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Hollywood's obsession with Farm movies in the mid 80s

You had "The River" with Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, "Country" with Jessica Lange, "Places in the Heart" with Sally Field and "The Dollmaker" with Jane Fonda. Why were studios at the time greenlighting movies with the exact same premise, farming families struggling to maintain their way of life?

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by Anonymousreply 74April 20, 2023 8:44 PM

Field of Dreams (a few years later)

by Anonymousreply 1March 21, 2023 9:41 PM

Mel's character in this was incredibly unsympathetic and dour, and his performance was blamed for the film's poor box office showing.

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by Anonymousreply 2March 21, 2023 9:42 PM

Jessica Lange had the cinematographer of "Country" fired because she didn't like the way the movie was looking. They should have called it "Cuntry" with her diva antics.

by Anonymousreply 3March 21, 2023 9:49 PM

What about Hollywood's obsession with Farm movies in the 1940s?

And 1950s?

by Anonymousreply 4March 21, 2023 9:52 PM

There was a farm crisis in the 80s.

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by Anonymousreply 5March 21, 2023 10:17 PM

Farm crisis in the 30s.

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by Anonymousreply 6March 21, 2023 10:23 PM

"Places in the Heart" was set during the Great Depression. "The River" and "Country" took place during the farm crisis of the 1980s, with struggling families facing foreclosure.

Lange was offered PitH, but turned it down. She settled on "The River," but dropped out just before shooting began. Supposedly, in turn, the producers named the heifer 'Jessica.' Lange started her own production company and co-produced "Country," which she intended to be more critical of Reagan's farm policies.

by Anonymousreply 7March 21, 2023 10:41 PM

M and G should have played lesbian farmers. I suppose they still could.

by Anonymousreply 8March 21, 2023 10:45 PM

Was Reagan responsible for the farm crisis as well?

by Anonymousreply 9March 21, 2023 10:47 PM

[quote]Hollywood's obsession with Farm movies in the mid 80s


More like a mountain to climb. Except the mountain comes in you in the end and that's all she wrote!

by Anonymousreply 10March 21, 2023 10:53 PM

Yes r9

by Anonymousreply 11March 21, 2023 10:57 PM

Was Roosevelt responsible for the 1930s farm crisis?

by Anonymousreply 12March 21, 2023 11:02 PM

I remember the movies were lumped together and called “The Hollywood Farm Report”.

by Anonymousreply 13March 21, 2023 11:53 PM

They were all nominated in the same year. Sally won, of course.

It’s odd, Places In The Heart was nominated for 7 Oscars and won two and was a much admired film at the time. But nobody talks about it anymore, it doesn’t seem to register any interest with film buffs.

by Anonymousreply 14March 22, 2023 12:02 AM

Anyone who enjoys farm crisis films should check out the PBS documentary "The Farmer's Wife," from 1998. There are other documentaries of that era that focus on the same subject, like "Troublesome Creek," but this three-part Frontline special was truly remarkable.

by Anonymousreply 15March 22, 2023 12:08 AM

My god, was Sam Shepard HAWT. I remember watching whatever one he was in for a high school class.

Why did Sally Field win again? In such a short span of time?

by Anonymousreply 16March 22, 2023 12:25 AM

Because they liked her, R16.

by Anonymousreply 17March 22, 2023 12:28 AM

R13 I remember them being called “Places in the River Country” by some critic.

by Anonymousreply 18March 22, 2023 12:32 AM

I suppose if you couldn't get cast in Out of Africa, Silkwood, or A Cry in the Dark, doing a 'farm' movie was a better option than say...MAXIE!!!

by Anonymousreply 19March 22, 2023 1:02 AM

Farming really collapsed in the 80s, and it was one of the first levels of local businesses to get wiped out by corporations. Now corporations are fucking up every level of America.

by Anonymousreply 20March 22, 2023 1:04 AM

It was a backlash against Jordache jeans.

by Anonymousreply 21March 22, 2023 1:10 AM

😮 🐄

by Anonymousreply 22March 22, 2023 1:33 AM

I had a farm in Africa.

by Anonymousreply 23March 22, 2023 8:59 AM

I memorized Sally Field's big speech from HBO when I was a kid. (now you listen to me if we lose this place you're going back to begging for every meal.....)

