AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Driving Miss Daisy
Director: Bruce Beresford (Dir)
Release Date:   13 Dec 1989
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Washington, D.C.: 11 Dec 1989; Los Angeles opening: 13 Dec 1989; New York opening: week of 13 Dec 1989
Production Date:   began 8 May 1989 in Atlanta
Duration (in mins):   99
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Morgan Freeman (Hoke Colburn)  
    Jessica Tandy (Daisy Werthan)  
    Dan Aykroyd (Boolie Werthan)  
    Patti LuPone (Florine Werthan)  
    Esther Rolle (Idella)  
    Joann Havrilla (Miss McClatchey)  
    William Hall, Jr. (Oscar)  
    Alvin M. Sugarman (Dr. Weil)  
    Clarice F. Geigerman (Nonie)  
    Muriel Moore (Miriam)  
    Sylvia Kaler (Beulah)  
    Carolyn Gold (Neighbor lady)  
    Crystal R. Fox (Katie Bell)  
    Bob Hannah (Red Mitchell)  
    Ray McKinnon (Trooper # 1)  
    Ashley Josey (Trooper # 2)  
    Jack Rousso (Slick)  
    Fred Faser (Insurance agent)  
    Indra A. Thomas (Soloist)  
    Royce Applegate (Additional voice)  
    June Christopher (Additional voice)  
    Leigh French (Additional voice)  
    Archie Hahn (Additional voice)  
    Eugene Lee (Additional voice)  
    Felton Perry (Additional voice)  
    Ruth Silveira (Additional voice)  
    Gregory Snegoff (Additional voice)  
    Lynne Stewart (Additional voice)  
    Arnold Turner (Additional voice)  

Summary: In 1948 Atlanta, Georgia, septuagenarian Daisy Werthan loses control of her car as she backs it out of her garage. Coming to assess the damage, her son Boolie maintains that it was her fault, while Daisy argues the car malfunctioned. Later, Boolie, who runs the family business, Werthan Bag & Cotton Co., interviews Hoke Colburn to be his mother’s chauffeur. When he learns he will be driving Boolie’s mother, Hoke asks why Daisy is not doing her own hiring, and Boolie admits his mother is high-strung. Since Boolie will be paying his salary, he tells Hoke that Daisy can say whatever she wants but will never have the power to fire him. On his first day of work, Hoke meets Idella, Daisy’s African American maid, who says she does not envy his position. Meanwhile, Daisy tells Boolie she does not want a chauffeur hanging around the house, but Boolie instructs her to make the best of it. That afternoon, as Hoke talks to Idella in the kitchen, Daisy barges in and forbids him from conversing with the maid. She then reprimands him for overstepping his duties by dusting light bulbs and tending to her flowers. Hoke suggests he could plant a vegetable garden, but Daisy says she can plant her own garden if she wants. One day, Daisy announces plans to go grocery shopping. Hoke readies himself to drive her, but she insists on taking the streetcar. Hoke argues that a rich, Jewish lady like herself has no place carrying her own groceries on the streetcar, but she tells him that she grew up poor. Driving alongside her, Hoke follows Daisy down the street until she becomes embarrassed and gets in the car. From the backseat, she urges him to conserve gas by driving slowly and questions the route he is taking. Over time, Daisy accepts more rides from Hoke, although she does not like drawing attention to the arrangement and reprimands him for waiting for her in front of the Jewish temple after services. Daisy tells Hoke she does not want her friends to think she is pretending to be rich, but when the chauffeur reminds her that she is rich, she ignores him. Soon after, Daisy calls Boolie to her house, where she presents an opened can of salmon that Hoke stole and rants that she has no privacy anymore. Boolie loses his patience and tells her to leave him out of it just as Hoke interrupts, arriving for work with a replacement can of salmon. Chagrined, Daisy drops her complaint. At a cemetery, she tends to her late husband’s grave and asks Hoke to place flowers at the grave of a friend named Bauer. Hoke sheepishly reveals that he cannot read, and Daisy, a former teacher, tells him he can if he knows the alphabet and helps him sound out the letters of her friend’s name. On Christmas, Daisy goes to a party at Boolie’s house despite disapproving of her daughter-in-law