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Right of Way (1983)

A dying woman and her husband agree to a joint-suicide pact, whether others like it or not.


George Schaefer


Richard Lees, Richard Lees (play)
3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Bette Davis ... Mini Dwyer
James Stewart ... Teddy Dwyer
Melinda Dillon ... Ruda Dwyer
Priscilla Morrill ... Mrs. Finter
John Harkins ... G. Clayburn
Jacque Lynn Colton Jacque Lynn Colton ... Mrs. Belkin
Louis Schaefer Louis Schaefer ... Kahn
Charles Walker Charles Walker ... Kahn's Assistant
Ismael 'East' Carlo ... Gardener (as East Carlo)
Edith Fields ... Saleswoman
Michael Canavan ... Process Server (as Michael V. Murphy)
Philip Littell Philip Littell ... Cashier
Robert Jayne ... Mrs. Belkin's Son (as Bobby Jacoby)
Jodi Hicks Jodi Hicks ... Mrs. Belkin's Daughter
Erin Karpf Erin Karpf ... Mrs. Belkin's Daughter


Miniature Dwyer is named after her mother, who was making miniature doll houses when Minnie was born. Minnie, too, has built doll houses for years, and when she learns that she is terminally ill, she and her husband Teddy begin planning their joint suicide. She makes sure that her dolls are placed with people who will appreciate and cherish them. The couple refuse to allow their grief-stricken daughter or the solicitous social worker or anyone else to forestall the death they are determined is right for them. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

old age | based on play | See All (2) »




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Release Date:

1 April 1988 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Right of Way See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed in 1982, not released until 1983. See more »


Mini Dwyer: Would you like to know what it is we want to spare you from? The doctors describe it as a kind of starvation death. Except every cell in my body is a stomach. The pain will be immense. I'll lose all sense of who I am or what I am. I'll lose my insides and I'll lose my outsides. I'll be half my size and weight. Or smaller. A tiny figure lying on a rubber sheet in some hideous cinder-block building they call a hospital.
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Alternate Versions

HBO reportedly filmed three alternate endings for this made-for-television movie about an elderly couple that wants to end their lives together, and their adult daughter who wants to stop them. In the original scripted ending, the daughter finds the garage sealed and hears the car running inside, but decides not to interfere. She walks into the house, answers a phone, and looks the at the dolls her mother has left behind. In another ending that was filmed, a news crew visits the home and hears the car inside. They break in and the daughter finds here parents in the house being treated by paramedics. The daughter is told they are technically under arrest and the bewildered father is led away by a policeman while his wife is being treated on a couch. In a third version it reportedly is a passerby who notices the fumes coming from the garage rather than a news crew. When originally broadcast on HBO the original ending was used in which the couple died, but the other endings have appeared in other formats and in other markets. See more »

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User Reviews

Pact of death
25 October 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

The main draw of 'Right of Way' is the two stars, wonderful actors in James Stewart and Bette Davis both responsible for some of the all-time great screen performances (namely George Bailey in 'It's A Wonderful Life' and Margo Channing in 'All About Eve') in many very good and more films. Another big draw is the subject 'Right of Way' explores, it's a brave subject and an important and relevant one.

'Right of Way' is interesting, thoughtful and has emotional impact, but doesn't see the best of either Stewart or Davis while not wasting them. The same applies for the subject of suicide pacts and euthanasia, handled intriguingly enough and hardly trivialised but could have been explored more and in a way more tactfully in places.

It is agreed that 'Right of Way' does suffer from lack of realism in parts, namely again agreed the actions of the daughter Ruda after being told of the couple's plan. The supporting characters are one-dimensional, patchily acted and written with little subtlety or plausibility, the social worker being the worst offender. A shame because it is such a relevant, important and real situation, but those misjudgements cheapened the impact somewhat.

Didn't buy the ending either, there was a sense that the writers and producers didn't know how to end so instead tacked one on. Momentum sags towards the end.

However, Davis and Stewart are excellent, they are the reason to see 'Right of Way', with a preference for the more restrained Stewart (at his most restrained ever perhaps). Davis is quite moving though and commands the screen whenever she appears, and if it is true that Davis was difficult to work with and she and Stewart spent little time together off screen their chemistry on screen didn't come over as distant. Melinda Dillon has a hard role to pull off, and she does pull it off, despite some of her actions she was not an unsympathetic character and she was not hard to relate to.

Beautifully filmed 'Right of Way' is too, while the script is thought-provoking and just about avoids over-sentimentality with touches of understated drollness and some very tender and poignant moments. Particularly a scene between Mrs Dwyer and Ruda. The story does absorb and move, didn't feel that much indifference in the handling of the topic and when there was realism it was sensitive and has one reaching for the tissues.

Summing up, interesting and moving but deals with a topic/subject that it could have gone into depth more. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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