Places in the Heart

From Spanking Art

Places in the Heart is a drama movie from 1984, directed by Robert Benton.


Spoiler warning

The film tells the story of Edna Spalding (Sally Field), a Texas widow who tries to start a cotton farm on her property during the Great Depression (1935) together with the help of Moze (Danny Glover), an African-American man, and Mr. Will (John Malkovich), a blind man. After her husband, who was a sheriff, is shot, leaving her with two children, a house, debts and no income, Edna is forced to take over the responsibilities of the head of household.

The spanking scene[edit]

Edna's two children are a boy named Frank (Yankton Hatten, 8-9) and a girl named Possum (Gennie James, 7). When the children first commit a mischief (trespassing into Mr. Will's room, playing his grammophone and scratching a record) they go unpunished. Later, Frank gets caught smoking at school. His teacher delivers him home. Possum hears of what has happened and, highly excited, she runs to inform Mr. Will that "Frank's gonna catch it".

Edna asks her son, "Well young man, what would your Pa do if he were here?" He replies quietly, "He'd spank me, I reckon". "I guess that's what we got to do then."

Edna has never spanked Frank before because that always used to do her husband. She is unsure how to do it. She takes out of the closet a razor strop, presumably the implement that her husband used to use. Possum steps in her way, wanting to know what she is going to do with Frank. "... Are you gonna spank him? Can I watch? Can I?"

Edna motions Possum to stay outside while she closes the door to have privacy with Frank. She asks the boy how his Pa would do it. Frank tells her that he would be made to lean against the table and that in a case like this "I reckon he'd give me ten good licks." He assumes said position and says "I'm ready." Edna steps behind him, the strap in hand, but hesitates, obviously very uncomfortable with having to punish her son like this. "Ma? I'm ready." the boy repeats.

Possum and Mr. Will listen from outside, symathetically holding hands, as ten loud licks fall. Moze joins them and is informed what's going on. Frank exits, sniffing. Possum asks him, "Frank — did it hurt? — Frank? — Frank?" but he goes to his room and doesn't want to talk now.

Edna is deeply disturbed and tells Mr. Will, trying to compose herself, "I won't do that again — ever." — "Are you alright?" he inquires. "God, I miss my husband", she says, breaking out in tears.

The spanking scene is about halfway through the movie (0:49).


These were both children's first film roles. Sally Field won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for this film, and John Malkovich made his feature film debut in this film and was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

See also[edit]