One of the biggest movies that came out in 1989 was Driving Miss Daisy. As with many things Hollywood, this was based on something and that something was a 50 page (!) play by Alfred Uhry who also wrote the screenplay.
The story is about a 72-year-old Jewish woman named Daisy Werthan who crashed her car into a neighbor’s garage and her insurance company says she can’t drive. So her son Boolie hires a chauffeur for her named Hoke Coleburn (black) to drive her around. The problem is, Daisy doesn’t WANT to be driven around but she does eventually warm up to Hoke.
This is about as simple a story as they come. Nothing earth-shattering happens during the play, but you do feel a bond growing between Daisy and Hoke. One thing of note is that this takes place from 1948 to 1973 in Atlanta Georgia. While the back cover of the book talks about racial tensions in the story, there isn’t really a lot except for two scenes: Daisy accusing Hoke of stealing a can of salmon and Daisy asking Hoke if he wants to attend a banquet honoring Martin Luther King the day of because Boolie couldn’t make it.
It’s not really that powerful because Daisy doesn’t come off as a racist except for that one moment. She’s more of a hard-headed crone who doesn’t want any help from anybody, not even her son. However, she does learn to like Hoke but she doesn’t want to admit it.
Hoke is an interesting case. Here’s a guy who is basically doing this because to him this is just another job and he hasn’t had one in a while. Like Daisy, he does grow close to Daisy and he does care for her.
That’s what I got from this play. Not much about race but more about two people set in their ways who learn to like each other and become friends. Again, nothing that major, but it is worth reading. If anything, it’s made me want to see the movie.
As for how it is like a play, it seems simple enough to put on. It’s really only three characters and some extras. The only hard part is the car which even with a Broadway budget will look like just two people sitting on a bench in front of a cardboard cutout. The passage of time is done by having the actors age. There’s no need for anyone or anything to say the year. All you need is makeup to make the actors look older. Also, the rule of thumb about scriptwriting is 1 page=1 minute so this play without accounting for scene changes and pauses is about fifty minutes. Even for an off-Broadway play that’s short.
So, if you’re wondering what the play version of the movie looks like, find a copy of it and read. You’ll be done with it quickly and you’ll see that while the story is simple the characters are the reason this play is great.
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