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Theatre / Driving Miss Daisy

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"An old nigger and an old Jew woman takin' off down the road together. That is one sorry sight."

Daisy Werthan: Hoke?
Hoke Colburn: Yes'm?
Daisy Werthan: You're my best friend.
Hoke Colburn: Oh, go on Miss Daisy...
Daisy Werthan: No, really. You are... you are.
Hoke Colburn: Yes'm.

Driving Miss Daisy is a Pulitzer Prize winning 1987 play by Alfred Uhry, later adapted for the screen by its playwright and director Bruce Beresford, into a 1989 comedy-drama film and 1989's Best Picture Academy Award winner. The film also made Jessica Tandy, age 80, the oldest winner of the Best Actress Oscar.

This play chronicles 25 years in the life of an elderly Jewish widow named Daisy Werthan, and her Black chauffeur, Hoke Colburn. He's hired by her son, Boolie, when she can no longer drive herself. At first, Ms. Daisy objects to the changes in her life. But eventually, the two transcend their differences to become lifelong friends. The play was based on real people: Uhry's grandmother and her retainer.

It was revived on Broadway in 2010 with James Earl Jones as Hoke and Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Daisy. When the production transferred to Australia, Angela Lansbury took on the role of Miss Daisy and it was later filmed for PBS' headline arts program Great Performances.

