Coal Miner's Daughter (film)

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 birth in a poor family and getting married at 13 to her rise as one of the most successful 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.

Coal Miner's Daughter
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Apted
Produced byBernard Schwartz
Screenplay byTom Rickman
Based onCoal Miner's Daughter
by George Vecsey
StarringSissy Spacek
Tommy Lee Jones
Beverly D'Angelo
Levon Helm
Music byOwen Bradley
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited byArthur Schmidt
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 7, 1980 (1980-03-07)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
(equivalent to $45.61 million in 2018)[1]
Box office$67.18 million
(equivalent to $204.28 million in 2018)[1]

A film on Lynn's life was intended to be made since the release of the biography. Production for the film began on 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 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 and sold over 500,000 copies, thus being certified gold by the RIAA.

Coal Miner's Daughter was released theatrically on March 7, 1980 and grossed $67.18 million in North America against a budget of $15 million, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of 1980. It garnered critical acclaim and received seven nominations at the 53rd Academy Awards including for the Best Picture and winning Best Actress (for Spacek). At the 38th Golden Globe Awards, the film received four nominations and won two : Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress – Musical or Comedy (for Spacek).

In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2]


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.[3]

The film's soundtrack featured Spacek's singing all of Lynn's hits sung in the movie, including "Coal Miner's Daughter".

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, Va.[4]

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.[5]

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


Critical reception

It has an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews; the average rating is 8.3/10.[6] 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'."[7] Roger Ebert 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."[8]

Awards and honors

The film won the Academy Award for Best Actress (Sissy Spacek), and was nominated for Best Art Direction (Art Direction: John W. Corso; Set Decoration: John M. Dwyer), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound (Richard Portman, Roger Heman and James R. Alexander) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.[9][10]

For her performance, Spacek won an Academy Award as well as Best Actress awards from the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. Her co-star Beverly D'Angelo, who played Patsy Cline, also did her own singing rather than lip-synching; she was nominated for a Golden Globe as was Tommy Lee Jones.

Spacek's Best Actress Oscar win for playing Loretta Lynn created a rarity in the Academy Awards' history in that the real-life Loretta Lynn was in the audience witnessing the victory. That same evening, boxer Jake LaMotta was in the pavilion audience when Robert De Niro won the Best Actor statuette for his portrayal of LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980).

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

Home media

  • This film was released on LaserDisc on two separate releases. The first release was in May 1980, and the extended play version was released in July 1981. These releases were both made by MCA DiscoVision.
  • The film was released in the VHS format in the 1980s by MCA Home Video and on March 1, 1992 by MCA/Universal Home Video.
  • On September 13, 2005, Universal released a 25th Anniversary Edition on DVD in widescreen (1.85:1) format and featuring the music tracks remixed to 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo, leaving the dialogue and effects tracks as they were on the original mono soundtrack from 1980.
  • That same DVD was included in a 4-pack DVD set that also included Smokey and the Bandit, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Fried Green Tomatoes.
  • On January 7, 2014, Universal released the film on Blu-ray.


Coal Miner's Daughter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedMarch 7, 1980
Bradley's Barn
(Mt. Juliet, Tennessee)[13]
LabelMCA Nashville
ProducerOwen Bradley
Professional ratings
Review scores

Coal Miner's Daughter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on March 7, 1980, under the MCA Nashville label.[15] 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[16] and has been released on vinyl,[17] cassette tape,[18] and CD.[15] 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.[19] The soundtrack would win Country Music Association Award for Album of the Year in 1980, the first of only two soundtracks to do (O Brother, Where Art Thou? would be the other in 2001.)

1."The Titanic"A.P. Carter, Sara Carter, Maybelle CarterSissy Spacek2:29
2."Blue Moon of Kentucky"Bill MonroeLevon Helm2:51
3."There He Goes"Eddie Miller, Durwood Haddock, W.S. StevensonSissy Spacek2:11
4."I'm a Honky Tonk Girl"Loretta LynnSissy Spacek2:22
5."Amazing Grace"John NewtonFuneral Guests2:08
6."Walkin' After Midnight"Donn Hecht, Alan BlockBeverly D'Angelo2:21
7."Crazy"H.W. NelsonBeverly D'Angelo2:45
8."I Fall to Pieces"Hank Cochran, Harlan HowardSissy Spacek2:48
9."Sweet Dreams"Don GibsonBeverly D'Angelo2:37
10."Back in Baby's Arms"Bob MontgomerySissy Spacek, Beverly D'Angelo2:10
11."One's on the Way"Shel SilversteinSissy 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
Canada Country Albums (RPM)[20] 1
Canada Top Albums (RPM) 23
US Top Country Albums (Billboard) 2
US Billboard 200 40


Country Certification
United States Gold[16]
Preceded by
Together by The Oak Ridge Boys
RPM Country Albums number-one album
May 10–31, 1980
Succeeded by
Together by The Oak Ridge Boys


On May 10, 2012, at the Grand Ole Opry, Lynn announced that Zooey Deschanel was to portray her in a Broadway musical adaptation.[21]

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, who happens to have a beautiful country singing voice.


  1. Box Office Information for Coal Miner's Daughter. Archived 2017-01-16 at the Wayback Machine The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. Tartaglione, Nancy (December 11, 2019). "National Film Registry Adds 'Purple Rain', 'Clerks', 'Gaslight' & More; 'Boys Don't Cry' One Of Record 7 Pics From Female Helmers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  3. Sissy Spacek and Michael Apted. Feature commentary track, Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary/Collector's Edition, 2005.
  4. "Good memories still linger for 'Coal Miner's Daughter'". The Mountain Eagle. Whitesburg, Kentucky. April 5, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  5. "Good memories still linger for 'Coal Miner's Daughter'". The Mountain Eagle. Whitesburg, Kentucky. April 5, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  6. Coal Miner's Daughter at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. "Coal Miner's Daughter". Variety. 1980. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
  8. "COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER". Chicago Sun Times. Approx. March 1980. Retrieved 2013-09-14. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  10. "1980 Academy Awards". 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2007.
  11. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  12. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  13. Coal Miner's Daughter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD). Various Artists. MCA Nashville. 1980. 088 170 122-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. "allmusic (((Coal Miner's Daughter - Various Artist > Review)))". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  15. Lynn, Loretta. "Coal Miner's Daughter: Various Artists: Music". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  16. "RIAA - Recording Industry Association of America". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2012-04-20.
  17. "Coal Miner's Daughter / Loretta Lynn / LP Soundtrack: Sissy Spacek, Beverly D"Angelo: Music". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  18. "Coal Miner's Daughter: Various Artists: Music". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  19. "Soundtrack Album: Coal Miner's Daughter".
  20. "RPM Country 25 Albums" (PDF). RPM. 33 (7). May 10, 1980. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  21. Gans, Andrew (May 11, 2012). "Zooey Deschanel Will Star in Broadway Stage Adaptation of "Coal Miner's Daughter"". Playbill, Inc. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
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