Straight Talk

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Straight Talk
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarnet Kellman
Produced by
Written byCraig Bolotin
Music by
CinematographyPeter Sova
Edited byMichael Tronick
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 1992 (1992-04-03) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$21 million

Straight Talk is a 1992 American romantic comedy film directed by Barnet Kellman and starring Dolly Parton and James Woods.


Shirlee Kenyon is a dance instructor living in Arkansas. After she is fired for giving advice to her clients rather than teaching them dance, she attempts to convince her common-law husband (Michael Madsen) to move to Chicago with her. After he declines and then belittles her, she decides to move there without him.

Once she arrives, she stands on a bridge enjoying the view of the city when she accidentally drops a twenty dollar bill. As she climbs over the rail to retrieve the money, Jack (James Woods), an investigative journalist, sees her from the office window of the newspaper for which he works, and assumes that she is trying to commit suicide. He runs out to rescue her, but as he attempts to grab her and "save" her, Shirlee loses her balance, and almost falls into the water below; she loses the money she had been trying to recover.

After they recover, and she informs Jack that she had, in fact, not been attempting suicide, but was merely trying to recover a twenty dollar bill, Jack tries to give her money, saying she must need it more than him if she is willing to risk her life to retrieve it.

She refuses and the two part. Shirlee stops into a cafe for breakfast, and strikes up a conversation with another customer, Janice (Teri Hatcher), who is annoyed at having been stood up by her boyfriend the previous evening. Shirlee tells Janice that he is taking her for granted, and advises her to end the relationship, only to realize that Janice's boyfriend is, in fact, Jack; Jack shows up, and Janice tells him she no longer wants to see him. Jack thanks Shirlee for "wrecking his entire day", as he exits the cafe.

After a series of failed job interviews, a manager at a local radio station (Paula Newsome) hires her as a switchboard operator, despite her lack of experience, and during her first day, she inadvertently walks into a studio, and is mistaken for the station's new call in therapist, is put on the air, and begins hesitantly talking with the show's callers. Upon completion of the show, the program director arrives, and fires Shirlee, along with the producer and engineer, who had made the mistake in putting her on the air.

However, Shirlee's radio segment becomes in high demand with their audience, prompting the radio station boss, Mr. Perlman, to demand that Shirlee be the new radio personality. Alan finds Shirlee and convince her to do the show offering an $800 per week contract. Shirlee accepts the position, but there is one condition: she must pretend to be a real clinical doctor.

She reluctantly accepts and becomes a popular radio figure as "Doctor Shirlee." Jack suspects something when he realizes the woman who was ready to risk her life for twenty dollars is a doctor. Although his editor disagrees, Jack pursues the story. He begins to date Shirlee, initially in an attempt to get closer to her to uncover her story, but he soon falls in love with her. Shirlee's boyfriend from Arkansas arrives in Chicago to try to get her back, though his attempts fall short, and Shirlee and Jack make love.

Afterwards, Jack develops true feelings for her and refuses to publish the story, resigning from his job over the matter. However, Shirlee receives another visit from her ex, who tells her that he just remembered having previously met Jack in Arkansas, and that he was asking a number of questions about her. This leads Shirlee to realize that Jack is, in fact, a reporter, and his interest in her is merely a means to uncovering her story. She storms off, and refuses to take Jack's calls.

As Shirlee's popularity increases, a mishap involving some of her previous advice to one of her callers eventually causes her to confess the truth to everyone on air that she is not a real doctor, and she then leaves the show. All of her listeners call in and want her back, regardless of her credentials. Someone calls the show and tells everyone listening to honk their horns at midnight if they want Shirlee back. Jack tracks Shirlee down on the same bridge where they had first met and convinces her to take him back.

When she hears the horns, Jack tells her that they are for her. She eventually goes back to the radio show, but insists that she just wants to be called "Shirlee."


Actor Role
Dolly Parton Shirlee Kenyon
James Woods John "Jack" Russell
Griffin Dunne Alan Riegert
Michael Madsen Steve
Philip Bosco Gene Perlman
Jerry Orbach Milo Jacoby
Deirdre O'Connell Lily
John Sayles Guy Girardi
Teri Hatcher Janice
Spalding Gray Dr. David Erdman
Amy Morton Ann
Charles Fleischer Tony
Keith MacKechnie Gordon
Jay Thomas Zim Zimmerman
Paula Newsome Ellen
Tracy Letts Sean
John Gegenhuber Waiter


The vast majority of the film was shot in historic downtown Lemont, Illinois. The "Flank Center" building was used to house the dance sequence scenes in the beginning of the film. Both Dolly Parton and James Woods ate at local establishments during filming off times.

Most filming occurred in the early hours of the morning with the usage of high intensity floodlights to depict daytime. This was done to reduce interference with the general public who crowded the streets throughout the weeks of filming. The bar in the raining scene, Tom's Place, and the Barber Shop are still open with some small movie memorabilia.


Parton composed ten original songs for the film soundtrack, including a re recording of her 1976 "Light of a Clear Blue Morning".


The film received mixed reviews, with much of the praise going to Parton and Woods's performances, while at the same time criticizing the story itself.[1][2]

Box office[edit]

Straight Talk opened at the American box office at No. 4, grossing $4,575,746.[3] The movie spent four weeks in the box office charts and grossed $21,202,099.[4] The film was released in the United Kingdom on June 12, 1992, and opened at No. 1.[5]

Home media[edit]

The film was released to VHS and laserdisc shortly after its theatrical release by Hollywood Pictures Home Video. A DVD release came from Hollywood Pictures Home Video in 2003. In 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the home video rights to the film, along with many others from Hollywood and Touchstone Pictures and released the film on DVD and Blu ray. Mill Creek's DVD of the film is available by itself, as part of a double-feature set with Big Business, and a triple feature set with Big Business and V.I. Warshawski.


  1. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1992-04-03). "MOVIE REVIEWS : Parton Gets Hung Up in Phony 'Talk'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (1992-04-03). "Straight Talk (1992) Review/Film Dolly Parton Dominates A Comedy". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-03. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Dutka, Elaine (1992-04-07). "Weekend Box Office : 'White Men' Outjumps 'Basic Instinct'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-06. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Straight Talk (1992) - Weekend Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ "UK Weekend Box Office 12th June 1992 - 14th June 1992". Retrieved 11 July 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]