Harper Valley PTA (film)
|Harper Valley PTA|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Bennett|
|Produced by||George Edwards|
|Written by||George Edwards
|Music by||Nelson Riddle|
|Edited by||Michael Economou|
|Distributed by||April Fools Productions|
|Box office||$25 million (USA)|
Harper Valley PTA is a 1978 comedy film inspired by the popular 1968 country song "Harper Valley PTA" written by Tom T. Hall and performed by Jeannie C. Riley. The film starred Barbara Eden, Nanette Fabray, Ronny Cox, Louis Nye and Susan Swift, directed by Richard Bennett, and was mainly released to drive-in theaters in June 1978.
The film's promotional tagline is: "The song was scandalous. The movie is hilarious!"
Stella Johnson (Barbara Eden) is a beautiful widowed single mother who lives in the town of Harper Valley, Ohio. She sells cosmetics door-to-door for the fictitious AngelGlo Cosmetics (akin to the real-life Avon). Her fourteen-year-old daughter is named Dee (Susan Swift), a student at Harper Valley Junior High School.
After leaving school, Dee brings her mother a letter from the school's Parent Teacher Association board, which is led by the pompous and snobbish Flora Simpson Reilly (Audrey Christie). The letter denounces her for her not following the societal mores of the day and the community and further stating that if she didn't change her ways more to the board's liking, Dee would be punished for her mother's sins by being expelled from school.
Infuriated by the board's supposed superiority and their glaring hypocrisy, Stella storms to the PTA meeting being held that day, and proceeds to tell most of the PTA members off by exposing their hidden skeletons for the town to see.
After her house is TP'ed, and a rock is thrown through her window in retaliation for what she did, Stella prepares to get even with those who would want her driven out of town. She teams up with her friends, beautician Alice Finley (Nanette Fabray) and bartender Herbie Maddox (Ron Masak) who, along with Dee's help, wreak hilarious and justified revenge on six of the PTA members who hated Stella. (Of Flora's allies, only two, Holly Taylor and Shirley Thompson, are spared any retribution.)
During the course of the movie, she finds out that one of the male PTA members, wealthy Willis Newton (Ronny Cox), has fallen in love with her.
Will, and another male on the PTA board, Skeeter Duggan (Bob Hastings), the town's Notary public, do not agree with Flora and her friends and are sympathetic to Stella. After being convinced by Will of the current PTA's treachery and with his help, Stella goes ahead and makes a run for President of the PTA, which infuriates Flora and her allies.
After one of their own, real estate agent Kirby Baker (Louis Nye), is arrested for assaulting Myrna Wong (Irene Yah-Ling Sun), an Asian-American friend of Stella's, after he attempts to run Stella out of town by means of a foreclosure, things become more and more desperate. (Myrna, by no means helpless, uses martial arts to throw Kirby into his waterbed, and to destroy his office.)
The board finally decide to resort to criminal means to maintain the power they hold in town, which is fast slipping away. The board members then decide to go and hire a couple of kidnappers named Dutch and Tex (Royce D. Applegate; J. J. Barry) to have Skeeter abducted so they can commit election fraud.
The kidnappers snatch Skeeter as he is taking the trash out, and lock him in a monastery, where he is imprisoned and made drunk on wine. Eventually, Stella and Alice, disguised as nuns, find him, and free him.
After a makeover, which sees her braces removed and her hair styled, Dee also finds a boyfriend in handsome Carlyle (Brian Cook) a popular school track star, which incurs the jealousy of Bettina Reilly (Laura Tiege), the equally snobbish granddaughter of Flora.
Also shown are Edwina, Bettina's twin sister who is less snobbish than her sister (played by Jan Tiege, Laura's real life twin) and Dee's best friend, Mavis (Louise Foley), who, herself, becomes a target of the PTA's cruelty by being falsely accused of stealing money by Olive Glover (Molly Dodd), the PTA's corrupt recording secretary.
Olive, who has a hardcore gambling addiction, has actually stolen money from the Milk Fund Rally, one of the PTA's numerous fund raisers, and intends to having Mavis framed for the crime and arrested.