Florine’s penchant for the Christian holiday. Before going inside, Daisy gives Hoke a wrapped gift but insists it is not a Christmas present. Hoke unwraps it to find a writing workbook and promises Daisy he will not tell anyone about the gift. When Daisy must travel to Mobile, Alabama, for her brother Walter’s birthday, she anxiously awaits Hoke’s arrival that morning. On the drive, they stop to eat lunch by the side of the road and Daisy recalls her first trip to Mobile in 1888, when she saw the ocean for the first time. Racist police officers stop and ask Hoke for his registration. Daisy states that the car belongs to her and, when they ask about her name, she says Werthan is “of German derivation.” As the police walk away, one of them jokes that an old Jew and an old African American are a sorry sight together. Nearing Mobile that evening, Hoke stops the car to urinate on the side of the road, but Daisy forbids it, saying he should have used the bathroom at a service station. Hoke points out that African Americans cannot use the bathrooms at service stations in this area and contends that he is a man of almost seventy years and should not be treated like a child. Hoke stands his ground, and Daisy panics when he leaves her alone in the car. Back in Atlanta, Hoke tells Boolie that his cousin’s wife, Jeanette, tried to hire Hoke in Alabama, telling him he could name his salary. Boolie agrees to give him a raise to seventy-five dollars per week, a sum that would appall Daisy, who believes anything over seven dollars per week is “highway robbery.” Sometime later, Idella dies on the job and Hoke attends her funeral with the Werthans. Afterward, Daisy and Hoke tend to Daisy’s vegetable garden together. On the morning of a winter storm, Hoke braves the icy roads to bring Daisy coffee. Although Boolie calls to check on his mother, she surprises him by reporting that Hoke is there to keep her company. Later, on the way to temple, Daisy and Hoke encounter a traffic jam, and Hoke learns from another driver that the temple has been bombed. Hoke recalls a time his friend’s father was lynched, but Daisy refuses to see the connection between racism and anti-Semitism. Sometime later, Daisy buys tickets to a dinner honoring Martin Luther King. Although she wants Boolie to go with her, he refuses to attend as it might hurt his business relationships. He tells Daisy to take Hoke as her date, but she does not mention the idea until they are on the way there, laughing it off as “silly.” Annoyed, Hoke tells Daisy she should not have tried to ask him at the last minute, then listens to Martin Luther King’s speech from inside the car while Daisy sits inside. Daisy grows older and more feeble, and one day, Hoke arrives at work to find her in a delusional state. She believes she is teaching school again and frantically searches for paperwork. Hoke calls Boolie to alert him, and, as he tries to calm her down, Daisy tells Hoke he is her best friend. After two years on the market, Daisy’s house is sold. On Thanksgiving, Hoke meets Boolie at the empty house, and they go together to visit Daisy at a nursing home. There, in the dining room, Daisy sends Boolie away at the mention of Florine, and Boolie jokes that Daisy wants Hoke to herself. She asks if Boolie is still paying Hoke, and when he confirms, she claims it is “highway robbery.” Hoke points out that Daisy has not eaten her pie, and helps feed her when she cannot use her fork. 

Production Company: The Zanuck Company  
Production Text: A Zanuck Company Production
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures (A Warner Communications Company)
Director: Bruce Beresford (Dir)
  Robert Doudell (Unit prod mgr)
  Katterli Frauenfelder (1st asst dir)
  Martha Elcan (2d asst dir)
Producer: Richard D. Zanuck (Prod)
  Lili Fini Zanuck (Prod)
  David Brown (Exec prod)
  Jake Eberts (Co-exec prod)
  Robert Doudell (Assoc prod)
  Alfred Uhry (Assoc prod)
Writer: Alfred Uhry (Scr)
Photography: Peter James (Dir of photog)
  Erich Roland (Cam op)
  David John Frederick (1st asst cam)
  David Meistrich (2d asst cam)
  Keith Sherer (Gaffer)
  Jeff Becker (Best boy)
  Robert Kempf (Key grip)
  David Sinrich (Best boy/grip)
