Places in the Heart

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Places in the Heart
Places in the Heart (1984), poster.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byRobert Benton
Produced byArlene Donovan
Written byRobert Benton
Music byJohn Kander
CinematographyNéstor Almendros
Edited byCarol Littleton
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • September 21, 1984 (1984-09-21)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.5 million
Box office$34.9 million

Places in the Heart is a 1984 American family drama film written and directed by Robert Benton.[1][2] The film stars Sally Field,[3] Lindsay Crouse,[3] Ed Harris,[3] Ray Baker,[3] Amy Madigan,[4][5] John Malkovich,[3] Danny Glover,[6] Jerry Haynes and Terry O'Quinn.[7] The film's narrative follows Edna Spalding, a young woman during the Great Depression in Texas who is forced to take charge of her farm after the death of her husband and is helped by a motley bunch.

Places in the Heart premiered at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear, while Benton won the Silver Bear for Best Director. It was theatrically released on September 21, 1984 by TriStar Pictures to critical and commercial success. Reviewers praised Benton's screenplay and direction and performances of the cast (particularly of Field, Malkovich and Crouse), while the film grossed $34.9 million against a $9.5 million budget. The film received seven nominations at the 57th Academy Awards including for the Best Picture and won two: Best Actress (for Field), and Best Original Screenplay.


It is 1935 and Waxahachie, Texas, is a small, segregated town in the midst of the Great Depression. One afternoon the local sheriff, Royce Spalding, goes to investigate trouble at the rail yards. He dies after being accidentally shot by a young black boy, Wylie. Local white vigilantes tie Wylie to a truck and drag his body through town before hanging him from a tree.

The sheriff's widow, Edna Spalding, is left to raise her children alone and maintain the family farm. The bank has a note on the farm, and the price for cotton is plummeting. The local banker, Albert Denby, suggests that she sell the farm as he doesn't see how she can afford to make the loan payments.

A drifter and handyman, a black man by the name of Moses Hadner - "Moze" - appears at her door one night, asking for work. He offers to plant cotton on all her acres and cites his experience. Edna declines to hire him but offers him a meal and sends him on his way. The next morning, she sees him voluntarily chopping wood in her yard. She offers to make him breakfast on the condition that he leaves. Moze steals some of her silver spoons and leaves. When the police capture Moze with her stolen silver and bring him back to confirm the theft, Edna says she had hired him.

The next day, Edna visits Mr. Denby to relay her decision not to sell the farm. He unloads his blind brother-in-law, Will, on Edna, compelling her to take him in as a paid lodger. Will is slow to warm up to her children, but they eventually become close and he rescues her daughter Possum during a tornado. Moze helps Edna's son Frank find his way home during the tornado.

Edna realizes she cannot make the next payment even if she sells all her cotton. The bank declines Edna's request for relief, but she learns of an Ellis County contest: a $100 cash prize to the farmer who produces the first bale of cotton for market each season. Edna realizes the prize money plus the proceeds from the sale of her cotton would be enough to allow her to keep the farm. Edna knows she will need more pickers, and Moze agrees to help her find the help so they can harvest the cotton on time.

Their efforts pay off as Edna and Moze find themselves first in line at the wholesaler with the season's first bale of cotton. Moze carefully coaches Edna on how to negotiate with the buyer, and as a result he is unable to cheat her. That night, Moze is accosted by Ku Klux Klan members and savagely beaten. Will, who recognizes all the assailants' voices as local white men, confronts and identifies them one by one; they all run off. Moze realizes he will have to leave the farm because of possible future attacks.

The story ends with the community in prayer. Communion is passed among the assembled congregants at the church, hand to hand and mouth to mouth, between both the living and the deceased. The last line of the film is spoken by Wylie to Royce Spalding, "Peace of God". The film closes with all the characters gathered in church singing in unison.



Places in the Heart was released in theatres on September 21, 1984.[8] The film was released on DVD on October 9, 2001, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[9]


Box office[edit]

Places in the Heart grossed $274,279 in its opening weekend.[10] The film grossed $34.9 million in the US.[11]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 89% based on reviews from 37 critics and a rating average of 8.01 out of 10. The consensus is: "Places in the Heart is a quiet character piece with grand ambitions that it more than fulfills, thanks to absorbing work from writer-director Robert Benton and a tremendous cast."[12] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in his review: "Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American." Canby called it "moving and often funny" and "a tonic, a revivifying experience right down to the final images", comparing it to Luis Buñuel's Tristana".[8] Roger Ebert wrote in his review that Benton's "memories provide the material for a wonderful movie, and he has made it, but unfortunately he hasn't stopped at that. He has gone on to include too much. He tells a central story of great power, and then keeps leaving it to catch us up with minor characters we never care about."[13]


In 1985, when Sally Field accepted her second Oscar (the first was for Norma Rae), she uttered the memorable (and much-mocked) line "I can't deny the fact that you like me—right now, you like me!" It is often commonly misquoted as "You like me—you really like me!"

Award Category Recipient Result
57th Academy Awards[14] Best Picture Arlene Donovan Nominated
Best Director Robert Benton Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Won
Best Actress Sally Field Won
Best Supporting Actor John Malkovich Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Lindsay Crouse Nominated
Best Costume Design Ann Roth Nominated
Golden Globe Award[15] Best Motion Picture – Drama Arlene Donovan Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Sally Field Won
Best Screenplay Robert Benton Nominated
Silver Bear[16] Best Director Won

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ "Places in the Heart". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  2. ^ "Places in the Heart". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. United States: American Film Institute. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Walters 2015, p. 284.
  4. ^ Müller 2003, p. 278.
  5. ^ Nichols & Scott 2004, p. 768.
  6. ^ Blakely 2001, p. 40.
  7. ^ Anker 2010, p. 196.
  8. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (September 21, 1984). "FILM: 'PLACES IN THE HEART,' BENTON'S WAXAHACHIE IN THE DEPRESSION". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  9. ^ "Places in the Heart". Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Culver City, California: Sony Pictures Entertainment. October 9, 2001. ASIN B00005NRN8. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "Places in the Heart". Box Office Mojo. United States: Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  11. ^ "Places in the Heart". Box Office Mojo. United States: Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  12. ^ "Places in the Heart". Rotten Tomatoes. United States: Fandango. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1084). "Places in the Heart". Chicago: Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  14. ^ "1985 Oscars". Academy Awards. United States: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  15. ^ "1985 Golden Globes". Golden Globe Award. United States: Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  16. ^ "1985 Berlin Festival". Silver Bear. Berlin: Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). AFI Catalog of Feature Films. United States: American Film Institute. Retrieved August 14, 2016.


External links[edit]