7.9/10
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Matewan (1987)

PG-13 | | Drama, History | 30 June 1988 (Australia)
A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company.

Director:

John Sayles

Writer:

John Sayles
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Cooper ... Joe Kenehan
Mary McDonnell ... Elma Radnor
Will Oldham ... Danny Radnor
David Strathairn ... Sid Hatfield
Ken Jenkins ... Sephus Purcell
Kevin Tighe ... Hickey
Gordon Clapp ... Tom Griggs
Bob Gunton ... C.E. Lively
Jace Alexander ... Hillard Elkins
Joe Grifasi ... Fausto
Nancy Mette ... Bridey Mae
Jo Henderson Jo Henderson ... Mrs. Elkins
Josh Mostel ... Cabell Testerman
Gary McCleery Gary McCleery ... Ludie
Maggie Renzi Maggie Renzi ... Rosaria
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Storyline

Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and the gun thugs of the notorious Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces. UMWA organizer and dual-card Wobbly Joe Kenehan determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. While Kenehan and his story are fictional, the setting and the dramatic climax are historical; Sid Hatfield, Cabell C. Testerman, C. E. Lively and the Felts brothers were real-life participants, and 'Few Clothes' is based on a character active several years previously. Written by Susan C. Mitchell <susanm@indirect.com>, expanded by Silverwhistle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

At the coal company they use you until you wear out See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

30 June 1988 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Matewan See more »

Filming Locations:

West Virginia, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$23,850, 30 August 1987

Gross USA:

$1,680,358

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,680,358
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie was actually filmed in a town in central West Virginia known as Thurmond. This town is located on the New River. It is about 100 miles from the real city of Matewan. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where the coal company executives are trying to bribe the Mayor and Sid Hatfield, the calendar behind the mayor reads September 1920. The historical shootout at the climax occurred in May of 1920, four months beforehand. See more »

Quotes

Danny Radnor: [Narrating] It were 19 and 20 in the southwest fields and things was tough. The miners was trying to bring the union to West Virginia and the coal operators and their gun thugs was set on keeping them out.
See more »


Soundtracks

FIRE IN THE HOLE
Lyrics by John Sayles and Mason Daring
Music by Mason Daring
(c) 1987 Daring Music/ASCAP
Sung by Hazel Dickens
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An American Masterpiece
24 June 2002 | by rrenonSee all my reviews

John Sayles is a national treasure! Ferociously independent --most of his films are made with privately organized funds-- and working with what has become a repertory company --most of his actors return to work with him for less than they would get elsewhere-- he has never made an uninteresting film. Even when his films may vary in overall quality, from merely good to great, they are each interesting and arresting.

My mother was an organizer in the southwest coal counties of West Virginia, arriving there in 1926 (having left college), near the end of the coal wars. Her only comment on the film, when I screened it for her before she died in 1988,was that the working conditions and the living conditions of the miners and their families were far worse than depicted in the film. She always spoke at union meetings surrounded by a body guard of 10-20 armed miners. A number of her young colleagues were assassinated (there's no other appropriate word for how they died).

The murder of Sid Hatfield, the town sheriff of Matewan, in the year following the year portrayed in the film, in broad daylight on the McDowell County courthouse steps precipitated the largest insurrection in the U.S. since the Civil War. More than 10,000 armed miners from the six coal counties, descended on the court house looking for the private detectives and law "enforcement" officers who were the assassins. They took over the court house and the town, and threatened open insurrection. Thew film is a great film. Unfortunately, like most of John Sayles's films, it did not play to a large audience.


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