Synopsis by Brian J. Dillard
Jane Fonda stars in this made-for-TV movie, which uses the backdrop of World War II and urbanization to tell the story of one woman's fight to keep her family together. Gertie Nevels (Fonda), the wife of a Kentucky sharecropper, wants nothing more than to one day own her own farm. Thriftily hiding her savings from husband Clovis (Levon Helm), she prepares to make her dream come true -- until Clovis summons her to come join him in Detroit, where he's gone to work in a factory to help with the war effort. Arriving with her children in tow, Gertie finds Clovis all settled into a tenement-like block house and living the life of a union man. Soon, though, the downside of urban life -- from monstrous neighbors and repressive schools to the pitfalls of the industrial landscape itself -- threaten Gertie's family both individually and as a whole. Despite Clovis' freewheeling way with money and his propensity to blame her for the family's problems, Gertie continues to save money. A lifelong whittler, she begins selling hand-crafted wooden dolls, and when the union goes on strike, Gertie finds herself supporting the family. Adapted from Harriet Arnow's novel by Hume Cronyn and Susan Cooper, who would go on to collaborate on the similarly themed Foxfire in 1987, The Dollmaker was directed by feature and TV veteran Daniel Petrie. It debuted on ABC on May 13, 1984, and earned Fonda an Emmy for her work.
doll, family-strife, farming, mother, slums, woman