Southern Comfort (2001 film)

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Southern Comfort
Directed byKate Davis
Produced byKate Davis
CinematographyKate Davis
Edited byKate Davis
Music byJoel Harrison
Distributed byHBO Documentary
Release date
Running time
90 mins
CountryUnited States

Southern Comfort is a 2001 documentary film about the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a transgender man. Eads, diagnosed with ovarian cancer, was turned down for treatment by a dozen doctors out of fear that treating such a patient would hurt their reputations. By the time Eads received treatment, the cancer was too advanced to save his life.[1]


The film begins in the spring and documents Eads' life through the following winter. Eads falls in love with Lola, a transgender woman. He spends those remaining warm days in the company of his "chosen family": Maxwell, Cas, and "the rest". That summer, his mother and father drive ten hours to visit Robert, who is still their daughter in their eyes. His son and grandson also come to visit him that summer. His son struggles to gender him correctly and says he will always be "mom" in his eyes. But his grandson knows and has always known him as "papaw". Later that year, Eads makes his last appearance at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, a prominent[2] transgender gathering. Already feeling ill, he addresses a crowd of 500 and takes Lola to what is for them a prom that never was. Shortly after the conference, Eads dies in a nursing home with his chosen family beside him.

After Eads' death, his ashes were spread across the family farm around a lone Christmas tree which was to symbolize Robert's many changes and blossomings in life.

Eads' friends, Tom and Debbie King, also appear in the film. They saved Eads' life when he collapsed in a pool of his own blood while staying with them. They initially sought treatment for Eads but were unable to locate a doctor willing to treat a transgender man.

Eads' lifelong struggle to have his outer appearance match his inner self is a salient theme in the movie. All persons portrayed in the movie wrestle with themes of rejection from others, rejection of self, feeling ostracized from humanity and ultimately crafting their own lives and personal support systems.

Stage adaptation[edit]

A stage musical, based on the film, was presented off-Broadway at the Public Theater. The musical was conceived by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso, with book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis, and directed by Caruso. The musical ran from February 22, 2016 (previews) to March 27, 2016.[3][4][5] Annette O'Toole was featured as Robert Eads, with Jeff McCarthy as "Lola Cola".[6][7]

The musical had a workshop production by the off-off-Broadway CAP 21 Theatre Company from October 6, 2011 to November 5, 2011.[8][9]

The musical then was produced at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in July 2013, as part of the BSC Musical Theatre Lab.[10]

Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins won the Jonathan Larson Grant in 2012.[7][11][12]

The stage adaption faced some criticism for its failure to cast more trans actors. All but two of the roles had been filled by cisgender actors.[13][14] However, Pride Films & Plays in Chicago announced a new production in 2019 featuring trans performers playing all five transgender characters.[15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ravishankar, Mathura (January 18, 2013). "The Story About Robert Eads". The Journal of Global Health. Archived from the original on September 14, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ Erhardt, Virginia (2007). Head over heels: wives who stay with cross-dressers and transsexuals. Haworth Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7890-3094-8.
  3. ^ Stock, Allison. "Annette O'Toole and Jeff McCarthy Open in Public Theater's 'Southern Comfort'", March 9, 2016
  4. ^ "'Southern Comfort', Starring Annette O'Toole & Jeff McCarthy, Delays Official Off-Broadway Opening", March 7, 2016
  5. ^ "Public announces casting for 'Southern Comfort'" Archived 2016-03-14 at the Wayback Machine, December 17, 2015
  6. ^ Southern Comfort, accessed March 14, 2016
  7. ^ a b Clement, Olivia. "Transgender Musical 'Southern Comfort' Opens Tonight" Playbill, March 13, 2016
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew. "New Musical 'Southern Comfort', Featuring Annette O'Toole and Jeff McCarthy, Extends Run" Playbill, October 28, 2011
  9. ^ Rooney, David. "Theater Review. 'Southern Comfort'" The New York Times, October 12, 2011
  10. ^ Murray, Larry. "Barrington Stage’s musical 'Southern Comfort' set for NY’s Public Theater", February 11, 2016
  11. ^ "Larson Award, 2012", accessed March 14, 2015
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "'Southern Comfort' Writers Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins Are Jonathan Larson Grant Winners" Playbill, March 9, 2012
  13. ^ "An Open Letter to The Public Theater". Google Docs. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  14. ^ Fornarola, Isaac (2015-12-23). "Trans* Artist Writes Open Letter to Public Theater After 'Southern Comfort' Cast Announcement". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
  15. ^ "Pride Films and Plays casts 'Southern Comfort'". Chicago Tribune. 2018-12-28. Retrieved 2019-01-23.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Succeeded by