Driving Miss Daisy is a 1987 play by Alfred Uhry adapted into a 1989 Warner Bros. film which tells the story of the relationship between an old Southern Jewish lady and her African-American chauffeur, Hoke, over the span of many years. As the title implies, however, it is really told from the point of view of the chauffeur.
The play was the first in Uhry's "Atlanta Trilogy" dealing with Jewish residents of that city in the early 20th century. Uhry's most successful play, it won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was performed in London's West End in 1988, with Dame Wendy Hiller as Miss Daisy.
Movie Plot Summary
The movie version is set before and during the Civil Rights era. In the first scene it is 1948 and Miss Daisy is 72 years old. Miss Daisy Werthan is a widow who lives in Atlanta, Georgia in a large house alone except for an African American maid named Idella who prepares food and does daily chores. At the beginning of the movie Miss Daisy is backing out of her garage to go to the store but loses control of the car and backs it over a wall into the neighbor's yard. Miss Daisy’s son Boolie tells her besides destroying her new car the accident means she cannot drive any more because no insurance company will insure her. He tells her she will have to get a chauffeur. She refuses, but Boolie is determined to find her one. Meanwhile she is stuck at home and is unable to run errands or visit friends.
Boolie oversees the family’s textile mill. One day at his business a man named Hoke Colburn helps when the mill's temperamental elevator stops working. Hoke had driven for a local judge until he died, and decided to remain in the area rather than accompany the widow when she moved away. One of his employees (Oscar, the man stuck in the elevator) tells Boolie Hoke might be a good choice to drive Miss Daisy around. Oscar sets up a meeting between the two at which Boolie hires Hoke, with the understanding that Hoke works for and is paid by Boolie. This arrangement is to guarantee Miss Daisy can't fire Hoke.
Miss Daisy at first refuses to let Hoke drive her, going so far as to walk to the supermarket. Hoke follows her in the car and she eventually gets in. It is revealed her reluctance to be driven around is because she is embarrassed people might think she either is too old to drive, or so well off that she can afford a driver.
One morning Daisy notices a can of Salmon missing from her pantry. She always leaves Hoke food but she calls her son saying Hoke stole something. When Hoke arrives, before Miss Daisy can say anything Hoke says that he ate a can of salmon because the food she gave him was dried out. He then said he went to the supermarket and bought her one can to replace it with his own money. Miss Daisy is very surprised and doesn’t say anything.
Daisy comes to accept Hoke and that she needs him to drive her around. Miss Daisy finds out that Hoke cannot read so she teaches him how to read. Over the years Hoke drives Daisy in a succession of vehicles, when it came time to trade in the car for a new vehicle he would purchase the previous car and use that as his personal vehicle. Miss Daisy has Hoke drive her to her brother's 90th birthday party in Mobile, Alabama, it turns out to be the very first time that he has left his home state of Georgia even though he is nearly 70 years old at the time. Hoke also proves that he is very adept at driving during ice storms, driving to Miss Daisy's house during such a storm to make sure she is ok, and to keep her company during the storm.
One day while watching television (in 1963) Idella dies. Miss Daisy is saddened because Idella was very close to her, she and her family attend the funeral, being the only white people in attendance at the funeral. She and Hoke miss her coffee, feeling that while they could make her biscuits and fried chicken as Idella made them, no one could make her coffee.
The racism and prejudice that permeated American society is explored in this movie, especially when Hoke is questioned by a pair of clearly racist cops, who also make out-of-earshot comments about Miss Daisy being an "old Jew". But during the course of the movie, American society is undergoing radical changes, and Daisy soon attends a dinner in which Dr. Martin Luther King gives a speech.
Time continues to pass, and a few years later Miss Daisy becomes ill. One morning Hoke comes to her house to find her in a confused and agitated state. He calls Boolie and tells him his mother is upset. When Boolie asks why it should be different from any other day, Hoke tells him that it is, something is very wrong. While waiting for Boolie to come over, Miss Daisy tells Hoke that he is her best friend. Following this, Miss Daisy moves to a retirement home.
Two years later the family home is sold, it is 1973 and Hoke has given up driving. Hoke is now 85 and Miss Daisy is 97 years old, as 25 years have passed in the story. Boolie and Hoke meet at Miss Daisy's house one final time before the new owner takes possession, and they drive over to the retirement home to visit Miss Daisy. The movie comes to a conclusion with Hoke and Miss Daisy discussing how it feels to be getting so old, and Hoke sweetly helping Miss Daisy eat a piece of pie by feeding it to her.
It won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Tandy), Best Makeup, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Uhry's adaptation of his own play. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Morgan Freeman), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Dan Aykroyd), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing. It is the most recent Best Picture winner that was not nominated for Best Director.
The music score was written by Hans Zimmer.