I was gay btw.

by Anonymousreply 24March 22, 2023 9:00 AM

R3 she didn’t like the way the movie looked or she didn’t like the way she looked in the movie? Because by the mid-80s she had already lost a lot of her looks.

by Anonymousreply 25March 22, 2023 9:30 AM

Lange still had her looks in Country. It was Crimes of the Heart 2 years later where she had put on baby weight and looked older.

by Anonymousreply 26March 22, 2023 9:49 AM

Places in the Heart was the only farm movie that made any money at the box office, Country and the River both tanked. Jane Fonda had to do her version of the Dollmaker for ABC because no movie studio wanted it. Pauline Kael referred to it as “misguidedly noble” in her review of the Morning After.

Lange’s reaction at losing the Oscar to Field is a hoot. Neither of them exactly ascended to new career heights afterwards; just goes to show that the Oscars don’t predict anything.

by Anonymousreply 27March 22, 2023 1:00 PM

The grim outlook for the American farmer was a big issue in the early to mid '80s not only in movies. That was also the era of the Farm Aid benefit concerts, and didactic songs on the topic by such as John Cougar Mellencamp ("Rain on the Scarecrow") and Don Henley ("A Month of Sundays").

by Anonymousreply 28March 22, 2023 1:12 PM

I assume this was a direct correlation to Carter’s presidency, just like you had lots of movies about actors after Reagan.

by Anonymousreply 29March 22, 2023 1:25 PM

I think Lange looked good with more weight on her and didn’t lose her looks until the bizarre plastic surgery she started getting in the early 2000s. It was around 2003ish I really noticed a change in her face.

by Anonymousreply 30March 22, 2023 3:29 PM

I loved Country the most. I used to watch it on HBO as a little kid all the time, which is weird!

by Anonymousreply 31March 22, 2023 3:34 PM

In broken flowers, jess looked… bizarre.

by Anonymousreply 32March 22, 2023 3:41 PM

Jessica Lange sucked in that movie. In contrast, I thought Sissy Spacek was wonderful in The River. Natural and compelling.

by Anonymousreply 33March 22, 2023 3:48 PM

People have farms, OP. Hate to break it to you.

by Anonymousreply 34March 22, 2023 3:52 PM

Was Days of Heaven from the 70's a precursor?

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by Anonymousreply 35March 22, 2023 3:59 PM

How does 4 movies in a span of 4-6 years constitute an "obsession?"

by Anonymousreply 36March 22, 2023 4:08 PM

Roger Ebert gave "Country" 3 1/2 stars, considering it the best of the farm films of 1984, and likening it to "The Grapes of Wrath." "Places in the Heart," however, was the crowd pleaser and the less political of the three.

by Anonymousreply 37March 22, 2023 4:10 PM

R35 This is a fantastic movie, save Richard Gere's totally out of place Brando drag performance.

by Anonymousreply 38March 22, 2023 4:14 PM

R33 Pauline Kael, a Lange fan, agreed with you. She said Country suffered from totally miscasting Lange as a good ol' Steinbeck suffering farm wife type, which she was too beautiful and glamorous to pull off. Spacek was very suited towards these kinds of roles, Field too.

by Anonymousreply 39March 22, 2023 4:16 PM

The only reason "Country" came into existence was because Jessica Lange was supposed to play Sissy's role in "The River" but dropped out at the eleventh hour in order to do her own version of the same story. More fool her, because "The River" is a superior film.

by Anonymousreply 40March 22, 2023 4:17 PM

More Pharm movies!

by Anonymousreply 41March 22, 2023 4:18 PM

r39 Jessica is so tedious in that movie doing her usual stagey overacting. Sissy Spacek is so superior to her as an actress, it's not even funny. Sissy in "The River" makes acting look as natural as breathing.

