Coal Miner's Daughter (film)

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Coal Miner's Daughter
Coal miners daughter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Apted
Screenplay by Tom Rickman
Based onCoal Miner's Daughter
by Loretta Lynn & George Vecsey
Produced by Bernard Schwartz
Starring Sissy Spacek
Tommy Lee Jones
Beverly D'Angelo
Levon Helm
Cinematography Ralf D. Bode
Edited by Arthur Schmidt
Music by Owen Bradley
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • March 7, 1980 (1980-03-07)
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
(equivalent to $40.3 million in 2020) [1]
Box office$67.18 million
(equivalent to $181 million in 2020) [1]

Coal Miner's Daughter is a 1980 American biographical musical film directed by Michael Apted from a screenplay written by Tom Rickman. It follows the story of country music singer Loretta Lynn from her early teen years in a poor family and getting married at 15 to her rise as one of the most influential country musicians. Based on Lynn's 1976 biography of the same name by George Vecsey, the film stars Sissy Spacek as Lynn. Tommy Lee Jones, Beverly D'Angelo and Levon Helm are featured in supporting roles. Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, and Minnie Pearl make cameo appearances as themselves.


A film on Lynn's life was intended to be made since the release of the biography. Production for the film began in March 1979, and Lynn herself chose Spacek to portray her on screen after seeing a photograph of her, despite being unfamiliar with her films. The film's soundtrack featured all Lynn's hit singles which were all sung by Spacek as well as Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" sung by D'Angelo. The soundtrack reached the top 40 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Universal Pictures released Coal Miner's Daughter theatrically on March 7, 1980. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes calls it "a solidly affecting story". The film grossed $67.18 million in North America against a budget of $15 million, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of 1980. The film received seven nominations at the 53rd Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, with Spacek winning Best Actress. At the 38th Golden Globe Awards, it garnered four nominations and won two; Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress (for Spacek).

The film is considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2019. [2] [3] [4]


In 1945, 13-year-old Loretta Webb is one of eight children of Ted Webb, a Van Lear coal miner raising a family with his wife in the midst of grinding poverty in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky (pronounced by locals as "Butcher Holler").

In 1948, at the age of 15, Loretta marries 22-year-old Oliver "Mooney" (aka Doo, short for Doolittle) Lynn, becoming a mother of four by the time she is 19. The family moves to northern Washington State, where Doo works in the forest industry and Loretta sings occasionally at local honky-tonks on weekends. After some time, Loretta makes an occasional appearance on local radio.

By the time Loretta turns 25, Norm Burley, the owner of Zero Records, a small Canadian record label, hears Loretta sing during one of her early radio appearances. Burley gives the couple the money needed to travel to Los Angeles to cut a demo tape from which her first single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," is made. After returning home from the sessions, Doo suggests he and Loretta go on a promotional tour to push the record. Doo shoots his own publicity photo for Loretta, and spends many late nights writing letters to show promoters and to radio disc jockeys all over the South. After Loretta receives an emergency phone call from her mother telling her that her father had died, she and Doo hit the road with records, photos, and their children. The two embark on an extensive promotional tour of radio stations across the South.

En route, and unbeknownst to the couple, Loretta's first single, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," hits the charts based on radio and jukebox plays, and earns her a spot on the Grand Ole Opry. In the summer of 1961, after 17 straight weekly performances on the Opry, she is invited to sing at Ernest Tubb Record Shop's Midnite Jamboree after her performance that night. Country superstar Patsy Cline, one of Loretta's idols, who had recently been hospitalized from a near-fatal car wreck, inspires Loretta to dedicate Patsy's newest hit "I Fall to Pieces" to the singer herself as a musical get-well card. Cline listens to the broadcast that night from her hospital room and sends her husband Charlie Dick to Ernest Tubb Record Shop to fetch Loretta so the two can meet. A close friendship with Cline follows, which abruptly was ended by Cline's death in a plane crash on March 5, 1963.

The next few years are a whirlwind. The stress of extensive touring, keeping up her image, overwork, and trying to keep her marriage and family together cause Loretta a nervous breakdown, which she suffers onstage at the beginning of a concert. After a year off at her ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, Loretta goes back on the road, returning to establish herself as the "First Lady of Country Music."

The film closes with Loretta recounting the story of her life through her 1970 hit song "Coal Miner's Daughter" to a sold-out audience.



