Cross Creek is a 1983 American drama film directed by Martin Ritt based on author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' 1943 memoir "Cross Creek," starring Mary Steenburgen, Rip Torn, Peter Coyote, Alfre Woodard and Dana Hill.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Set in New York State in the year 1928, an aspiring author named Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings advises her husband that her last book was rejected by a publisher and has bought an orange grove in Florida and is will be leaving him to go there.

Marjorie drives to the nearest town alone and she arrives in time for her car to die. A local resident, Norton Baskin takes Marjorie the rest of the distance to a dilapidated and overgrown cabin attached to an even more overgrown orange grove. Despite Baskin's (and Majorie's own) doubts, she stays and begins to fix up the property.

The local residents of "the Creek" begin to interact with her; Marsh Turner (Rip Torn) comes around with his teenage daughter Ellie (Dana Hill), who keeps a deer fawn as a pet that she has named Flag. A black woman, Geechee (Alfre Woodard), arrives and offers to work for her, despite the fact that Rawlings insists she cannot pay her much.

The grove languishes below Marjorie's expectations and she writes another novel, hoping to get it published. A very young married couple arrives to inhabit a cabin on her property. The woman is very pregnant and they both reject Marjorie's attempts to help them out. Marjorie then employs the assistance of a few of the Creek residents, Geechee and Baskin, to unblock a vital irrigation vein for her grove and it begins improving and the young couple has their child.

Ellie's deer starts grows older and it escapes her pen. Marsh foretells that the deer will have to be killed for eating all their food. Geechee's husband comes to stay with her after being released from prison, and Rawlings offers him a place to work in her grove, but he refuses and Rawlings asks him to leave.

Even though her husband drinks and gambles, Geechee goes to leave with him and Marjorie admits she will be sad to see her leave. Geechee demands to know why Rawlings would allow a friend to make such a mistake. Geechee eventually decides to stay after all after telling Marjorie that she needs to learn how to treat her friends better.

Marjorie submits her novel (which is a gothic romance) to Max Perkins and it is once again rejected. He writes her in return to tell her to write him stories about the people she describes so well in her letters instead of the popular English governess stories she has been writing.

Marjorie does so immediately, beginning with telling the story of the young married couple (eventually becoming "Jacob's Ladder" which was published in Scribner's Magazine in 1931). During a visit to the Turner's home on Ellie's 14th birthday, Flag escapes his pen again and Marsh is forced to shoot him after he's eaten up the family's vegetables.

Marsh goes on a bender & goes into town which attracts the attention of the sheriff. The sheriff finds Marsh drinking moonshine with a shotgun across his lap and demands the gun. When Marsh offers it to him, the sheriff shoots him (the story eventually becoming the basis for The Yearling).

Max Perkins (Malcolm McDowell) visits and accepts Marjorie's story "Jacob's Ladder" upon reading it. Baskin asks Marjorie to marry him which she accepts after much hesitation about her independence. She then realizes her profound attachment to the land at Cross Creek.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Mary Steenburgen as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  • Rip Torn as Marsh Turner
  • Peter Coyote as Norton Baskin
  • Dana Hill as Ellie Turner
  • Alfre Woodard as Beatrice "Geechee"
  • Malcolm McDowell as Max Perkins
  • Joanna Miles as Mrs. Turner
  • Ike Eisenmann as Paul
  • Cary Guffey as Floyd Turner
  • Toni Hudson as Tim's Wife
  • Bo Rucker as Leroy
  • Jay O. Sanders as Charles Rawlings
  • John Hammond as Tim

Production[edit | edit source]

"Cross Creek" began filming in April of 1982 and was filmed in Cross Creek, Florida, Alachua County, Florida, Hawthorne, Florida, Micanopy, Florida, Marion County, Florida and Long Island, New York.

The movie was made and released about 45 years after Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' novel "The Yearling" was first published in 1938.

To date, actress Mary Steenburgen is the only actress ever to portray Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in screen and television.

Release[edit | edit source]

The movie was selected to screen in competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983.

It was later released on September 21, 1983 in New York City, New York.

Accolades[edit | edit source]

"Cross Creek" received four Academy Award nominations:

  • Best Supporting Actor (Rip Torn)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Alfre Woodard)
  • Best Costume Design (Joe I. Tompkins)
  • Best Music, Original Score (Leonard Rosenman)

Actress Dana Hill was nominated at the Young Artist Awards for "Best Young Supporting Actress In a Motion Picture."

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