The Trip to Bountiful (1985)

PG | 105 mins | Drama | 20 December 1985

Director:

Peter Masterson

Writer:

Horton Foote

Cinematographer:

Fred Murphy

Editor:

Jay Freund

Production Designer:

Neil Spisak

Production Company:

Bountiful Films Partners
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, The Trip to Bountiful, written by Horton Foote, premiered 1 Mar 1953 as a televised play on the series Goodyear TV Playhouse (NBC, Oct 1951--Sep 1960), and starred Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint. Its popularity spawned Broadway and off-Broadway productions, with Gish reprising her role as “Mama Watts.”
       Director Peter Masterson credits Robert Redford for inspiring him to create the film version when he suggested that Masterson make something that had meaning for him, as reported in the 4 Dec 1985 DV. Masterson thought of the Bountiful stage play, coincidentally written by his second cousin, Horton Foote, and approached Foote with the idea.
       The 5 Dec 1984 Var announced that Film Dallas Investment Fund I would be investing $500,000 in the under $2-million project. Additional funding would come from private investors. The 19 Dec 1984 HR noted that Horton Foote had received $50,000 from the newly formed Film Dallas Investments for film rights to The Trip to Bountiful. Principal photography was planned to begin in Mar 1985 with locations in Texas.
       The 12 Apr 1985 DV production chart reported a 1 May 1985 start date in Dallas, TX, while the 18 Apr 1985 HR announced additional locations in Fort Worth and Waxahachie, TX, and noted production would begin at the end of Apr 1985. Production notes confirm a five-week shooting schedule and list the Las Colinas Studio sound stages in Dallas and Houston, TX, as filming locations.
       According to the 18 Apr 1985 HR, Horton ...

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According to production notes in AMPAS library files, The Trip to Bountiful, written by Horton Foote, premiered 1 Mar 1953 as a televised play on the series Goodyear TV Playhouse (NBC, Oct 1951--Sep 1960), and starred Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint. Its popularity spawned Broadway and off-Broadway productions, with Gish reprising her role as “Mama Watts.”
       Director Peter Masterson credits Robert Redford for inspiring him to create the film version when he suggested that Masterson make something that had meaning for him, as reported in the 4 Dec 1985 DV. Masterson thought of the Bountiful stage play, coincidentally written by his second cousin, Horton Foote, and approached Foote with the idea.
       The 5 Dec 1984 Var announced that Film Dallas Investment Fund I would be investing $500,000 in the under $2-million project. Additional funding would come from private investors. The 19 Dec 1984 HR noted that Horton Foote had received $50,000 from the newly formed Film Dallas Investments for film rights to The Trip to Bountiful. Principal photography was planned to begin in Mar 1985 with locations in Texas.
       The 12 Apr 1985 DV production chart reported a 1 May 1985 start date in Dallas, TX, while the 18 Apr 1985 HR announced additional locations in Fort Worth and Waxahachie, TX, and noted production would begin at the end of Apr 1985. Production notes confirm a five-week shooting schedule and list the Las Colinas Studio sound stages in Dallas and Houston, TX, as filming locations.
       According to the 18 Apr 1985 HR, Horton Foote would adapt his own screenplay and Peter Masterson would make his feature film directorial debut with the picture.
       The 20 Nov 1985 Var reported that the film’s distributor, Island Pictures, would be releasing the picture in mid-Dec 1985 at Cinema II theater in NY. The 4 Dec 1985 DV confirmed a 20 Dec 1985 opening date in NY and announced a Christmas day opening in Los Angeles, CA at the Music Hall theater. Filmmakers reported that a Feb 1986 release had initially been planned, but it was decided to move up the date in order to qualify for Academy Award consideration. A wide release was scheduled to follow on 17 Jan and 24 Jan 1986.
       Geraldine Page won an Academy Award for “Best Actress” for her performance as “Mama Watts,” and Horton Foote received a nomination for “Best Adapted Screenplay.” After Page’s win, Island Pictures released the picture in more theaters, according to the 2 Apr 1986 Var.
       The 5 Nov 1987 DV announced that production company Bountiful Film Partners had filed a $15-million lawsuit against distributor Island Pictures, citing “breach of contract” and “fraud.” The 11 Mar 1988 HR reported that Island was countersuing for $6 million. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined.
       The Trip to Bountiful was awarded Japan’s Mainichi Elga prize for “Best Foreign Picture” in 1987, according to the 17 Feb 1988 Var.
       A television remake of The Trip to Bountiful was released in 2014 on the Lifetime network, starring Cicely Tyson as “Mama Watts.”
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “Thank You: The Sundance Institute, L.T. Felty, James Underwood, David Doty, Lou Brockway, Robert Mosbacher, Jack Bowen, Juliet Taylor, Ellen Chenoweth, Michael Hausman, Anne Roth, Barbara Matera, Alan Shapiro, City of Venus; Citizens of Waxahachie & The Main Street Program – Kate Singleton, Manager.” Also acknowledged: “Ellis County, Texas, City of Dallas, Texas Film Commission, Joel Smith and Liz Kline, Government Service Administration, Dallas Police Department, Greyhound Bus Lines, Inc., Mobil Oil Corporation.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Apr 1985
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1985
p. 22
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1987
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1984
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 1985
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1985
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1988
p. 1, 49
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1985
p. 1, 8
New York Times
20 Dec 1985
p. 10
Variety
5 Dec 1984
---
Variety
20 Nov 1985
---
Variety
4 Dec 1985
p. 26
Variety
2 Apr 1986
p. 3, 36
Variety
17 Feb 1988
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Filmdallas I and
Bountiful Film Partners present
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr/1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Line prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Key grip
Dolly grip/Best boy grip
Still photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed room asst
Ed room asst
Negative cutter
Post prod facility
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Draftsman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Costumer
Ward asst
MUSIC
Scoring mixer
Asst to the comp
Title song sung by
Chopin Opus 18 no. 1 performed by
Source mus
Mus consultant
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd mixer
Rerec mixer
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opt eff des
Opt eff des
Titles by
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair des
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod auditor
Loc mgr
Casting coord
Prod secy
Craft services
Asst to prod
Asst to Mr. Masterson
Asst to the exec prods
Transportation capt
Driver
Period car coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod facilities by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Negative processed by
Release prints by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote (New York, 3 Nov 1953).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 December 1985
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 Dec 1985; Los Angeles opening: 25 Dec 1985
Production Date:
1 May--early Jun 1985
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Bountiful Films Partners
3 March 1986
PA281151
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
105
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1940’s Houston, Texas, “Mama” Watts is unable to sleep. She sits up in the middle of the night dreaming of her hometown, Bountiful, Texas. Her son, Ludie Watts, wakes up and they talk about his plans to ask for a raise at his job. Ludie’s wife, Jessie Mae Watts, also wakes, and soon bickers with Mama. Before they go to bed, Ludie forces the women to make up. Mama begs her son to take her back to her to Bountiful, where she has not been in twenty years, but Ludie cannot leave his job. Jessie Mae asks about Mama’s pension check, and the old woman hides it in her housecoat, pretending it has not yet come. The next day, Ludie promises to take Jessie Mae and Mama to see a picture show that evening. When Jessie Mae visits her friend, Rosella, Mama packs her suitcase, boards a bus to the train station, and asks for a ticket to Bountiful. However, she is told that trains no longer stop there. Dejected, she goes to the bus station to buy a ticket, but they, too, do not stop in the small town. Mama buys a ticket to the neighboring town of Harrison, and while waiting for the bus, she meets a young woman named Thelma. When Ludie and Jessie Mae turn up at the bus station searching for her, Mama hides. Ludie asks the waiting bus passenger, Thelma, if she has seen her, explaining that his mother has a serious heart condition. Thelma admits to having seen her but says she left. Jessie Mae insists ...

