Driving Miss Daisy (1989): Well Acted by Oscar Winner Jessica Tandy and Oscar Nominee Morgan Freeman

A middlebrow, oahpw3rcgfhmildly entertaining adaptation of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a simple black man (Morgan Freeman), who’s hired as chauffeur for a cantankerous old Southern woman (Jessica Tandy), and winds up being her most loyal companion The film, directed by Bruce Beresford in a smooth but undistinguished style, benefits from the likable performances by the two leads.

Dan Aykroyd is cast in an unusual “straight” role as Daisy’s son, though you can never quite forget who’s playing the part.

 

 

driving_miss_daisy_3_freeman_tandyThe film received nine nominations, winning four: Best Picture, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Makeup. Driving Miss Daisy had no violence and no sex–it was a middlebrow movie about virtues and decent values.

The film’s low budget ($7.5 million), and the fact that it was made without big-name stars, commanded the Academy members’ attention. Producer Zanuck observed after winning: “Anything that tugs at your heart and emotions has a good chance for the Best Picture.”

Detailed Plot

driving_miss_daisy_4_freeman_tandyJessica Tandy is perfectly cast as Mrs. (“Miss”) Daisy Werthan, a wealthy Jewish widowed school teacher, now 73, who lives in Atlanta, with her African American housemaid Idella (Esther Rolle).

When Miss Daisy wrecks her car, her son Boolie (Aykroyd) hires Hoke Coleburn (Morgan Freeman), an African American chauffeur who drove for a local judge until the latter had died. At first, she refuses to let Hoke drive her, but gradually starts to accept him.

When Miss Daisy finds out that Hoke is illiterate, she teaches him how to read.  Soon Miss Daisy begins to appreciate his many skills and the two become friends. After Idella dies in 1963, rather than hire a new maid, Miss Daisy decides to care for her own house and cook her own meals. Hoke assists with the cooking and the two plant a vegetable garden.

driving_miss_daisy_1_freemanThe film explores racism against African Americans, but when Diasy’s synagogue is bombed, Miss Daisy realizes that she is also a victim of prejudice.  Meanwhile, American society is going through radical changes, and Miss Daisy attends a dinner at which Dr. Martin Luther King gives a lecture. She invites Boolie to the dinner, but he declines, and suggests that Miss Daisy invite Hoke. However, Miss Daisy only asks him to be her guest during the car ride to the event and ends up attending the dinner alone. Hoke is insulted by the mode of her invitation, listening to the speech on the car radio outside.

driving_miss_daisy_2_freeman_tandyIn 1971, Miss Daisy showing signs of dementia; with Hoke at her side, she feels he is her only reliable friend. Boolie arranges for Miss Daisy to enter a retirement home. Boolie and Hoke drive to the retirement home to visit Miss Daisy, who’s now 97.  As Hoke reminisces about their years together, his car is seen driving into the distance.

 

 

 

Driving Miss Daisy is one of the weakest films to have won the Best Picture Award.

Writer Alfred Uhry showed some sense of humor when he noted in his Oscar acceptance speech:”I guess I’m lucky that my grandmother was such a terrible driver….”

 

Oscar Nominations: 9

Picture, produced by Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck
Screenplay (Adapted): Alfred Uhry
Actress: Jessica Tandy
Actor: Morgan Freeman
Supporting Actor: Dan Aykroyd
Art direction-set decoration: Bruno Rubeo; Crispian Sallis
Film Editing: Mark Warner
Costume design: Elizabeth McBride
Makeup: Manlio Rocchetti, Lynn Barber, and Kevin Haney

Oscar Awards: 4

Picture
Actress
Screenplay
Makeup

Oscar Context

The most nominated film in 1989, Driving Miss Daisy, received four Oscars out of its 9 nominations, including Picture, Screenplay, and Actress. The biggest scandal was that the film’s director, Bruce Beresford, failed to receive recognition from his peers in the Directors Branch.

The other Best Picture nominees represented a mixed bag in genre and quality: Oliver Stone’s Vietnam drama “Born on the Fourth of July” with 8 nominations, “My Left Foot” with 5, “Dead Poets Society” with 4, and “Field of Dreams” with 3.

Cast

Miss Daisy Werthan (Jessca Tandy)

Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman)

Boolie Werthan (Dan Aykroyd)

Florine Werthan (Patti LuPone)

Idella (Esther Rolle)

Mis McClatchey (Joann Havrilla)

Oscar (William Hall Jr.)

Dr. Weil (Alvin M. Sugraman)

nonie (Clarice F. Geigerman)

Miriam (Muriel Moore)

Credits:

Warner release

(Zanuck Company Productions)