Places in the Heart

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Places in the Heart
Places in the Heart (1984), poster.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Robert Benton
Produced by Arlene Donovan
Written by Robert Benton
Music by John Kander
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Edited by Carol Littleton
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date
September 21, 1984
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9.5 million
Box office $34,901,614

Places in the Heart is a 1984 American drama film written and directed by Robert Benton[1][2] 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, 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] It was filmed in Waxahachie, Texas. Field won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.


It is 1935 and Waxahachie, Texas is a small, segregated town in the midst of a 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 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 pressures her to 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, 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 due to some of her own racism but offers him a meal 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. When the police capture Moses with her stolen silver and bring him back to confirm the theft, Edna lies that he is her hired man.

The next day, Edna visits Mr. Denby to relay her decision not to sell the farm but to work the land and raise cotton, he manipulates the situation when he unloads his blind brother-in-law, Will, on Edna, compelling her to take him in as a lodger.

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 the Ellis County contest; a $100 cash prize is awarded 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 though and despite his initial protests, Moses agrees to help her find the help so they can harvest the cotton on time.

Their efforts pay off as Edna and Moses find themselves first in line at the wholesaler with the season's first bale of cotton. Moses carefully coaches Edna on how to negotiate with the buyer, and as a result he is unable to cheat her, that night, Moses 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 and Moses' life is saved. Moses realizes he will have to leave the farm, however, under threat of future attacks.

The story ends with community and in the midst of prayer; in a highly symbolic and imaginary scene, 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 grossed $$274,279 in its opening week-end.[8] The film grossed $34,901,614 domestically.[9]

Critical response[edit]

Places in the Heart was met with critical acclaim:

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 96% based on reviews from 27 critics, and a rating average of 8.1 out of 10 with the consensus: "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."[10]

Film critic Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote in his review: "OUT of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned mortgage melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American. Its title is Places in the Heart, which is misleading in its sentimentality, for the film itself, though full of sentiment, demonstrates in every other way the writer-director's built- in junk-detector. [...] Places in the Heart is the moving and often funny story of how Edna Spaulding, through hard work, grit and a certain amount of luck, manages to see things through. Edna, as beautifully played by Miss Field, has a lot of the steadfastness that distinguished the actress's Oscar-winning performance in Norma Rae. However, Edna is also a much less sophisticated personality, whose growth, in the course of the film, reflects an almost 19th-century faith in the possibilities of the American system, not as the system was, but as one wanted to believe it to be. [...] Places in the Heart is a tonic, a revivifying experience right down to the final images, which, like those at the end of Luis Bunuel's Tristana, carry us back to the very beginning of the cycle of these particular lives."[11]

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review: "The places referred to in the title of Robert Benton's movie are, he has said, places that he holds sacred in his own heart: The small town in Texas where he grew up, various friends and relatives he remembers from those days, the little boy that he once was, and the things that happened or almost happened. His 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. [...] The movie's last scene has caused a lot of comment. It is a dreamy, idealistic fantasy in which all the characters in the film -- friends and enemies, wives and mistresses, living and dead, black and white -- take communion together at a church service, this is a scene of great vision and power, but it's too strong for the movie it concludes. Places in the Heart can't support such an ending, because it hasn't led up to it with a narrative that was straight and well-aimed as an arrow. The story was on the farm and not in the town, and although the last scene tries to draw them together, you can't summarize things that have nothing in common."[12]


In 1985, when Sally Field reached the lectern to accept 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 erroneously recalled as, "You like me—you really like me!"

Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
57th Academy Awards Best Picture Arlene Donovan Nominated [13]
Best Director Robert Benton Nominated [13]
Best Original Screenplay Won [13]
Best Actress Sally Field Won [13]
Best Supporting Actor John Malkovich Nominated [13]
Best Supporting Actress Lindsay Crouse Nominated [13]
Best Costume Design Ann Roth Nominated [13]
Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Drama Arlene Donovan Nominated [14]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Sally Field Won [14]
Best Screenplay Robert Benton Nominated [14]
Silver Bear Best Director Won [15]

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


Places in the Heart was released in theatres on September 21, 1984.[11] The film was released on DVD on October 9, 2001, by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[17]


  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. ^ "Places in the Heart". Box Office Mojo. United States: Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Places in the Heart". Box Office Mojo. United States: Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  10. ^ "Places in the Heart". Rotten Tomatoes. United States: Fandango. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (September 21, 1984). "FILM: 'PLACES IN THE HEART,' BENTON'S WAXAHACHIE IN THE DEPRESSION". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1084). "Places in the Heart". Chicago: Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "1985 Oscars". Academy Awards. United States: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c "1985 Golden Globes". Golden Globe Award. United States: Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  15. ^ "1985 Berlin Festival". Silver Bear. Berlin: Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). AFI Catalog of Feature Films. United States: American Film Institute. Retrieved August 14, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Places in the Heart". Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Culver City, California: Sony Pictures Entertainment. October 9, 2001. ASIN B00005NRN8. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 


External links[edit]