Miss Firecracker

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Miss Firecracker
Directed byThomas Schlamme
Produced byLewis Allen
Fred Berner
Ross E. Milloy
Screenplay byBeth Henley
Based onThe Miss Firecracker Contest
by Beth Henley
Music byDavid Mansfield
CinematographyArthur Albert
Edited byPeter C. Frank
Distributed byCorsair Pictures
Paramount Television (former)
Trifecta Entertainment and Media (current)
Release date
  • April 28, 1989 (1989-04-28)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
BudgetUS$4 million[1]
Box officeUS$1,852,655[2]

Miss Firecracker is a 1989 comedy film directed by Thomas Schlamme. It stars Holly Hunter, Mary Steenburgen, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard, and Scott Glenn. The film, set in Yazoo City, Mississippi, was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley and is based on her 1984 play, The Miss Firecracker Contest.


Carnelle (Holly Hunter) enters the Miss Firecracker beauty pageant which her hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi, stages every Fourth of July, hoping to emulate her cousin Elain's (Mary Steenburgen) win some years previous. Carnelle was taken in as a waif by her genteel cousins after the death of her mother and grows up promiscuous, brash, unfeminine and lacking in grace. Few expect she can win, her closest friends and relatives think she is heading for a big disappointment, but Carnelle is ever hopeful.

When her other cousin, the eccentric sociopath Delmount (Tim Robbins), decides to sell the house they both live in to make money, Carnelle becomes even more determined to win, viewing it as a way to escape her small town existence. Elain returns to the town to give a speech at the pageant after a breakup with her husband. Carnelle insists Elain let her wear the red dress in which she won the contest, thinking that will guarantee her success. Elain delays giving Carnelle the dress and makes excuses as to why she cannot have it while pretending to be supportive.

Carnelle surprisingly gets on the shortlist for the pageant when one of the other contestants pulls out. Without a red dress she breaks into a locked room in the house previously occupied by a sick relative and takes an old dress to wear. She comes last at the final and is frustrated by her failure. Back at the house, she discovers Elain had brought the dress with her all along and had been lying to her. She confronts Elain about this, realizing the pageant is not the most important thing after all, then leaves the house and goes to the town observatory and watches the pageant fireworks display.


Production and release[edit]

Costing US$4 million, Miss Firecracker was the first production for Corsair Pictures, a division of United Artists Communications.[1] Scheduled for February 1989,[3] it was released April 28 of that year and grossed US$1.85 million in North America.[2] A VHS release from HBO Home Video followed in November.[4] Critical reception was mixed; the film carries a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Company News; Film Company Set By United Artists". The New York Times. March 15, 1988. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Box office information for Miss Firecracker". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  3. ^ Bendel, Mary-Ann (October 7, 1988). "Southern climes climb at the box office". USA Weekend (Bangor Daily News supplement). Gannett Company. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  4. ^ Albright, Rick (November 15, 1989). "Video Views: She yearns to be 'Miss Firecracker'". Merced Sun-Star. Lesher Newspapers. p. D3. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  5. ^ "Reviews for Miss Firecracker". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 26, 2011.

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