Taglines: The story of a woman fighting for her children, for her land, for the greatest dream there is…the future.
Edna Spalding finds herself alone and broke on a small farm in the midst of the Great Depression when her husband the Sheriff is killed in an accident. A wandering black man, Moses, helps her to plant cotton to try and keep her farm and her kids together. She also takes on a blind boarder, Mr. Will, who lost his sight in the first World War. She must endure storms and harsh labor to try and make her mortgage payment on time.
Places in the Heart is a 1984 American drama film written and directed by Robert Benton about a U.S. Depression-era Texas widow who tries to save the family farm with the help of a blind white man and a poor black man. It stars Sally Field, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, John Malkovich, Danny Glover and Terry O’Quinn. It was filmed in Waxahachie, Texas. Field won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
About the Story
It is the year 1935 and Waxahachie, Texas is a small, segregated town in the midst of a depression. One evening the local sheriff, Royce Spalding, leaves the family dinner table 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, for all the community to see, 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 money is scarce; the price for cotton is plummeting and many farms are going under. The local banker, Mr. Denby, pays her a visit. He begins to pressure her to sell the farm as he doesn’t see how she can afford to make the loan payments on her own let alone run the farm.
A drifter and handyman, a black man by the name of Moses, 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 instead and sends him on his way. In desperation, Moses steals some of her silver spoons before he leaves. Similarly desperate, Edna finally resolves to keep her family together on the farm no matter what.
When the police capture Moses with her stolen silver, and bring him back to confirm the theft, Edna seizes the opportunity. She lies to the police and says he is her hired man. She sees there is more to gain from the situation because of what he knows about growing and marketing cotton, so she chooses not to prosecute him but to hire him instead.
The next day, Edna visits the banker, Mr. Denby, to relay her decision not to sell the farm but to work the land and raise cotton. He is frustrated by Edna and her decision but ultimately manipulates the situation when he unloads his blind brother-in-law, Will, on Edna, compelling her to take him in as a lodger. Will lost his sight in the war, but has remained fiercely independent and somewhat marginalized since. He begins to soften, however, as he and the others living at the farm become more and more like family while they weather life’s storms together.
Places in the Heart (1984)
Directed by: Robert Benton
Starring: Sally Field, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, John Malkovich, Danny Glover, Yankton Hatten, Gennie James, Toni Hudson
Screenplay by: Robert Benton
Production Design by: Gene Callahan
Cinematography by: Néstor Almendros
Film Editing by: Carol Littleton
Costume Design by: Ann Roth
Set Decoration by: Derek R. Hill, Lee Poll
Art Direction by: Sydney Z. Litwack
Music by: John Kander
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: September 21, 1984