  Michael John Fedack (Dolly grip)
  Sam Young Emerson (Still photog)
Art Direction: Bruno Rubeo (Prod des)
  Victor Kempster (Art dir)
Film Editor: Mark Warner (Ed)
  Russell Paris (Post prod supv)
  Steven Ramirez (1st asst film ed)
  Donald Likovich (Asst film ed)
  Jeremiah O`Driscoll (Apprentice film ed)
  D. Bassett & Associates (Negative cutter)
  Karen Harding (Asst ed)
  Clare Freeman (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Crispian Sallis (Set dec)
  Philip Steuer (Property)
  William Zullo (Prop asst)
  Vera Smith (Prop asst)
  Benjamin Beresford (Prop asst)
  Tony Kupersmith (Const coord)
  Paul Huggins (Const foreman)
  Kris McGary (Lead person)
  Wren Boney (Head set dresser)
  Karen Young (Set dresser)
  John Oliveira (Set dresser)
  Gary L. Buckles (Set dresser)
  Don E. Cochran (Scenic chargeman)
  Jeanne M. Hall (Greensperson)
  Tom S. Gunter (Scenic billboards by)
Costumes: Elizabeth McBride (Cost des)
  Marsha Perloff (Ward supv)
  Susan E. Mickey (Costumer)
  Kristine Kearney (Costumer)
Music: Hans Zimmer (Mus comp)
  Laura Perlman (Mus ed)
  Jay Rifkin (Mus scoring mixer)
  Barry Levine (Mus supv)
Sound: Michael Minkler (Re-rec mixer)
  Matthew Iadarola (Re-rec mixer)
  Matthew Patterson (Rec)
  Hank Garfield (Prod mixer)
  Andy Rovins (Boom op)
  Gloria Cooper (Cableperson/2nd boom)
  JDH Sound (Sd re-rec by)
  Sprocket Systems, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd. (Sd services provided by)
  Gloria S. Borders (Supv sd ed)
  Ronald Jacobs (Dial ed)
  Melissa Dietz (Dial ed)
  Tom Bellfort (ADR ed)
  Tim Holland (Eff ed)
  Sandina Bailo-Lape (Foley ed)
  Robin Harlan (Foley artist)
  David Slusser (Foley recordist)
Special Effects: Bob Shelley (Spec eff coord)
  B. J. Shelley (Spec eff asst)
  Pacific Title (Titles & optical eff)
  Introvision International, Inc. (Spec visual eff by)
Make Up: Manlio Rocchetti (Makeup supv)
  Lynn Barber (Asst makeup)
  Kevin Haney (Makeup consultant)
  Phil Leto (Hairstylist)
  Phillip Ivey (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Annette Haywood-Carter (Scr supv)
  Teresa M. Yarbrough (Prod coord)
  Nanette Guidebeck (Asst prod coord)
  Charlene Murray/Rose (Prod secy)
  Robert E. Lee (Prod accountant)
  Eric P. Steckler (Prod accountant)
  Wendy M. Price (Prod accountant)
  Judith Schefke (Asst to the prods)
  Andrew M. Comins (Loc mgr)
  Robert Ballentine (Asst loc mgr)
  Ronni Chasen (Public relations)
  Robert Hoffman (Unit pub)
  Elyn S. Wright (Casting (Atlanta))
  Katherine Shaw (Researcher)
  J. L. Parker (Transportation coord)
  Cindy Parker (Transportation capt)
  James LaClair (Prod asst)
  Sean Swint (Prod asst)
  Jonathan Watson (Prod asst)
  Stroke T. Renigade (Prod asst)
  Bowen Astrop (Prod asst)
  Tricia Sammons (Craft service)
  Mike Smith (Police coord)
  Greg Morse (Playback op)
  Location Catering of the South, Inc. (Catering)
Stand In: Danny Mabry (Stunt double)
  Letha Perkins (Stand-in)
  Leon Watkins (Stand-in)
  B. J. Hughes (Stand-in)
  Colleen Hess (Stand-in)
  Lois Middlebrooks (Stand-in)
Color Personnel: Bob Putynkowski (Col timer)
  Tom Shaffer (Col timer)
  Cinefilm Laboratory, Inc., Atlanta (Processing by)
  Color by Technicolor (Processing)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "After The Ball," words and music by Charles K. Harris, published by Charles K. Harris Publishing Company, Inc.; "I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)," written by Deek Watson and William Best, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, courtesy of MCA Records; "Jingle Bells," arranged and performed by Les Peel, courtesy of Capitol Production Music/Ole Georg; "Kiss Of Fire," written by Lester Allen and Robert Hill, performed by Louis Armstrong, courtesy of MCA Records; "Santa Baby," written by Tony Springer, Phil Spring and Joan Javits, performed by Eartha Kitt, courtesy of RCA Records; "Song To The Moon" (excerpt from the opera "Rusalka"), composed by Antonín Dvořák, performed by Gabriela Beňačková & the Czech Philharmonic, courtesy of Supraphon Int'l; "What A Friend We Have In Jesus," sung by Little Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Choir, Decatur, Georgia, Indra A. Thomas, Soloist.
