’s “Southern cousins” and the writer played there as a child. Euclid Avenue in Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood stood in for 1948 Atlanta, where the Sevananda Natural Foods Cooperative doubled as Piggly Wiggly, and a store called African Connections was converted to the Southern Stamp and Stencil Co. Griffin, GA, located forty-five miles outside Atlanta, provided exteriors, and the cotton mill run by “Boolie Werthan” was shot at Fulton Supply Company in downtown Atlanta.
       As stated in a 6 Dec 1989 Var news item, the world premiere took place at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., on 11 Dec 1989. The event benefitted the Food For All Seasons Foundation. Two days later, the film opened in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, in a limited run. Positive word-of-mouth and reviews helped the film become an early hit, and the release was slowly expanded in surburban Los Angeles and New York before opening in other cities. Athough Driving Miss Daisy was considered a risky investment, the $7.5 million film took in $60.6 million in box-office receipts in its first eighty-two days of release, as reported in the 6 Mar 1990 NYT. A 28 Mar 1990 WSJ brief later reported that the film had grossed $75 million, a figure that was expected to increase by ten to twenty percent due to Academy Award wins.
       According to a 9 Apr 1990 Newsweek news item, Jessica Tandy was paid a $250,000 salary, but, due to her existing heart problems, had to pay for her own $130,000 insurance premium. However, when the film became a box-office success, Warner Bros. reimbursed the $130,000 and gave Tandy an additional $500,000 “advance share of the profits.” Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd, Beresford and Uhry reportedly received similar advance shares.
       Driving Miss Daisy received generally positive reviews and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Tandy), Makeup, and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium); and Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Jessica Tandy), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Morgan Freeman). The picture also received Academy Award nominations for Actor in a Leading Role (Morgan Freeman), Actor in a Supporting Role (Dan Aykroyd), Art Direction, Costume Design, and Film Editing. Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman won Silver Bear awards for Best Actress and Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival, and the picture was ranked seventy-seventh on AFI’s 2006 100 Years…100 Cheers list of the most inspiring films of all time.
       The film marked Alfred Uhry’s screenwriting debut. Nearly three years after the film’s release, Uhry was sued by a writer named Henry Denker for plagiarizing Denker’s novel and Broadway play, Horowitz and Mrs. Washington (New York, 1980), about the relationship between a bigoted, septuagenarian Jewish man and his African American physical therapist. According to a 9 Dec 1992 DV news item, U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey dismissed the case.

      End credits include the following statement: “Our gratitude to: Factory location…Fulton Supply Company, Atlanta, Georgia; Darlin’s Restaurant; Outdoor Today Inc.; Irving Vendig, creator-writer ‘The Edge of Night.’” End credits also note: "Driving Miss Daisy was first produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons, New York City in 1987. It was subsequently produced by the Daisy Company in association with Playwrights Horizon Off-Broadway in 1987."
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1987
p. 2, 10.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1989.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1990
p. 1, 19.
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1989
p. 4, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1989.
---
L.B. Press-Telegram
21 Dec 1989.
---
LAHExam
28 Nov 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1989
p. 6.
New York
16 April 1990
p. 68.
New York Times
14 Oct 1988.
---
New York Times
4 Jun 1989
Section A, p. 13.
New York Times
9 Jun 1989.
---
New York Times
13 Dec 1989
p. 13.
New York Times
6 Mar 1990
Section D, p. 1.
New York Times
8 Apr 1990
Section A, p. 15.
Newsweek
9 Apr 1990.
---
People
30 May 1988.
---
Screen International
16 Apr 1988.
---
Variety
6 Apr 1988.
---
Variety
6 Dec 1989.
---
Variety
13 Dec 1989
p. 28.
WSJ
28 Mar 1990.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Zanuck Company Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy/grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Property
Prop asst
Prop asst
Prop asst
Const coord
Const foreman
Lead person
Head set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Scenic chargeman
Greensperson
Scenic billboards by
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Mus supv
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod mixer
Boom op
Cableperson/2nd boom
Sd re-rec by
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
Eff ed
Foley artist
Foley recordist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Titles & optical eff
Spec visual eff by
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Asst makeup
Makeup consultant
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Asst to the prods
Asst loc mgr
Public relations
Unit pub
Casting (Atlanta)
Researcher
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service
Police coord
Playback op
STAND INS
Stunt double
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry (New York, 15 Apr 1987).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"After The Ball," words and music by Charles K. Harris, published by Charles K. Harris Publishing Company, Inc.
