|Written by||Harriette Arnow (novel)
|Directed by||Daniel Petrie|
|Theme music composer||John Rubinstein|
|Country of origin||USA|
|Running time||150 min.|
|Production company(s)||Finnegan Productions
|Original release||May 13, 1984|
The Dollmaker is an American made-for-TV movie, starring Jane Fonda, who was awarded the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or A Special for her performance. It was first broadcast on ABC in 1984. The movie is based on the novel of the same title, written by Harriette Arnow and originally published in 1954. Director Daniel Petrie won a Directors Guild of America Award.
The movie is the story of a family that moves from the rural home in Appalachia to Detroit Michigan where the father intends to find work in a factory. Fonda's character, Gertie, is hesitant to leave their home; her husband Clovis believes that it will bring the family a regular income and better way of living. What Fonda's Gertie finds is a new place to exist, rather than live, and the family settles down in a tar paper shack by the railroad tracks in an industrial area.
All the while Gertie holds onto her homespun ways, one of which is through carving. Her husband begins to dismiss her talents and puts down Gertie for holding onto her folk art in a modern world. Still, her handiwork is admired by those around her. One of the items that she hangs onto is a piece of a tree limb in which she sees a figure of Jesus calling to her to carve it from it.
One setback after another begins to pull the family apart. Gertie's husband doesn't find work and begins to get involved with matters that trouble her; her children begin to also get involved in unsavory affairs.
The event that breaks Gertie's passivity to her situation is the death of her youngest daughter, who is killed by a railroad car. She confronts her husband, whose best of intentions has led the family to this tragedy; Gertie decides that she will earn enough money to get the family back home to where it belongs. To do this she will make dolls, but she has no material from which she can carve the dolls. It is then that she takes the treasured piece of lumber that she longed to carve the Christ figure from, and splits it (in a slow motion scene) with an axe. From one piece of wood, she will carve many dolls. It is the only way to save the family.
From this sacrifice, the family is able to return to their home.
Cast and crew
in alphabetical order
- Mike Bacarella ... Truck Driver
- Etel Billig ... Mrs. Bomarita
- Nikki Creswell ... Cassie
- David A Dawson ... Amos
- Christine Ebersole ... Miss Vashinski
- Jane Fonda ... Gertie Nevels
- Derek Googe
- James N. Harrell ... Old John Miller
- Ann Hearn ... Max
- Dan Hedaya ... Skyros
- Levon Helm ... Clovis
- Dennis Kelly ... Mr. Daly
- Susan Kingsley ... Sophronie
- Geraldine Page ... Mrs. Kendrick
- Amanda Plummer ... Mamie
- Robert Swan ... Victor
- Studs Terkel
- Mike Timoney ... Army Major
- Starla Whaley ... Clytie
- Jason Wild ... Jean-Claude
- David Brady Wilson ... Enoch
- Sheb Wooley
- Jason Yearwood ... Reuben