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The Grass Harp (film)

For other uses, see The Grass Harp.
The Grass Harp
File:The Grass Harp poster.jpg
Directed by Charles Matthau
Produced by Charles Matthau
Jerry Tokofsky
John Winfield
Written by Truman Capote (novel)
Stirling Silliphant (screenplay)
Starring Piper Laurie
Sissy Spacek
Walter Matthau
Edward Furlong
Nell Carter
Music by Patrick Williams
Cinematography John A. Alonzo
Distributed by Fine Line Features
Release dates
October 11, 1996
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million
Box office $559,677

The Grass Harp is a 1995 American comedy-drama film. It is based on the novella by Truman Capote; the screenplay was the final work of Oscar-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. The film was directed by Charles Matthau, and starred Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek, Walter Matthau, Edward Furlong, and Nell Carter. Piper Laurie won the Best Supporting Actress award from the Southeastern Film Critics Association for her work on the film.[1]


Set in a small 1940s Alabama town, the film follows Collin Fenwick (Edward Furlong) as he is sent to live with his father's maiden cousins, the sweet Dolly (Piper Laurie) and the overbearing Verena (Sissy Spacek), following the death of his mother. He soon discovers that the Talbo household is anything but normal. After also losing his father, Collin grows to be close to Dolly and Catherine (Nell Carter) and becomes acquainted with the eccentric townspeople, from the gossip-loving barber (Roddy McDowall) to a traveling evangelist with fifteen illegitimate kids (Mary Steenburgen). To escape Verena's oppression, Dolly, Collin, and Catherine run away to an old tree house in the woods. Their rebellion sparks a series of events that change their lives and the entire town as well.[1][2][3]

Cast and characters

1995 film poster
  • Piper Laurie as Dolly Talbo. A gentle eccentric, Verena's sister.
  • Sissy Spacek as Verena Talbo. A controlling entrepreneur with most of the town in her pocket, Dolly's sister.
  • Edward Furlong as Collin Fenwick. An orphan sent to live with Dolly and Verena.
  • Nell Carter as Catherine Creek. A quick-witted house maid and Dolly's friend.
  • Walter Matthau as Judge Charlie Cool. A former judge attempting to find meaning in his retirement years, Dolly's love interest.
  • Roddy McDowall as Amos Legrand. The effeminate town barber and gossip.
  • Jack Lemmon as Dr. Morris Ritz. A con man who charms Verena.
  • Mary Steenburgen as Sister Ida. A good-hearted traveling "evangelist".
  • Sean Patrick Flanery as Riley Henderson. Collin's friend and eventual competitor for the affections of Maude.
  • Joe Don Baker as Sheriff Junius Candle. The town sheriff.
  • Scott Wilson as Eugene Fenwick. Colin's father, who leaves him with Dolly and Verena after the death of his wife.
  • Mia Kirshner as Maude Riordan. Collin's "love interest".
  • Charles Durning as Reverend Buster.
  • Bonnie Bartlett as Mrs. Buster.
  • Doris Roberts as Mrs. Richards.
  • Ray McKinnon as Charlie Cool Jr.

Development and production

The Grass Harp feature film was closely based on Truman Capote's 1951 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant and Kirk Ellis. Silliphant's prior credits included In the Heat of the Night, The Towering Inferno, and The Poseidon Adventure. The film was directed by Charles Matthau, son of Walter Matthau. It was filmed on location in Wetumpka, Alabama.[3]


The New York Times review of the film stated that the actors' performances were "uniformly expert, sharp renderings of distinctive individuals" and that Charles Matthau had "managed to set them in a landscape specifically distant and atmospheric".[3] The Los Angeles Times review called it a beguiling film and one that "celebrates rebirth and renewal but within a tough-minded view of life that never allows it to lapse into a fairy tale".[4] Variety called it a "sensitive screenplay adaptation" and noted the film's "wonderful ensemble cast".[5] Despite generally good reviews, the film did poorly at the box office. With an estimated budget of $9 million, the film grossed only roughly $1.5 million in ticket sales.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Grass Harp". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  2. "The Grass Harp". Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Van Gelder, Lawrence (1996-10-11). "Movie Review: The Grass Harp". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  4. Thomas, Kevin (1996-10-11). "Movie Review: The Grass Harp". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22. [dead link]
  5. Kimmel, Daniel (1995-09-18). "Film review: The Grass Harp (1995)". Variety. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  6. "The Grass Harp: Box office/business". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 

External links