An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.An old Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years.
In fact Tandy may play the only role film history where you start at 70 and then age in the part. She's a genteel southern woman, but formidable who happens to be Jewish. One day she has an accident and emerges unhurt, but the car is wrecked and son Dan Aykroyd decides that his mother needs a chauffeur.
An idea not pleasing to Tandy as she's used to doing for herself. Even the presence of Esther Rolle as a cook was upsetting to her, but Rolle toughed it out and became a household fixture. So when Aykroyd hires Morgan Freeman to be a driver, Freeman will have his work cut out for him.
The success of Driving Miss Daisy is really dependent on the chemistry between Tandy and Freeman. You haven't got that and the film would sink. Fortunately they click beautifully together.
Author Alfred Uhry grew up in the Atlanta of the time and Atlanta was relatively a beacon of some light in the cracker and segregated south of the time. Mayor William B. Hartsfield of the period always advertised his city as the one too busy to hate. Given the parameters of the times, Hartsfield moved to gradually end segregation and to improve the services for Atlanta's black population. Hartsfield is mentioned in passing in the film. Remember Tandy's character is Jewish, a people not looked on too fondly either by a lot of the Deep South. But in Atlanta they have some measure of safety.
Uhry's memories yielded him a Pulitzer Prize winning play and an Academy Award Best film. He also got an Oscar for adapting his off Broadway success to the screen. Of course Jessica Tandy became the oldest player to ever receive an acting Oscar. And Driving Miss Daisy also got an Oscar for Best Makeup.
And it was nominated for Best Art&Set Direction, Best Editing, Best Costumes with Oscar nods for Morgan Freeman for Best Actor and Dan Aykroyd for Best Supporting Actor.
For Freeman his best moment comes when on a trip to Mobile,Alabama with Tandy he puts up with the indignities and humiliation of segregation and exposes Tandy to a world she really wasn't aware of. And Tandy got her Oscar for the moment when she and those around her realize that Alzheimer's Disease has gotten control. For an elderly player to even contemplate such a thing that could so easily happen to them must be a nerve wracking experience. Jessica Tandy saw in her life such colleagues as Rita Hayworth, Dana Andrews, and Edmond O'Brien among others lose their last few years and careers to the long lingering twilight of Alzheimer's, no doubt she drew from all of them and her own fears that it could happen to her to deliver this performance.
Driving Miss Daisy is one of the best films of the last half of the last century and one that will be studied and revived for years to come. Budding actors who need chemistry lessons should study what is working between Tandy and Freeman.
- Jan 17, 2010