Ultimately, Flora's scheme to discredit Stella fails miserably. Olive is arrested for embezzlement. Dutch and Tex, already in custody for the Skeeter Duggan kidnapping, tell the police that Flora was behind it all to keep Stella off the PTA board.
Stella decisively wins the election and becomes the new PTA president, with the whole town voting to get rid of Flora and her snobbish friends. Will and Stella then fly off in his helicopter and marry while she announces her plans to run for mayor.
Cast and characters
- Barbara Eden ... Stella Johnson, A widowed cosmetics salesperson with a young daughter, whose individuality angers most of the powerful people in town and on the Parent Teachers Association board. She inevitably becomes PTA president after embarrassing Flora, the snobby former President and her equally snobby friends.
- Ronny Cox ... Willis "Will" Newton, A wealthy member of the PTA who doesn't agree with Flora and her snobby allies and is in love with Stella. He and Stella get married at the end of the movie.
- Nanette Fabray ... Alice Finley, Stella's best friend and co-conspirator against the snobs of Harper Valley. She owns and operates the La Moderne Beauty Shop.
- Louis Nye ... Kirby Baker, A local real estate agent who is allied with Flora and her friends. Notorious for being a lecherous playboy and impregnating his secretaries, one of whom, Gladys Wilmot, left town to see an abortionist in Cincinnati. He tries to foreclose on Stella's house, which infuriates her. He then gets arrested and jailed for attacking Myrna Wong, a friend of Stella's, who rebuffs his advances, throwing him by use of martial arts and destroying the office.
- John Fiedler ... Bobby Taylor, a man on the PTA who lusts after Stella. Overly dominated by his wife, Holly. Although open to allow Stella to speak, he is not above having a fellow PTA board member kidnapped to commit election fraud. He was arrested for indecent exposure.
- Ron Masak ... Herbie Maddox, the head bartender at Kelly's bar, and Stella's ally against Flora and her friends. He has a crush on Stella, and is one of her friends.
- Clint Howard ... Corley, a young delivery person, who works for the local florist shop, who brings Stella flowers from Will.
- Susan Swift ... Dee Johnson, Stella's 14-year-old daughter, who is threatened with expulsion from school if her mother doesn't conform to the way the PTA wants her to behave. She has a hand in assisting her mother and Alice with one of their revenge schemes. She loses her braces, gets a makeover, and ends up with a boyfriend, Carlyle.
- Pat Paulsen ... Otis Harper, the descendant of the founding family of Harper Valley. A PTA member who is allied with Flora and her friends. Has a tendency to drink all the time, which annoys his wife, Bertha. He had a stampede of elephants, painted pink, stormed through his house, destroying it.
- Amzie Strickland ... Shirley Thompson, a member of the PTA board who tends to drink a lot of gin. Though she is allied with Flora and her friends, she is spared any retribution from Stella. She was seen as the most sympathetic of the board, as she tended to be more manipulated as opposed to being manipulative. It was never revealed whether or not she retained her seat on the PTA, but it is presumed that she became more sympathetic towards Stella as she was seen waving goodbye at Olive as she was being arrested.
- Bob Hastings ... Skeeter Duggan, a member of the PTA board, and the town's Notary public who is sympathetic to Stella. He is kidnapped by Dutch and Tex at Flora Simpson Reilly's orders.
- Audrey Christie ... Flora Simpson Reilly, The movie's main antagonist. She is the pompous and extremely snobbish president of the PTA board who thoroughly despises Stella, who defeats her for president at the end of the movie, and all she stands for. So desperate is she to retain her power and prestige in the community that she has a fellow member of the PTA (Skeeter Duggan) kidnapped so she and her allies can commit election fraud. She is embarrassed when her permanent set is destroyed by a hair depilatory at the beauty salon.
- Molly Dodd ... Olive Glover, the recording secretary of the PTA who is a gambling addict. Clearly the most corrupt and most vindictive member of the PTA board, she is eventually arrested for embezzlement after having a lot of hay and horse manure dumped on her. She is the one who initially angers Stella by sending her the letter denouncing her, and tries to get Dee's friend, Mavis, arrested for embezzlement.