Composer: Deek Watson
  William Best
  Lester Allen
  Antonín Dvořák
  Charles K. Harris
  Robert Hill
  Joan Javits
  Phil Spring
  Tony Springer
Source Text: Based on the play Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry (New York, 15 Apr 1987).
Authors: Alfred Uhry

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Brothers, Inc. 7/5/1990 dd/mm/yyyy PA465747

PCA NO: 29912
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1
  Lenses: Lenses and Panaglide camera by Panavision

Genre: Comedy-drama
Subjects (Major): Aged persons
  Atlanta (GA)
  Race relations
Subjects (Minor): Aging
  Automobile accidents
  Class distinction
  Death and dying
  Martin Luther King, Jr.
  Mobile (AL)
  Mothers and sons
  Nursing homes

Note: End credits include the following statement: “Our gratitude to: Factory location…Fulton Supply Company, Atlanta, Georgia; Darlin’s Restaurant; Outdoor Today Inc.; Irving Vendig, creator-writer ‘The Edge of Night.’” End credits also note: " Driving Miss Daisy was first produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons, New York City in 1987. It was subsequently produced by the Daisy Company in association with Playwrights Horizon Off-Broadway in 1987."
       A 4 Jun 1989 NYT article reported that Alfred Uhry sold film rights to his 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, to Zanuck-Brown Productions for $300,000. According to a 10 Aug 1987 DV article, Zanuck-Brown outbid Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Terms included a provision for Urhy to adapt the screenplay, and an eighteen-month “release restriction” dating from the play’s 24 Jul 1987 commercial off-Broadway premiere, guaranteeing that the film could not be released before Feb 1989, as noted in a 10 Aug 1987 DV item. The $300,000 rights fee was to be split on a “40-60 basis” between the stage production and Uhry.
       The project was initially set up at MGM/UA Entertainment Company, but when president, Alan Ladd, Jr., left, the studio was no longer committed to the picture. Director Bruce Beresford had already been hired and promised a $1.2 million fee. In addition, Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman had been cast in the lead roles with “pay-or-play” deals, making Zanuck-Brown obligated to pay their salaries whether or not the movie was produced. With an estimated budget of roughly $12.5 million, the producers had a difficult time obtaining financing, as stated in a 6 Mar 1990 NYT article, and the project was turned down by major studios including Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Pictures. Stipulating a reduced budget of $7.5 million, Warner Bros. Pictures agreed to fund $5 million in exchange for domestic distribution rights, while the remaining financing came from two British companies, Allied Filmmakers and Majestic Films, who received distribution rights to all territories outside North America. An 8 Apr 1990 NYT article provided conflicting figures, however, stating that Warner Bros. provided $4.5 million, while Allied’s Jake Eberts provided $3.25 million. According to the 6 Mar 1990 NYT, Warner Bros. later bought British distribution rights back from Majestic and Allied for $1 million.
       A 6 Apr 1988 Var article announced that Uhry’s play had won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for drama. At the time, casting for the film was underway. Although Dana Ivey, who originated the role of “Daisy Werthan” off-Broadway, expressed her desire to reprise the role onscreen, a 30 May 1988 People news item stated that the actress was not being considered. According to a 3 Mar 1988 HR brief, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, and Maggie Smith were interested in the leading role; additionally, a 16 Apr 1988 Screen International item stated that Meryl Streep was contending for the role despite only being in her late thirties at the time. A 16 Feb 1988 HR item mentioned the interest of Ann Sothern, who allegedly wanted to star opposite Richard Pryor, and a 14 Oct 1988 NYT item reported that Audrey Hepburn had turned down the chance to replace Dame Wendy Hiller in the London production of the play but was considering the film role. Other actresses mentioned as candidates for the role of Daisy Werthan included Olympia Dukakis, Elizabeth Taylor, Olivia de Havilland, and Shirley MacLaine. Jessica Tandy’s casting was announced in a 28 Nov 1988 LAHExam brief, and, although Bruce Beresford had not considered him for the role, the 21 Dec 1989 L.B. Press-Telegram stated that Dan Aykroyd sought an audition for “Boolie Werthan” and agreed to act in the film for “relatively nothing.” Robert De Niro’s casting was announced in a 5 May 1989 HR item, however the actor does not appear in the film.
       As stated in production notes in AMPAS library files, the screenplay spanned the years 1948 to 1973. The scene in which “Hoke Colburn” and Daisy Werthan discover that the Jewish temple was bombed is based on the real-life 1958 bombing of Atlanta, GA’s oldest Jewish temple. In addition, the Martin Luther King benefit dinner is based on an actual ceremony at which King was honored in Jan 1965 at the Dinkler Plaza Hotel. In the scene depicting the dinner, Jane Harmon and Nina Keneally, two of the stage play’s producers, appear as extras, according to a 9 Jun 1989 NYT brief.