by Anonymousreply 42March 22, 2023 4:18 PM

Also, did anyone see Sherilyn Fenn in the 1992 Of Mice and Men? This also feels like total miscasting of a modern glamour type as a suffering farm wife.

by Anonymousreply 43March 22, 2023 4:19 PM

Mel Gibson practically harrassed "The River" director to play the lead role but gave such an uninspired performance that he came out of it agreeing that he'd been miscast. He's nice to look at in the movie, but Sissy and the two little actors playing their kids steal all the scenes away from him.

by Anonymousreply 44March 22, 2023 4:21 PM

R42 I don't think Spacek is that much better of an actress, she is often more naturalistic, but I'm not of the opinion that automatically means "superior." She couldn't pull off a lot of Lange's roles because she lacks that haughty crazy glamour thing, and Lange failed at doing farm wife which is Sissy's bread and butter.

I think Sissy was better in Raggedy Man than The River. An underrated little film directed by her husband Jack Fisk.

by Anonymousreply 45March 22, 2023 4:23 PM

Lange failed as a farmer's wife and she also failed tried to emulate Sissy's success playing a country music icon too. In fact, she failed miserably.

by Anonymousreply 46March 22, 2023 4:24 PM

Jessica's character was called Jewell Ivy... haha. That's right, a farmer's wife with a drag queen's name.

by Anonymousreply 47March 22, 2023 4:25 PM

Don’t forget Tender Mercies

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by Anonymousreply 48March 22, 2023 4:26 PM

[quote] she is often more naturalistic, but I'm not of the opinion that automatically means "superior

I agree with this as a general point - there’s an acting expression “when in doubt, do less” - a lot of the lesser actors keep it “natural” because when they go big they totally embarrass themselves. The great (often but not always theatre trained) actors can pull it off beautifully.

That said, I’m not much of a fan of Lange’s theatrics specifically, and I agree Sissy is the better actress.

by Anonymousreply 49March 22, 2023 4:31 PM

Maybe they were a response to the onslaught of "greed is good" thinking that possessed the country at the time. Dynasty, Dallas, Reaganomics, etc. come to mind.

by Anonymousreply 50March 22, 2023 4:36 PM

Country decor was very hot trend in the 80s and 90s. This is a long shot...but movies about country and farms may have tapped into that.

by Anonymousreply 51March 22, 2023 4:36 PM

was *a ^

by Anonymousreply 52March 22, 2023 4:36 PM

r51, this mid 80s period also marked the advent of a prominent soap opera farming family: the Snyder clan on As the World Turns, who soon became the focal point of the show.

by Anonymousreply 53March 22, 2023 4:39 PM

There were also lots of movies about cities and suburbs in the 80s.

by Anonymousreply 54March 22, 2023 4:39 PM

r54 but they didn't have exactly the same plot.

by Anonymousreply 55March 22, 2023 4:42 PM

R25, Lange was attractive in her youth, but I never saw her as a great beauty. Bulbous nose and a face that looks almost masculine from certain angles. When she puts on weight, she starts looking like Shirley Booth.

As far as the farm actresses go, Sissy Spacek is the best IMO. She can match Lange's signature emotional intensity, but never goes over the top as Lange sometimes does. I would also argue that she has the strongest and most interesting filmography of her generation.

by Anonymousreply 56March 22, 2023 4:44 PM

THIS is the best of the farm actresses.....

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by Anonymousreply 57March 22, 2023 4:47 PM

R56 I thought she was really pretty in her 70s model era (she also looked great skinny, which I’m sure was far from natural for her). But I thought even by the time of Tootsie she was perfectly lovely looking but agreed not some “great beauty.” Go look at her in that MOTB dress she wore to pick up her Oscars that year - she can definitely look kind of plain and, well, midwestern - which of course she is.

