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A Chance to Pick a Favorite 'Daisy'
July 17, 2015  | By Tom Brinkmoeller  | 2 comments
 

Let's start with a stipulation: Because regular visitors to this website enjoy high-quality entertainment, there's no need to make a case for the extraordinary entertainment contained in Driving Miss Daisy. It's a wonderful story that has been told both off- and on Broadway and in film. In each presentation it has been well received and awarded for its classic Alfred Uhry script and for the actors who have played the lead roles.
 
Great Performances presents the newest mass presentation of the play on July 17 (9 p.m. ET on PBS -- check local listings). It would be difficult to do Driving Miss Daisy badly, and this version (recorded during the play's 2013 Australia run) strongly holds up the tradition of excellence. It stars Angela Lansbury in the title role (Daisy Werthan), James Earl Jones (top, with Lansbury) as her initially unwanted chauffeur (Hoke Colburn), and Boyd Gaines as Daisy's son, Boolie, who hires Colburn under protest from his 72-year-old mother after a driving accident makes her an insurance  -- as well as life and limb -- risk. 
 
These are the only actors in this production, and each is perfect. The staging is as sparse as the cast list and just as on-target. 
 
For those who know well the story, it remains the same: how reluctance and resistance during the initial late '40s start of the relationship turns to trust and friendship over more than 20 years together. Set in Atlanta, it looks at race relations in the South at that time and how they slowly changed (Werthan is Jewish, financially secure, and widowed; Colburn is black, nearly as old as his new employer and in need of employment). Fans of the film (which starred Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd) owe it to themselves to watch this version.
 
And then, if one is really curious about how art sustains itself well in different media, rent or buy the 1989 film. It's not only instructional but an opportunity to see successful drama from two totally different perspectives. 
 
Watching it soon after the Great Performances presentation, it's easy to notice that much of Uhry's script remains intact in both forms. It's also interesting to compare how the different actors play each of the three principal characters. And it's heartening to see that the nearly minimalistic presentation of the play holds up well to the film, which uses many more actors, takes advantage of locations and props not possible on the stage but still presents an equally emotionally touching conclusion. 
 
The film, which won several Academy Awards, is available online from iTunes, Amazon and several other rental and purchase sources.
 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Carol
Watched Driving Miss Daisy on our local PBS station. It was magical.
Jul 28, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
Sarah
I haven't seen the film but I watched this and the only thing I would add was how the three actors (two of who are in their eighties) actually aged right before our eyes. I know this may sound strange but as the dates changed so did each person, the way they moved and talked it was fascinating to watch. Bravo to the small cast and stage crew on a wonderful show.
Jul 18, 2015   |  Reply
 
 
 
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