Lynn personally chose Spacek to portray her, making the decision based on a photograph of the actress despite being unfamiliar with her films, a story Spacek recounts in a DVD audio commentary for the collector's edition of the film. Initially, Spacek was reluctant to participate, and asked to do her own singing in the film in hopes of scaring the studio from pursuing her for the role. At the time that Lynn prematurely announced on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson that "Sissy Spacek is going to play me," the actress was torn between friends who advised her to do Lynn's film and those who advised her to choose instead a Nicolas Roeg project due to start filming at the same time. Talking it over with her mother-in-law that evening, Spacek was advised to pray for a sign, which she did. She and her husband subsequently went for a drive in his mother's car, where the radio was tuned to a classical music station that changed formats at sunset every evening. As the couple pulled out of the parking garage, the title line of the song "Coal Miner's Daughter" came from the radio. [5]

In her 2012 memoir "My Extraordinary Ordinary Life", Sissy Spacek states that she became fast friends with Loretta Lynn and worked to emulate her unique accent and speech patterns by spending an afternoon tape-recording the singer while she told stories of her life, some of which made it into the script. She then listened to the tapes and repeated the lines until she captured her own version of Lynn. Though Spacek had started out as a singer, the producers considered dubbing Loretta's vocals over her performance. Lynn encouraged them to allow Spacek to do all of her own singing in the film and helped the actress learn to sing and play guitar in her style. The film's soundtrack featured Spacek's singing all of Lynn's hits sung in the movie, including "Coal Miner's Daughter". [6]

The locations included Blackey, Eolia, Flatgap, Bottom Fork, Redfox in Knott and Letcher Counties in Kentucky and Pardee, a former coal camp on the Virginia side of Black Mountain. Interiors of Lynn's childhood home were shot in a warehouse in Norton, Virginia. [7]

The replica of Lynn's home in Butcher Hollow, built at Bottom Fork, Letcher County, Kentucky was burned by arsonists. It was on the front porch of that house that Levon Helm, drummer and singer of the rock group The Band, made his acting debut as Lynn's father. [7]

In an interview with Merv Griffin broadcast November 7, 1978, Loretta Lynn said that Harrison Ford originally was cast.


Coal Miner's Daughter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Coal Miner's Daughter.png
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedMarch 7, 1980
Bradley's Barn
(Mt. Juliet, Tennessee) [8]
Genre Country
Label MCA Nashville
Producer Owen Bradley
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [9]

Coal Miner's Daughter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on March 7, 1980, under the MCA Nashville label. [10] It included music by Beverly D'Angelo, Levon Helm, and Sissy Spacek except for the "End Credits Medley" and material by other artists which were not under contract to MCA. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA on January 11, 1982 [11] and has been released on vinyl, [12] cassette tape, [13] and CD. [10] Levon Helm's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was released as a single on 7" vinyl, both as a double-A-side and also with Allen Toussaint's "Working in the Coal Mine", a non-album track also sung by Helm, on the B-side. [14] The soundtrack would win Country Music Association Award for Album of the Year in 1980, the first of only two soundtracks to do so. O Brother, Where Art Thou? would be the other in 2001.

1."The Titanic" A.P. Carter, Sara Carter, Maybelle Carter Sissy Spacek 2:29
2."Blue Moon of Kentucky" Bill Monroe Levon Helm 2:51
3."There He Goes" Eddie Miller, Durwood Haddock, W.S. StevensonSissy Spacek2:11
4."I'm a Honky Tonk Girl" Loretta Lynn Sissy Spacek2:22
5."Amazing Grace" John Newton Funeral Guests2:08
6."Walkin' After Midnight"Donn Hecht, Alan Block Beverly D'Angelo 2:21
7."Crazy" H.W. Nelson Beverly D'Angelo2:45
8."I Fall to Pieces" Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard Sissy Spacek2:48
9."Sweet Dreams" Don Gibson Beverly D'Angelo2:37
10."Back in Baby's Arms" Bob Montgomery Sissy Spacek, Beverly D'Angelo2:10
11."One's on the Way" Shel Silverstein Sissy Spacek2:42
12."You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man"LynnSissy Spacek2:18
13."You're Lookin' at Country"LynnSissy Spacek2:26
14."Coal Miner's Daughter"LynnSissy Spacek3:04

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1980)Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report) [15] 98
Canada Country Albums ( RPM ) [16] 1
Canada Top Albums ( RPM )23
US Top Country Albums ( Billboard )2
US Billboard 200 40


Country Certification
United States Gold [11]
Preceded by RPM Country Albums number-one album
May 10–31, 1980
Succeeded by
Together by The Oak Ridge Boys


Box office

In its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, Coal Miner's Daughter was number 1 at the box office, grossing $3.6 million in 796 theaters. The film grossed a total of $67.1 million in the United States and Canada, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of 1980 in North America. [17]