Her nose is totally fine though - we’re so used to seeing skinny overly contoured noses as the norm now that we forget what a normal small-ish nose even looks like.

by Anonymousreply 58March 22, 2023 4:52 PM

When all is said and done, Sissy Spacek should wind up being considered the greatest actress of her generation, but sadly, she probably won't...

by Anonymousreply 59March 22, 2023 7:36 PM

R56 Lange masculine looking? In what world? I think we have such a warped idea of what beauty is now. She was stunning up through the 2000s. I don't consider tiny ski-slope noses to be the end-all-be all of beauty...so many actresses look better with their natural bulbous noses (Jennifer Connelly was one)

by Anonymousreply 60March 23, 2023 2:43 AM

R3, you're so stupid. Lange looked gorgeous in Country, even though she deglammed. Roger Ebert said he thought she was too beautiful to be completely believable as a mid-western farm wife.

by Anonymousreply 61March 23, 2023 2:46 AM

I think Jessica Lange's beauty was extremely natural, so it doesn't register as Great Beauty. We've had faux-exotic surgeried freaks (Angelina Jolie, every supermodel after the 1970s) shoved in our faces as "Great Beauties" for the past few decades.

Frances Farmer was beautiful and they pretty much looked like twins. I think she has some angles where she looks like Grace Kelly as well.

by Anonymousreply 62March 23, 2023 2:47 AM

[quote]Was Days of Heaven from the 70's a precursor?

It's a great movie, but it's more about the deception and adultery among the three adults, and the young girl's experience on the periphery of that. It doesn't deal explicitly with farm politics, as Country and The River do. The farm is only the setting...although as always in Malick, the camera is in love with the setting.

by Anonymousreply 63March 23, 2023 7:36 AM

There's a scene in "The River" where Sissy's character gets her arm trapped in a piece of farming machinery and is stuck there all day waiting for somebody to find her. It's one of the most unsettling things I've ever seen in the movies, and a thousand times more forboding than any horror film.

by Anonymousreply 64March 24, 2023 1:48 PM

R3 Lange fired the director, whom she remained friends with, and his cinematographer because their warm and treacly vision differed from her the gritty, documentary-like film she was aiming for.

And as many critics have noted, hers is still the best of the farm triptych of the mid-1980s. The performances, Richard Pearce’s clean direction, the gritty cinematography, and George Winston’s haunting score are all sublime.

Fun fact: Levi L. Knebel, who played Lange and Shepard’s son, was a local whose family was undergoing hardship and contacted the production looking for labor work. Lange and the director thought he’d be perfect as Carlisle Ivy and offered him the role.

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by Anonymousreply 65March 24, 2023 9:55 PM

[quote]Places in the Heart was the only farm movie that made any money at the box office, Country and the River both tanked.

[italic]Crix Nix Hix Pix![/italic]

You people are slipping!

by Anonymousreply 66March 25, 2023 12:59 AM

By the late 80s the crisis had passed and the more hilarious side of rural life was celebrated!

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by Anonymousreply 67March 25, 2023 1:07 AM

In my version of “The River”, Mel Gibson works on the farm on weekdays, then flies to Los Angeles on the weekends to shoot scenes for Falcon Video. He raises enough money from his porn shoots to save the farm! The end.

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by Anonymousreply 68March 25, 2023 3:53 AM

I fucked it up (faulty memory!)

It was actually

Stix Nix Hix Pix!

by Anonymousreply 69March 25, 2023 8:16 AM

Ironically Jessica Lange was offered The River but turned it down because she was already attached to doing Country.

The cow is The River is called Jessica by the way.

The River has some nudity and sex scenes which makes it more interesting than A Places in the Heart & Country if one want to be shallow.

by Anonymousreply 70April 19, 2023 8:44 AM

Places in the Heart gets picked on but there is a lot of good stuff there:

the tornado is quite dramatic

John Malkovitch asking Sally what she looks like is really tender and sweet

the KKK scene at the end is very suspenseful

by Anonymousreply 71April 19, 2023 8:50 AM

Don't forget "Witness" in 1985. Lots of barn raising.

by Anonymousreply 72April 19, 2023 8:52 AM

Mel is so gorgeous in The River. That was really prime Mel era.

by Anonymousreply 73April 19, 2023 11:31 AM

He was even hotter in Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously

by Anonymousreply 74April 20, 2023 8:44 PM
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