"I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)," written by Deek Watson and William Best, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, courtesy of MCA Records
"Jingle Bells," arranged and performed by Les Peel, courtesy of Capitol Production Music/Ole Georg
+
SONGS
"After The Ball," words and music by Charles K. Harris, published by Charles K. Harris Publishing Company, Inc.
"I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)," written by Deek Watson and William Best, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, courtesy of MCA Records
"Jingle Bells," arranged and performed by Les Peel, courtesy of Capitol Production Music/Ole Georg
"Kiss Of Fire," written by Lester Allen and Robert Hill, performed by Louis Armstrong, courtesy of MCA Records
"Santa Baby," written by Tony Springer, Phil Spring and Joan Javits, performed by Eartha Kitt, courtesy of RCA Records
"Song To The Moon" (excerpt from the opera "Rusalka"), composed by Antonín Dvoř
ák, performed by Gabriela Beň
ková & the Czech Philharmonic, courtesy of Supraphon Int'l
"What A Friend We Have In Jesus," sung by Little Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Choir, Decatur, Georgia, Indra A. Thomas, Soloist.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 December 1989
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Washington, D.C.: 11 December 1989
Los Angeles opening: 13 December 1989
New York opening: week of 13 December 1989
Production Date:
began 8 May 1989 in Atlanta
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 May 1990
Copyright Number:
PA465747
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Lenses
Lenses and Panaglide camera by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29912
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1948 Atlanta, Georgia, septuagenarian Daisy Werthan loses control of her car as she backs it out of her garage. Coming to assess the damage, her son Boolie maintains that it was her fault, while Daisy argues the car malfunctioned. Later, Boolie, who runs the family business, Werthan Bag & Cotton Co., interviews Hoke Colburn to be his mother’s chauffeur. When he learns he will be driving Boolie’s mother, Hoke asks why Daisy is not doing her own hiring, and Boolie admits his mother is high-strung. Since Boolie will be paying his salary, he tells Hoke that Daisy can say whatever she wants but will never have the power to fire him. On his first day of work, Hoke meets Idella, Daisy’s African American maid, who says she does not envy his position. Meanwhile, Daisy tells Boolie she does not want a chauffeur hanging around the house, but Boolie instructs her to make the best of it. That afternoon, as Hoke talks to Idella in the kitchen, Daisy barges in and forbids him from conversing with the maid. She then reprimands him for overstepping his duties by dusting light bulbs and tending to her flowers. Hoke suggests he could plant a vegetable garden, but Daisy says she can plant her own garden if she wants. One day, Daisy announces plans to go grocery shopping. Hoke readies himself to drive her, but she insists on taking the streetcar. Hoke argues that a rich, Jewish lady like herself has no place carrying her own groceries on the streetcar, but she tells him that she grew up poor. Driving alongside her, Hoke follows Daisy down the street until she becomes embarrassed and ... +


In 1948 Atlanta, Georgia, septuagenarian Daisy Werthan loses control of her car as she backs it out of her garage. Coming to assess the damage, her son Boolie maintains that it was her fault, while Daisy argues the car malfunctioned. Later, Boolie, who runs the family business, Werthan Bag & Cotton Co., interviews Hoke Colburn to be his mother’s chauffeur. When he learns he will be driving Boolie’s mother, Hoke asks why Daisy is not doing her own hiring, and Boolie admits his mother is high-strung. Since Boolie will be paying his salary, he tells Hoke that Daisy can say whatever she wants but will never have the power to fire him. On his first day of work, Hoke meets Idella, Daisy’s African American maid, who says she does not envy his position. Meanwhile, Daisy tells Boolie she does not want a chauffeur hanging around the house, but Boolie instructs her to make the best of it. That afternoon, as Hoke talks to Idella in the kitchen, Daisy barges in and forbids him from conversing with the maid. She then reprimands him for overstepping his duties by dusting light bulbs and tending to her flowers. Hoke suggests he could plant a vegetable garden, but Daisy says she can plant her own garden if she wants. One day, Daisy announces plans to go grocery shopping. Hoke readies himself to drive her, but she insists on taking the streetcar. Hoke argues that a rich, Jewish lady like herself has no place carrying her own groceries on the streetcar, but she tells him that she