- Fay DeWitt ... Willamae Jones, a snide biology teacher at the junior high school who is also a member of the PTA. She makes no secret of the fact that she favors the Reilly twins, due to the connections between her and Flora. Notorious for being a nymphomaniac, she is caught in flagrante delicto with Barney Crunk, the town's mailman, on film.
- DeVera Marcus ... Holly Taylor, Bobby's obviously overbearing wife, who tends to drink a lot when Bobby is out of town, and doesn't approve of Bobby's lusting, or of anything else he does. However, she, like Shirley Thompson, is spared any retribution from Stella, due to Stella refusing to date Bobby.
- Louise Foley ... Mavis, Dee Johnson's best friend, who is nearly framed for a crime she did not commit by the vindictive Olive Glover.
- Brian Cook ... Carlyle, a popular track star who chooses Dee, after she gets a makeover, and angers Bettina Reilly in the process.
- Laura Teige ... Bettina Reilly, One of Flora's twin granddaughters, who wants to be with Carlyle, and is jealous when he chooses Dee over her. She tends to be as snotty as her grandmother.
- Jan Teige ... Edwina Reilly, Bettina's twin sister, who is less snotty than her.
- Irene Yah-Ling Sun ... Myrna Wong, a friend of Stella's who is attacked by Kirby Baker (she destroys him and his office in retaliation), and has him sent to jail for assault.
- Tobias Anderson ... "Cranky" Barney Crunk, the town's nosy mailman who had the bad habit of peeking in everyone's mail. He is caught in flagrante delicto on film with Willamae Jones.
- Royce D. Applegate ... Dutch, one of two kidnappers who abduct Skeeter Duggan at Flora Simpson Reilly's orders.
- J. J. Barry ... Tex, the mastermind of the kidnap plot to get Skeeter Duggan out of the way so Flora Simpson Reilly and her friends could commit election fraud. He and his accomplice Dutch were arrested and the two of them ratted out Flora and her friends on their scheme.
- Pitt Herbert ... Henry Reilly, Flora's overly dominated husband and grandfather to Edwina and Bettina. Henry is wealthy, but is very weak-willed and is known for acquiescing to his wife's schemes.
- Arlen Stuart ... Bertha Harper, wife of Otis Harper, who gets annoyed by her husband's continual drinking. She is scared when her house is destroyed by elephants, painted pink, due to Otis' drinking.
On October 31, 1977, while shooting a scene involving pink elephants in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, Nanette Fabray was knocked to the ground by a spooked elephant from which she suffered a severe concussion, bruises and back sprains.After the accident, Fabray was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where her condition was reported as serious but stable. Following her recovery, she resumed filming on November 30.
|Harper Valley PTA:
Original Soundtrack Recording
|Soundtrack album by various artists|
|Recorded||Singleton Sound Studios
|Producer||Shelby S. Singleton, Jr.|
- "Harper Valley PTA" – Jeannie C. Riley (3:21)
- "Dee's Visit" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (2:10)
- "Mr. Harper" – Barbara Eden (2:22)
- "Alice's Place" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (2:29)
- "High School Confidential" – Jerry Lee Lewis (3:07)
- "Willie Mae" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (2:01)
- "Harper Valley PTA" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (1:55)
- "Widow Jones" – Barbara Eden (2:38)
- "Twin Tune" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (1:30)
- "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" – Johnny Cash (2:51)
- "Ice Cream Disco" (Instrumental) – Nelson Riddle (1:48)
- "Whatever Happened to Charlie Brown" – Rita Remington & Carol Channing (2:40)
- "Ending (Reprise: Harper Valley PTA)" (Instrumental) (1:05)
In 1981, Harper Valley PTA was made into a television sitcom (created by Sherwood Schwartz) which aired on NBC from January 1981 to May 1982. Barbara Eden reprised her role as Stella Johnson for the series which lasted two seasons and a total of 30 episodes were produced.