'Great Performances: Driving Miss Daisy'
(James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Boyd Gaines / DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)
Overview: Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play 'Driving Miss Daisy' comes to television with five-time Tony Award winner and three-time Academy Award® nominee Angela Lansbury and two-time Tony Award winner and Academy Award® winner James Earl Jones as Daisy Werthan and Hoke Colburn, respectively.
DVD Verdict: Four-time Tony Award winner Boyd Gaines reprises his Broadway role as Daisy's son Boolie Werthan here in this INCREDIBLE, captivating, work-of-cinematic art, 'Great Performances: Driving Miss Daisy.'
Recorded in Australia at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, Uhry's classic play is a timeless, searing, funny, and ultimately hopeful meditation on race relations in America, told through the complex relationship between two of popular culture's most enduring characters. When Daisy Werthan, a widowed, 72-year-old Jewish woman living in midcentury Atlanta, is deemed too old to drive, her son hires Hoke Colburn, an African American man, to serve as her chauffeur.
What begins as a troubled and hostile pairing, soon blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them. This iconic tale of pride, changing times, and the transformative power of friendship has become one of the most beloved American stories of the late twentieth century.
The two lead actors, as you would only fully expect, are wonderful, as is the third, four-time Tony Award winner Boyd Gaines as Miss Daisy’s son. The play begins in 1948 when both Miss Daisy and Hoke (Mr. Jones character) are both 71 years old. Over the next 85-minutes the time frame extends nearly 20 years to 1963 and parallels the racial tension and civil rights issues of that period. By the way, Miss Daisy is a fairly wealthy Jew, which adds to the theme of racial and ethnic prejudice.
The stage setting is much different than the film and a sparse (and often too-darkly lighted set) are no real replacement for the openness of the original film version. The movements on the stage, and the story itself are all done in a somewhat subtle manner and, as you would also fully expect, or already know, of course, it explores family and racial relationships and stereotypes.
In closing, it’s a shame that most – if not all – Broadway plays are not recorded with their original award-winning casts – before they close so that those unable to visit New York, as well as future generations, can experience these classic productions. In this case we have the Australian's (and PBS, of course) to thank here. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.