grew up poor. Driving alongside her, Hoke follows Daisy down the street until she becomes embarrassed and gets in the car. From the backseat, she urges him to conserve gas by driving slowly and questions the route he is taking. Over time, Daisy accepts more rides from Hoke, although she does not like drawing attention to the arrangement and reprimands him for waiting for her in front of the Jewish temple after services. Daisy tells Hoke she does not want her friends to think she is pretending to be rich, but when the chauffeur reminds her that she is rich, she ignores him. Soon after, Daisy calls Boolie to her house, where she presents an opened can of salmon that Hoke stole and rants that she has no privacy anymore. Boolie loses his patience and tells her to leave him out of it just as Hoke interrupts, arriving for work with a replacement can of salmon. Chagrined, Daisy drops her complaint. At a cemetery, she tends to her late husband’s grave and asks Hoke to place flowers at the grave of a friend named Bauer. Hoke sheepishly reveals that he cannot read, and Daisy, a former teacher, tells him he can if he knows the alphabet and helps him sound out the letters of her friend’s name. On Christmas, Daisy goes to a party at Boolie’s house despite disapproving of her daughter-in-law Florine’s penchant for the Christian holiday. Before going inside, Daisy gives Hoke a wrapped gift but insists it is not a Christmas present. Hoke unwraps it to find a writing workbook and promises Daisy he will not tell anyone about the gift. When Daisy must travel to Mobile, Alabama, for her brother Walter’s birthday, she anxiously awaits Hoke’s arrival that morning. On the drive, they stop to eat lunch by the side of the road and Daisy recalls her first trip to Mobile in 1888, when she saw the ocean for the first time. Racist police officers stop and ask Hoke for his registration. Daisy states that the car belongs to her and, when they ask about her name, she says Werthan is “of German derivation.” As the police walk away, one of them jokes that an old Jew and an old African American are a sorry sight together. Nearing Mobile that evening, Hoke stops the car to urinate on the side of the road, but Daisy forbids it, saying he should have used the bathroom at a service station. Hoke points out that African Americans cannot use the bathrooms at service stations in this area and contends that he is a man of almost seventy years and should not be treated like a child. Hoke stands his ground, and Daisy panics when he leaves her alone in the car. Back in Atlanta, Hoke tells Boolie that his cousin’s wife, Jeanette, tried to hire Hoke in Alabama, telling him he could name his salary. Boolie agrees to give him a raise to seventy-five dollars per week, a sum that would appall Daisy, who believes anything over seven dollars per week is “highway robbery.” Sometime later, Idella dies on the job and Hoke attends her funeral with the Werthans. Afterward, Daisy and Hoke tend to Daisy’s vegetable garden together. On the morning of a winter storm, Hoke braves the icy roads to bring Daisy coffee. Although Boolie calls to check on his mother, she surprises him by reporting that Hoke is there to keep her company. Later, on the way to temple, Daisy and Hoke encounter a traffic jam, and Hoke learns from another driver that the temple has been bombed. Hoke recalls a time his friend’s father was lynched, but Daisy refuses to see the connection between racism and anti-Semitism. Sometime later, Daisy buys tickets to a dinner honoring Martin Luther King. Although she wants Boolie to go with her, he refuses to attend as it might hurt his business relationships. He tells Daisy to take Hoke as her date, but she does not mention the idea until they are on the way there, laughing it off as “silly.” Annoyed, Hoke tells Daisy she should not have tried to ask him at the last minute, then listens to Martin Luther King’s speech from inside the car while Daisy sits inside. Daisy grows older and more feeble, and one day, Hoke arrives at work to find her in a delusional state. She believes she is teaching school again and frantically searches for paperwork. Hoke calls Boolie to alert him, and, as he tries to calm her down, Daisy tells Hoke he is her best friend. After two years on the market, Daisy’s house is sold. On Thanksgiving, Hoke meets Boolie at the empty house, and they go together to visit Daisy at a nursing home. There, in the dining room, Daisy sends Boolie away at the mention of Florine, and Boolie jokes that Daisy wants Hoke to herself. She asks if Boolie is still paying Hoke, and when he confirms, she claims it is “highway robbery.” Hoke points out that Daisy has not eaten her pie, and helps feed her when she cannot use her fork. +

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

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