Rambling Rose (film)

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Rambling Rose
DVD cover
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Produced by Renny Harlin
Mario Kassar
Edgar J. Scherick
Written by Calder Willingham
Starring Laura Dern
Robert Duvall
Diane Ladd
Lukas Haas
John Heard
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Johnny E. Jensen
Edited by Steven Cohen
Distributed by Seven Arts Pictures (through New Line Cinema)
Release dates
  • September 20, 1991 (1991-09-20)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7.5 million
Box office $6,266,671

Rambling Rose is a 1991 American drama film set in Georgia during the Great Depression starring Laura Dern and Robert Duvall in leading roles with Lukas Haas, John Heard and Diane Ladd in supporting roles. Rambling Rose was directed by Martha Coolidge and written by Calder Willingham (adapted from his own 1972 novel of the same name).

Both Laura Dern and Diane Ladd, daughter and mother in real life, were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, making them the first ever mother-daughter duo to be nominated for Academy Awards for the same film or even in the same year. Laura Dern, 24 at the time, was among the youngest actresses to be nominated in the leading actress category.


The film depicts the struggles of Rose (Dern) to stay employed with the Hillyer family and thus avoid the pitfalls of The Great Depression and prostitution. As Rose enters the Hillyer family dwelling as a domestic servant, chaos ensues. Rose has a long history of being sexually abused and confuses overt and promiscuous sex with love. She develops a crush on Mr. Hillyer (Duvall) that he resists by citing the example of the Spartans' "thou shalt not pass". Meanwhile, Mrs. Hillyer, who is working on her doctoral dissertation, and is a pronounced feminist, becomes Rose's greatest protector. When Rose turns up sick, it is Mrs. Hillyer who protects her interests as Mr. Hillyer and an unscrupulous physician plot to "fix" Rose's problems for good.

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