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In 1940’s Houston, Texas, “Mama” Watts is unable to sleep. She sits up in the middle of the night dreaming of her hometown, Bountiful, Texas. Her son, Ludie Watts, wakes up and they talk about his plans to ask for a raise at his job. Ludie’s wife, Jessie Mae Watts, also wakes, and soon bickers with Mama. Before they go to bed, Ludie forces the women to make up. Mama begs her son to take her back to her to Bountiful, where she has not been in twenty years, but Ludie cannot leave his job. Jessie Mae asks about Mama’s pension check, and the old woman hides it in her housecoat, pretending it has not yet come. The next day, Ludie promises to take Jessie Mae and Mama to see a picture show that evening. When Jessie Mae visits her friend, Rosella, Mama packs her suitcase, boards a bus to the train station, and asks for a ticket to Bountiful. However, she is told that trains no longer stop there. Dejected, she goes to the bus station to buy a ticket, but they, too, do not stop in the small town. Mama buys a ticket to the neighboring town of Harrison, and while waiting for the bus, she meets a young woman named Thelma. When Ludie and Jessie Mae turn up at the bus station searching for her, Mama hides. Ludie asks the waiting bus passenger, Thelma, if she has seen her, explaining that his mother has a serious heart condition. Thelma admits to having seen her but says she left. Jessie Mae insists they leave and report her absence to police. Mama and Thelma board the same bus out of town, and Mama is thrilled to be on her journey. She asks Thelma why she is traveling alone and learns that she is returning to live with her family after her husband was sent to fight in the war. Mama shares that she never loved her husband, and that the man she truly loved married someone else. In the middle of the night, Thelma and Mama get off the bus in Harrison, and wait together at a small depot for Thelma’s transfer bus to arrive. The station agent, Roy, tells Mama about the current events in neighboring Bountiful, and Mama learns that her childhood friend died the day before. Mama had hoped to call the woman to pick her up from the station. She realizes that she left her purse on the bus and is forced to wait until morning for it to be returned to her at the depot. She and Thelma continue talking about their lives, with Mama sharing several stories from her youth. When Thelma’s bus arrives, Mama hugs her goodbye, and tells her that she wishes she had a daughter like Thelma. Mama falls asleep on a bench. Her purse is returned, but Roy lets her sleep. Sometime later, a sheriff arrives searching for her on behalf of her son. Not wanting to wake the old woman, he asks Roy to keep an eye on her until Ludie arrives to take her home. Mama wakes up and pleads with Roy to let her leave to see Bountiful before her son arrives. When the sheriff returns, Mama cries in his arms and begs to see her hometown once more before she dies. After calming her down, the sheriff agrees to drive Mama the twelve miles to see Bountiful. The sun rises as they enter the small farm town, and Mama is saddened to see the dilapidated houses. She visits her childhood home, crying for her long-dead parents, and thanks the sheriff for fulfilling her dream of returning. Ludie arrives at the farmhouse and finds her, telling her he understands why she needed to see her hometown, and apologizes for not bringing her himself. However, Jessie Mae is annoyed with Mama’s antics and refuses to get out of the automobile. Ludie tells Mama that he does not like to think about his painful past, and laments that he has not had children. As mother and son share their memories, Jessie Mae honks the horn to hurry them along. She screams at Mama, calling her selfish, and finally gets out of the automobile to tell Mama the new house rules. Having revisited her childhood home, Mama is satisfied and promises not to run away again. Ludie insists that Mama and Jessie Mae start getting along. Mama sits down in the grass before they leave and says goodbye to Bountiful.

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

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