Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Produced by||Laura Ziskin|
|Screenplay by||Harriet Frank, Jr.
|Based on||the novella by
|Music by||Carole King|
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
|Edited by||Sidney Levin|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Murphy's Romance is a 1985 American romantic comedy film directed by Martin Ritt. The screenplay by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch was based on the 1980 novella by Max Schott. The film stars Sally Field, James Garner, Brian Kerwin, and Corey Haim, and was produced by Laura Ziskin for Field's production company Fogwood Films.
Emma Moriarty (Sally Field) is a 33-year-old, divorced mother who moves to a rural Arizona town to make a living by training and boarding horses. She becomes friends with the town's druggist (pharmacist), Murphy Jones (James Garner), but a romance between them seems unlikely due to Murphy's age and because Emma allows her ex-husband, Bobby Jack Moriarty (Brian Kerwin), to move back in with her and their 12-year-old son, Jake (Corey Haim).
Emma struggles to make ends meet, but is helped by Murphy, an idiosyncratic widower who drives an otherwise immaculate antique automobile plastered with political bumper slogan stickers Murphy terms his "causes". While refusing to help her outright with charity or personal loan, Murphy buys a horse and pays to board it with Emma, while encouraging others to do the same. He also introduces Emma to the town's local politicians and provides much-needed emotional support for Emma as well as Jake, who is looking for a father figure to emulate. A rivalry soon develops between Murphy and Bobby Jack. This contest of wills continues until a character shows up from Bobby Jack's recent past that surprises everyone, while forcing Murphy and Emma to reevaluate the nature of their relationship.
- Sally Field as Emma Moriarty
- James Garner as Murphy Jones
- Brian Kerwin as Bobby Jack Moriarty
- Corey Haim as Jake Moriarty
- Dennis Burkley as Freeman Coverly
- Carole King as Tillie
- Georgann Johnson as Margaret
- Dortha Duckworth as Bessie
- Michael Prokopuk as Albert
- Billy Ray Sharkey as Larry Le Beau
- Michael Crabtree as Jim Forrest
- Anna Levine as Wanda
- Charles Lane as Amos Abbott
- Bruce French as Rex Boyd
- John C. Becher as Jesse Parker
- Henry Slate as Fred Hite
Sally Field and director Martin Ritt had to fight Columbia Pictures in order to cast Garner, who was viewed at that point as primarily a television actor despite having enjoyed a flourishing film career in the 1960s (and more recently having co-starred in the box office hit Victor/Victoria opposite Julie Andrews two years earlier).
Columbia didn't want to make the picture at all, because it had no "sex or violence" in it. But because of the success of Norma Rae (1979), with the same star (Field), director, and screenwriting team (Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch), and with Field's new production company Fogwood Films producing, Columbia agreed. But, Columbia then wanted Marlon Brando, or someone with "greater box-office allure," to play the part of Murphy, so Field and Ritt had to insist on Garner.   
When Ritt gave the Max Schott story to Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch, the same married screenplay team that also worked on Hud (1963) with Ritt and Paul Newman, they wanted Newman to be in Murphy's Romance. Field had worked very successfully with Newman in 1981's Absence of Malice, but Newman declined the project and Garner was the only other actor that Ritt and Field asked.
Part of the deal from the studio, which at that time was owned by The Coca-Cola Company, included an eight line sequence of Field and Garner saying the word "Coke," and also having Coke signs appear prominently in the film.
The film was originally scheduled for general release during the 1985 Christmas Day weekend, but Columbia moved it to the weekends of January 17 and January 31, 1986, when they saw the holiday lineup of films. They did a limited, selected, release December 25, 1985 so that the film would qualify for that year's Academy Awards.
The film was one of the final titles to be released on the now defunct CED Videodisc format in 1986.
Reviews were generally favorable. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars (out of 4) stating "Much depends on exactly what Emma and Murphy say to each other, and how they say it, and what they don't say. The movie gets it all right." The film holds a 71% on the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews.
Divergence from the novella
The screenplay is very different from the Max Schott novella. In the Schott story, Murphy and Emma stay just platonic friends. Murphy marries someone else, and then tries to find Emma a suitable husband.
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- Box office / business for Murphy's Romance. - IMDb
- Cameron, Julia. "Garner Fits Romantic Role, Not Hollywood Pigeonhole." Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1986.
- Laurence, Robert P. "Garner doesn't go by the book in role in 'Breathing Lessons'." San Diego Union-Tribune, February 6, 1994.
- Rosenthal, Phil. "Garner Remains TV's Class Act." Daily News of Los Angeles, February 6, 1994.
- Sachs, Lloyd. "Sally Field says what she means—'Murphy's Romance' star is not just another perky face." Chicago Sun-Times, January 19, 1986. Retrieved: 2008-08-03
- Lumenick, Lou. "For Sally Field, A Two-Sided Romance." The Record, January 17, 1986. Retrieved: 2008-08-03
- Baltake, Joe. "The Packaging of Hollywood of Advertising," Sacramento Bee. May 13, 1990.
- "Blowing Smoke - They've Coma a Long Way, Baby, In pushing Cigarettes on Screen," Sacramento Bee, January 14, 1996. Retrieved: 2008-08-03
- Nelson, Ted. - "James Garner: Hollywood Maverick." - A&E Biography. - October 2, 2000. - New York, NY: A & E Home Video. - ISBN 978-0-7670-3361-9
- Filming locations for Murphy's Romance. - IMDb
- Murphy's Romance from Roger Ebert's Chicago Sun-Times website
- Murphy's Romance at Rotten Tomatoes
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
- Murphy's Romance at the Internet Movie Database
- Murphy's Romance at the TCM Movie Database
- Murphy's Romance at AllMovie
- Murphy's Romance at Box Office Mojo
- Murphy's Romance at Rotten Tomatoes
- James Garner interview on the Charlie Rose Show
- James Garner interview at the Archive of American Television