AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Coal Miner's Daughter
Director: Michael Apted (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Mar 1980
Duration (in mins):  125
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Cast: Sissy Spacek  (Loretta Lynn)
  Tommy Lee Jones  (Doolittle "Mooney" Lynn)
  Beverly D'Angelo  (Patsy Cline)
 

Summary: In Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, thirteen-year-old Loretta Webb delivers a lunch pail to her coal miner father, Ted, and is mesmerized by former soldier, Doolittle “Mooney” Lynn, who wins a bet that he can scale a nearby mountain in his jeep. At home, Ted gives Loretta a dress, but the other children are jealous. However, Ted insists that when girls become women they should have pretty things. At a community dance and pie auction, Mooney steps in as auctioneer, and ends up outbidding a local boy for Loretta’s chocolate pie. However, it proves to be inedible because Loretta accidentally used salt instead of sugar. The mistake does not dampen Mooney’s affection because he walks her home after she refuses to ride in his jeep. He says the army made him realize that the world is a big place, and he has no interest in being a coal miner. He plans to do bigger things. Soon, Mooney takes Loretta on an exhilarating jeep ride, racing around town. When Loretta returns, her father beats her with a switch for running off. She admits she is in love with Mooney, but Clara, her mother, thinks Mooney is wild, and warns her daughter not to see him anymore. One day, Mooney visits the Webb home, shows Loretta a wad of money he earned at work, and asks her to be his wife. Ted and Clara reluctantly give Mooney their blessing, and he promises he will never beat Loretta or take her far away from her family. After the couple is married, they spend their wedding night in a cold, shabby motel. Mooney roughly mounts his new wife in bed, and Loretta loses her virginity. Later, Mooney confesses that Loretta needs to improve her cooking, her cleaning, and her lovemaking. When he gives her a sex manual to read, she asks for more of his patience and understanding. Soon, Mooney sends her home, and she learns that she is pregnant. Mooney comes to town to tell Loretta he is leaving Kentucky for a logging job in Washington state, and he will send for her when he has enough money, but she reminds him that by doing so he will break his promise to her father. Mooney tells her she has to decide whether she wants to be daddy’s girl or his wife. Soon, Ted waits with his pregnant daughter at the train station, and has a premonition he will never see her again. Several years later, Loretta and Mooney have four children, and she sings them to sleep. Loretta asks for a wedding ring for her anniversary, but he buys a guitar for her at a pawnshop instead. Although disappointed, Loretta teaches herself to play, and writes songs. Later, Mooney takes Loretta to a local bar, and arranges for her to sing with the band. When she insists that she cannot sing in front of strangers, Mooney bullies her. As a result of the audience’s enthusiasm, Mooney takes Loretta and the children on the road to record her first single. He takes publicity photographs, books Loretta to play at local “honky tonks,” and sends her records to radio stations. Meanwhile, the couple receives word that Ted has died, and return home for his funeral. Loretta sits by his grave, feeling guilty and sad. Soon, Mooney asks Loretta if she truly wants to be a professional singer because they need to introduce Loretta’s music to disc jockeys. When she admits that she wants to sing for a living, they leave the children with her mother. At one radio station, they persuade a disc jockey to play her song. From there, the couple travels to many local stations in the South, where Loretta does short interviews. Along the way, a deejay tells them that Loretta’s record has climbed to No. 14 on the country music charts. Later, they arrive at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and Loretta is given a chance to perform on an Ernest Tubb variety show. Still later, Loretta performs at Ernest’s Record Shop “Mid-Nite Jamboree,” and dedicates a Patsy Cline tune to Patsy’s recovery in the hospital. Afterward, Charlie Dick, Patsy’s husband, invites Loretta to meet Patsy. At the hospital, Patsy says she wanted to meet the gal who sang at the Opry seventeen times without sleeping with someone to get there. The women become friends and Patsy invites her to join her tour. Later, Loretta joins Patsy on stage, and Mooney orders her to wipe off her makeup, but she ignores him. Still later, Loretta finds Mooney in the arms of a prostitute inside a car. She orders him back to the tour bus, warns him never to fall to temptation again, and writes a song about the incident on the bus. One day, Loretta and Patsy return from a shopping trip, and Mooney again orders Loretta to remove her makeup. When Loretta refuses, they fight in the parking lot until she leaves in a car with Patsy and Charlie. Mooney returns home with a bandaged hand, and admits it is time for him to get another job. Loretta is willing to stop performing for the sake of their marriage, but Mooney advises her that successful people do not quit. He feels his job is done, and she needs a professional manager. Meanwhile, he gives her the wedding ring she has wanted for so long, and they make up. Later, Loretta tells Patsy she is pregnant again, and Patsy gives her some of her old maternity clothes. When she returns from doing a benefit in Kansas City, Patsy says they will go shopping for the things Loretta needs. However, Patsy is killed in a plane crash. Later, Loretta gives birth to twins she names “Peggy” and “Patsy.” She tells Mooney she will return to work soon. As Loretta starts touring, her songs become hits and her fans multiply. She and Mooney buy a home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, for her large family. Loretta asks Mooney to go out on tour to watch her interests. One night, Loretta is too exhausted to perform, but Mooney insists that she sing. On stage, she explains how hectic her life is, and collapses as she leaves. Back home, Loretta recuperates, and the couple makes plans to build a new house. Renewed in spirit, Loretta goes back on the road, and sings about being a coal miner’s daughter.

 

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Director: Michael Apted (Dir)
  Wallace Worsley (Prod mgr)
  Dan Kolsrud (1st asst dir)
  Katy Emde (2d asst dir)
Producer: Bernard Schwartz (Prod)
  Zelda Barron (Assoc prod)
  Bob Larson (Exec prod)
Writer: Tom Rickman (Scr)

Subject Major: Country music
  Coal miners
  Fame
  Family life
  Fathers and daughters
  Love
  Songwriters
 
Subject Minor: Airplane accidents
  Children
  Coal
  Coal mines
  Disc jockeys
  Funerals
  Grand Ole Opry
  Guitars
  Hillbillies
  Innocence
  Jeeps
  Kentucky
  Marriage
  Moonshiners
  Motels
  Mountains
  Music fans
  Pie
  Poverty
  Pregnancy
  Radio stations
  Recordings
  Soldiers
  Stills
  Twins
  Washington (State)
  Weddings

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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