This work features examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Florine, Boolie's wife, was only mentioned in the play and was never seen. Alfred Uhry inserted her into the script as a role for Patti Lupone, whom he felt looked good in-costume.
  • Badass Driver: Hoke, who had been driving in professional capacity for over half a century. Hoke demonstrates this when he easily makes his way to Daisy's house during an ice storm. Upon arrival Hoke tells her that he learned to drive on ice while driving for a dairy and there was "nothing to it."
  • Bigot with a Badge: While driving through Alabama, Daisy and Hoke are accosted by a pair of bigoted cops who address Hoke as "boy," ask him where he got the car, and after Daisy clarifies that it's hers they question her about her surname while checking the car's registration. While they're fortunately allowed to leave unmolested, the cops comment as they drive away on what a "sorry sight" it is to see "an old nigger and and old Jew woman" traveling together.
  • Call-Back: In the beginning of the film Hoke describes how there's a nice patch of dirt in the backyard that he could turn into a vegetable garden, Daisy refuses and demands that he stop messing with her things. Near the end of the film (15-20 years later) they're seen working on a beautiful vegetable garden in her backyard.
  • Catchphrase: Daisy's "Highway robbery!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Miss Daisy and Hoke, usually to each other.
    Miss Daisy: Did you get the air conditioning checked?
    Hoke: I don't know what for. You don't never allow me to turn it on.
  • Deep South: Atlanta, Georgia to be specific. Somewhat overlaps with Sweet Home Alabama, as that state is visited.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Daisy is very cold to Hoke at first, forbidding him from doing much of anything at her house. Through the movie, she grows fond of him. For example, early on Hoke was forbidden from touching much of anything in the pantry or the ice box, but later on she offers Hoke food as if he was a guest when Atlanta is paralyzed by an ice storm
    Daisy: Eat anything you want out of the icebox! It's all going to spoil anyway.
  • Determinator: How Hoke convinces Daisy to let him be her chauffeur — he follows her around in the car while she walks. Rather be embarrassed, she gets in and lets him drive her.
  • Dramatic Drop: When Idella dies, the bowl of peas she was shelling falls to the floor.
  • Due to the Dead: Daisy and Hoke reminisce about Idella, saying while they both knew how to make her fried chicken, no one could ever make her coffee. Daisy sighs that Idella was lucky.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Idella and Hoke, being a maid and a chauffeur. This was a common circumstance during the mid-twentieth century, and apart from initially being rude to Hoke (who she doesn't want around at first) Daisy treats them both well.
    • Averted in the closing minutes of the film with Hoke's granddaughter as she is a professor of biology.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: Just before Idella's death, Daisy reminds her (she's shelling peas) not to make a mess. Idella snarks back "Do I ever?". Very soon after, the bowl falls to the floor and peas go everywhere.
  • Flanderization: Not the movie itself, but you can bet that when someone parodies this movie, it will be a Shallow Parody with Hoke done in an over-the-top minstrel style.
  • Grande Dame: Daisy appears to begin the movie as a cynical version of this trope and move over towards the idealistic by the end.
  • Greedy Jew: Lampshaded by Daisy as she hates being reminded how wealthy she is by anyone, however, her real issue is that her son is wealthy, and by extension, so is she.
  • Grew a Spine: During the course of his employment as Daisy's chauffeur, Hoke grows a spine in his dealings with Daisy, while he at first had been somewhat deferential to her. We first see this when Hoke is driving Daisy to Mobile and he tells her he has to pull over in order to "go make water." Daisy wants to keep going but Hoke decides nope, they're stopping and he tells Daisy that it's humiliating for him to have to ask permission to take care of his needs like a small child while he's almost 70 years old by then. Taking the keys, he makes his way to a nearby secluded spot to empty his bladder.
  • Henpecked Husband: Daisy certainly thinks Boolie is one, and is annoyed to no end that he would celebrate Christmas because of his wife, and is angry that he can't attend his uncle's 90th birthday because of her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Daisy, in her own eyes, is a retired schoolteacher, and would very much would like to be treated as such. Having a chauffeur is too ostentatious.
  • Informed Judaism:
    • Neither Daisy nor Boolie advertise their Jewishness very much, beyond Daisy's cynical "all these Christians giving their money to Georgia Power" comment on ostentatious Christmas lights displays.
    • Boolie states he can't attend Martin Luther King's speech because his racist fellow businessmen would start calling him "Martin Luther Wertham" and begin dealing with New York Jews instead of a Georgia Jew like him.
    • Insistent Terminology: The gift she gives Hoke (to help him learn to read) is not a Christmas gift, because as a Jew, she can't give them. Even though it's December 25.
  • Mean Boss: Daisy initially is this to Hoke, since she doesn't want (nor does she think she needs) a driver, but while he's there to serve her, she can't actually fire him because he was hired by her son. Lampshaded at the end of his first day on the job (which consists of him not actually being allowed to do anything).
    Idella: I'm gone, Miss Daisy.
    Daisy: (*offscreen*) Good-bye, Idella.
    Hoke: I'm gone too, Miss Daisy.
    Daisy: (*offscreen*) Good!
    Idella: ...I wouldn't be in your shoes if the sweet Lord Jesus come down and asked me hisself.
  • Minimalist Cast: The play only has three characters seen on stage — Miss Daisy, Hoke, and Boolie. The film obviously subverts this.
  • Never Learned to Read: Hoke. Daisy, as a schoolteacher, is practically offended ("Stop saying that, you're making me mad!") Since Hoke knows the alphabet, Daisy states it'll be relatively easy for him to learn. And he does, though mouthing the words as he reads — realistically, since Daisy used the phonetics of the letters to help him learn, to hear them out loud.
  • Nice Guy: Boolie. Among other things, when his wife berates their young maid Katie Bell for making a minor error, he chuckles and privately tells her not to worry, saying "It's not quite the end of the world."
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Daisy and Hoke's encounter with two Alabama policemen. Hoke knows the danger, especially when one of the cops yells, "Hey, boy!" at him and demands to know how he got that car. Daisy, on the other hand, is oblivious to the racism, though the cops have a very low opinion of her, too, as is made plain when Hoke is allowed to drive away.
    Cop 1: Ain't that a sorry sight? A nigger and an old Jew woman.
  • Odd Friendship: As lampshaded by the picture's quote.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The film ends with a flashback to Hoke driving Daisy down an Atlanta road when he had first come to work for her.
  • Old Retainer: Hoke and previously Idella.
  • Only Friend: By the end of the film, Hoke is this to Daisy.
    Daisy: (possessively) Hoke came to see me, not you!
  • Product Placement: Piggly Wiggly is a chain that still exists in the South and Midwest. It's changed very little over time.
  • Racist Grandma: Subverted. See Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior! below.
  • Rule of Three: Boolie.
    Boolie: Good-bye! (car drives away) Good luck! (under his breath) Good God.
  • Sanity Slippage: Poor Daisy, when she starts to suffer from dementia.
  • Scare Chord: Gasp! An empty tin of salmon!
  • Secretly Wealthy: Miss Daisy tries desperately to act like this; she does not succeed. To be fair, she is not rich, her son is, and she neither wants nor needs his money.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Miss Daisy, and to some extent also Hoke. Surprisingly enough, Miss Daisy is not overtly racist nor is her son but she did despise Hoke at the beginning, for patronizing her (to her son, too) and especially because Boolie hired him, as she's fiercely independent.
  • Shout-Out: The TV show Hoke and Idella watch just before she dies is the Long Runner The Edge of Night.
    Hoke: (on Rebecca Sand) Lord have mercy, look at that. Ain't she got a lot of hair? How she get it so shiny?
    Idella: She washes it in mayonnaise.
    Hoke: Go on away from here, Idella!
    Idella: Yes, she did. Read it in Life magazine.
    Hoke: ...don't seem human.
  • Slave to PR: Boolie implies to his mother that he actually would like to go hear Martin Luther King speak, but admits that he's too afraid of the backlash from his many racist customers (who already look down on him for being Jewish) if they find out he did so.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Inverted. Hoke feeding Daisy the Thanksgiving pie closed the play, signifying their long-lasting friendship.
  • Time Skip: As the play and film took place over a couple decades, this happened quite often. The episode of The Edge of Night Hoke and Idella watch aired on May 1, 1961, marking the day of Idella's death. The film ends in the early 70's, as evidenced by a jogger and an early 70's car passing by.
  • Verbal Tic: Miss Daisy's variation of "yes", known as "Yes'm".
  • Verbing Nouny: The name follows this naming scheme. Driving Miss Daisy
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Hoke unloads on Daisy for her assuming he wouldn't want to attend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech in person as her attendee, leading him to angrily mutter that things haven't changed that much.
  • With Due Respect: Much of Hoke's discussion with Daisy is based on this.