Critical response

Sissy Spacek's portrayal of Loretta Lynn garnered widespread critical acclaim winning her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Sissy Spacek by David Shankbone (cropped).jpg
Sissy Spacek's portrayal of Loretta Lynn garnered widespread critical acclaim winning her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Coal Miner's Daughter holds an approval rating of 87% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Like a classic traditional country song, Coal Miner's Daughter draws on time-tested formula -- and undeniable talent -- to tell a solidly affecting story". [18] On Metacritic, which assigns a rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [19]

Variety called it "a thoughtful, endearing film charting the life of singer Loretta Lynn from the depths of poverty in rural Kentucky to her eventual rise to the title of 'queen of country music'." [20] Roger Ebert from The Chicago Times stated that the film "has been made with great taste and style; it's more intelligent and observant than movie biographies of singing stars used to be." [21]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards [22] [23] Best Picture Bernard SchwartzNominated
Best Actress Sissy Spacek Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Thomas Rickman Nominated
Best Art Direction John W. Corso and John M. Dwyer Nominated
Best Cinematography Ralf D. BodeNominated
Best Film Editing Arthur Schmidt Nominated
Best Sound Richard Portman, Roger Heman and James R. Alexander Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Arthur SchmidtNominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Sissy SpacekNominated
Best Sound Gordon Ecker, James R. Alexander, Richard Portman and Roger Heman Jr.Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Michael Apted Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Sissy SpacekWon
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Tommy Lee Jones Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Beverly D'Angelo Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle AwardsBest ActressSissy SpacekWon
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 3rd Place
Best Actress Sissy SpacekWon
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Sissy SpacekWon
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Thomas RickmanNominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Home media

Broadway adaptation

On May 10, 2012, at the Grand Ole Opry, Lynn announced that Zooey Deschanel was to portray her in a Broadway musical adaptation. [26]

One episode of The Simpsons , titled "Colonel Homer", is based partly on this film. The episode also stars Beverly D'Angelo as cocktail waitress Lurleen Lumpkin.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sissy Spacek</span> American actress and singer

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patsy Cline</span> American country music singer (1932–1963)

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loretta Lynn</span> American singer-songwriter (1932–2022)

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ernest Tubb</span> American singer-songwriter

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"Coal Miner's Daughter" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. Considered Lynn's signature song, it was originally released as a single in 1970 and became a number one hit on the Billboard country chart. It was later released on an album of the same name. Produced by Owen Bradley, the song tells the story of Lynn's coal-mining father in rural Kentucky during the Great Depression. Lynn, who was born in 1932 and experienced the Great Depression as a child, also describes her childhood and the circumstances she was raised in during those years.

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"Sweet Dreams" or "Sweet Dreams " is a country ballad, which was written by Don Gibson. Gibson originally recorded the song in 1955; his version hit the top ten of Billboard's country chart, but was eclipsed by the success of a competing version by Faron Young. In 1960, after Gibson had established himself as a country music superstar, he released a new version as a single. This version also charted in the top ten on the country chart and also crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number ninety-three. The song has become a country standard, with other notable versions by Patsy Cline and Emmylou Harris.

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"You're Lookin' at Country" is a country music song written and made famous by Loretta Lynn in 1971. The song peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and reached #1 on the Canada Country Tracks chart on RPM.

<i>Coal Miners Daughter</i> (album) 1971 studio album by Loretta Lynn

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loretta Lynn albums discography</span> Album discography of American singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn

The discography of American country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn includes 50 studio albums, 36 compilation albums, two live albums, nine video albums, two box sets and 27 additional album appearances. Briefly recording with the Zero label, she signed an official recording contract with Decca Records in 1961, remaining there for over 20 years The first under the label was her debut studio album Loretta Lynn Sings (1963). It peaked at number two on the Billboard Top Country Albums survey. Lynn would issue several albums a year with her growing success, including a duet album with Ernest Tubb (1965), a gospel album (1965), and a holiday album (1966). Her seventh studio album You Ain't Woman Enough (1966) was her first release to top the country albums chart and to chart within the Billboard 200. Other albums to reach number one during this period were Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (1967) and Fist City. Don't Come A'Drinkin would also become Lynn's first album to certify gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">I'm a Honky Tonk Girl</span> 1960 single by Loretta Lynn

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<i>Blue Eyed Kentucky Girl</i> 1985 compilation album by Loretta Lynn

Blue Eyed Kentucky Girl is a compilation album by American country singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. It was released in 1985 via MCA Records and was produced by Owen Bradley. The album included ten previously-recorded hits by Lynn during a fifteen-year time span. All of the album's recordings were first cut on MCA/Decca Records.

<i>Still Woman Enough</i> (album) 2021 studio album by Loretta Lynn

Still Woman Enough is the forty-sixth and final solo studio album by American country music singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. It was released on March 19, 2021, by Legacy Recordings. The album was produced by Lynn's daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. The album shares its title with Lynn's 2002 autobiography.


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