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Jane Fonda gives an Emmy-winning performance as Gertie Nevels, a pioneer woman and the mother of five from the Kentucky hills who is forced to uproot her children to follow her husband Clovis (Levon Helm) to Detroit when he finds work during World War II. One setback follows another and shattering tragedy strikes the family. It's all up to Gertie to find new strength, courage and determination to keep her family together and strong. Written by
"The Dollmaker" deserves to be considered a classic. The story itself would be memorable and moving with or without Fonda, but her portrayal of Gertie Nevels, the mother, is very true to the type. There is no hint of the bumpkin in Fonda's interpretation of the uneducated, backwoods mother of five, who moves from the Kentucky hills to Detroit, where she and her family endure great hardships. Fonda plays the part of a strong Appalachian woman with dignity. Although "The Dollmaker" has not been picked up and replayed as one of the "modern classics," it truly deserves a place alongside other classics, such as "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Coal Miner's Daughter." It has been quite a few years since I saw the film--probably at the time of its original release in 1984--but it touched me deeply enough that I have never forgotten it.
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