       Filming began 8 May 1989, according to a 12 May 1989 HR brief. The shooting schedule was originally set at sixty-three days, but was cut to forty days due to budget restrictions, as noted in the 6 Mar 1990 NYT. Jessica Tandy celebrated her eightieth birthday on set, according to a 7 Jun 1989 LAT item, and the completion of principal photography was announced in the 1 Sep 1989 DV.
       According to production notes, the house standing in for Daisy Werthan’s residence was in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta. Location scouts were unaware that the house was once owned by one of Alfred Uhry’s “Southern cousins” and the writer played there as a child. Euclid Avenue in Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood stood in for 1948 Atlanta, where the Sevananda Natural Foods Cooperative doubled as Piggly Wiggly, and a store called African Connections was converted to the Southern Stamp and Stencil Co. Griffin, GA, located forty-five miles outside Atlanta, provided exteriors, and the cotton mill run by “Boolie Werthan” was shot at Fulton Supply Company in downtown Atlanta.
       As stated in a 6 Dec 1989 Var news item, the world premiere took place at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., on 11 Dec 1989. The event benefitted the Food For All Seasons Foundation. Two days later, the film opened in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, in a limited run. Positive word-of-mouth and reviews helped the film become an early hit, and the release was slowly expanded in surburban Los Angeles and New York before opening in other cities. Athough Driving Miss Daisy was considered a risky investment, the $7.5 million film took in $60.6 million in box-office receipts in its first eighty-two days of release, as reported in the 6 Mar 1990 NYT. A 28 Mar 1990 WSJ brief later reported that the film had grossed $75 million, a figure that was expected to increase by ten to twenty percent due to Academy Award wins.
       According to a 9 Apr 1990 Newsweek news item, Jessica Tandy was paid a $250,000 salary, but, due to her existing heart problems, had to pay for her own $130,000 insurance premium. However, when the film became a box-office success, Warner Bros. reimbursed the $130,000 and gave Tandy an additional $500,000 “advance share of the profits.” Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd, Beresford and Uhry reportedly received similar advance shares.
       Driving Miss Daisy received generally positive reviews and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Tandy), Makeup, and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium); and Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Jessica Tandy), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Morgan Freeman). The picture also received Academy Award nominations for Actor in a Leading Role (Morgan Freeman), Actor in a Supporting Role (Dan Aykroyd), Art Direction, Costume Design, and Film Editing. Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman won Silver Bear awards for Best Actress and Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival, and the picture was ranked seventy-seventh on AFI’s 2006 100 Years…100 Cheers list of the most inspiring films of all time.
       The film marked Alfred Uhry’s screenwriting debut. Nearly three years after the film’s release, Uhry was sued by a writer named Henry Denker for plagiarizing Denker’s novel and Broadway play, Horowitz and Mrs. Washington (New York, 1980), about the relationship between a bigoted, septuagenarian Jewish man and his African American physical therapist. According to a 9 Dec 1992 DV news item, U.S. District Judge Michael B. Mukasey dismissed the case.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   10 Aug 1987   p. 2, 10.
Daily Variety   1 Sep 1989.   
Daily Variety   26 Mar 1990   p. 1, 19.
Daily Variety   9 Dec 1992.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 Feb 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   3 Mar 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1989.   
Hollywood Reporter   11 Dec 1989   p. 4, 20.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 1989.   
LAHExam   28 Nov 1988.   
Los Angeles Times   7 Jun 1989.   
Los Angeles Times   13 Dec 1989   p. 6.
L.B. Press-Telegram   21 Dec 1989.   
New York   16 April 1990   p. 68.
New York Times   14 Oct 1988.   
New York Times   4 Jun 1989   Section A, p. 13.
New York Times   9 Jun 1989.   
New York Times   13 Dec 1989   p. 13.
New York Times   6 Mar 1990   Section D, p. 1.
New York Times   8 Apr 1990   Section A, p. 15.
Newsweek   9 Apr 1990.   
People   30 May 1988.   
Screen International   16 Apr 1988.   
Variety   6 Apr 1988.   
Variety   6 Dec 1989.   
Variety   13 Dec 1989   p. 28.
WSJ   28 Mar 1990.   

Display Movie Summary
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.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.