8.3/10
4,140
43 user 32 critic

Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike.

Director:

Barbara Kopple

On Disc

at Amazon

Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Norman Yarborough Norman Yarborough ... Himself - Eastover Mining President
Houston Elmore Houston Elmore ... Himself - UMW organizer
Phil Sparks Phil Sparks ... Himself - UMW staff
John Corcoran John Corcoran ... Himself - Consolidated Coal President
John O'Leary John O'Leary ... Himself - former Bureau of Mines director
Donald Rasmussen Donald Rasmussen ... Himself - Blackwing Clinic, WV (as Dr. Donald Rasmussen)
Hawley Wells Jr. Hawley Wells Jr. ... Himself (as Dr. Hawley Wells Jr.)
Tom Williams Tom Williams ... Himself - Boyle campaigner
Chip Yablonski Chip Yablonski ... Himself
Ken Yablonski Ken Yablonski ... Himself
Logan Patterson Logan Patterson ... Himself - negotiator
Harry Patrick Harry Patrick ... Himself - UMW secretary-treasurer
Mike Trbovich Mike Trbovich ... Himself - UMW VP
Bernie Aronson Bernie Aronson ... Himself - UMW staff
Guy Farmer Guy Farmer ... Himself - BCPA General Counsel
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Storyline

This film documents the coal miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA. Written by Martin Lewison <lewison+@pitt.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 September 1977 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Eparhia Harlan I.P.A. See more »

Filming Locations:

Brookside, Kentucky, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cabin Creek See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When filming began, the film was intended to be about the 1972 campaign by Arnold Miller and Miners For Democracy to unseat UMWA president Tony Boyle, in the aftermath of Joseph Yablonski's murder; but the Harlan County strike began and caused the filmmakers to change their principal subject, with the campaign and murder becoming secondary subjects. See more »

Quotes

Hawley Wells Jr.: [... ] that was when I learned my first real political lesson, about what happens when you take a position against the coal operators, against the capitalists... I found out that the union officials were working with the coal companies. I also found that the Catholic hierarchy was working with the coal companies. Here was a combination of the whole thing, you see: you had to bump against the whole combination of them.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Making of 'Harlan County USA' (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Forty-Two Years
Written and Sung by Nimrod Workman
Instrumental by Kenny Kosek
See more »

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User Reviews

'There's blood upon your contract like vinegar in your wine...
7 September 2010 | by Benedict_CumberbatchSee all my reviews

...'cause there's one man dead on the Harlan County line'.

This is a powerful Oscar-winning documentary produced and directed by Barbara Kopple ('American Dream', 'Wild Man Blues'). It focuses on the men at the Brookside Mine in Harlan, Kentucky who, in the summer of 1973, voted to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Duke Power Company and its subsidiary, Eastover Mining Company, refused to sign the contract. The miners came out on a long strike, registered by Kopple with testimonies, backstories, archival footage, and music, particularly that of Hazel Dickens during the final credits.

The film's main strength resides in the sincerity of its emotional, political and sociological core without being overtly sentimental, and Kopple's way of testifying instead of exploiting the subjects. The miners and their wives are not depicted in old hillbilly stereotypes, but rather as hard-working human beings fighting for their basic rights ('together we stand, divided we fall').

Thirty years after the release of this documentary, five miners died in an explosion at Harlan County. When the film was shot, money was the bigger issue (industry profits rose 170% in 1975, but miner's wages rose only 4%); nowadays, however, safety is an even bigger issue. You'd think things would have been largely improved since then, but that's not really the case. 'Harlan County U.S.A.' is a remarkable documentary because it testifies and proposes solutions about a public struggle that shouldn't be overlooked, yet has been for such a long time, in the "land of the free and home of the brave".


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