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Dolores Claiborne (film)

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Title: Dolores Claiborne (film)  
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Subject: Taylor Hackford, The Mangler Reborn, Sometimes They Come Back (film), The Tommyknockers (miniseries), Solar eclipses in fiction
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Dolores Claiborne (film)

Dolores Claiborne
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Taylor Hackford
Produced by Charles Mulvehill
Taylor Hackford
Screenplay by Tony Gilroy
Based on Dolores Claiborne 
by Stephen King
Starring Kathy Bates
Jennifer Jason Leigh
David Strathairn
John C. Reilly
Eric Bogosian
Christopher Plummer
Music by Danny Elfman
Hendrik Meurkens
Cinematography Gabriel Beristain
Edited by Mark Warner
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • March 24, 1995 (1995-03-24) (U.S.)
  • September 8, 1995 (1995-09-08) (UK)
Running time 132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $24,361,867

Dolores Claiborne is a 1995 drama thriller film based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was directed by Taylor Hackford.


Dolores Claiborne (Bates) works as a domestic servant on a Maine island. The film opens with Dolores having a struggle with her elderly, paralyzed employer Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), after which Vera falls down the stairs. Dolores ransacks the kitchen and is then caught by a mailman as she stands over Vera with a rolling pin, apparently intending to kill Vera. Vera dies and the police begin an investigation, believing Dolores murdered Vera.

Dolores' daughter, Selena St. George (Leigh), a journalist battling depression and alcoholism, arrives in town to support her mother, despite her own doubts about Dolores' innocence. Dolores insists that she did not kill her wealthy employer, but finds almost no sympathy as the entire town believes she murdered her husband, Joe St. George (David Strathairn) almost 20 years earlier. Some of the town's inhabitants harass her by vandalizing her home, taunting her in the street, and driving by her house screaming at her. Detective John Mackey (Christopher Plummer), who was the chief detective in her husband's murder case, is determined to put Dolores away for life.

Selena also believes that Dolores killed her father, and so has not spoken to her mother in over a decade. As the film develops, it is revealed that Joe was an abusive alcoholic, and that one night Dolores had threatened to kill him if he ever harmed her again. Dolores went to work for Vera Donovan as a housemaid in order to raise enough money to pay for Selena's education, and had gone to the bank to withdraw her money so she and Selena could flee Joe's abuse. The plan backfired, however, when the bank notified Dolores that Joe stole the money from Selena's savings account.

Back in the present, Dolores says that Vera had thrown herself down the staircase and begged Dolores to put her out of her misery. Mackey refuses to believe her, and reveals that Vera has left her entire fortune to Dolores. Mackey informs them that the will is eight years old, which nearly convinces Selena that her mother is guilty.

Dolores finally decides that it is time to reveal the truth to Selena: She did in fact kill Joe, and it was actually Vera who suggested the plan to her. Dolores says that she had been pushed to the breaking point upon realizing that Joe had been molesting Selena, which Selena furiously denies both in the past and present. After a fierce argument Selena storms out, leaving her mother to fend for herself.

In a flashback to a scene some 20 years before, Vera engages in her regular ritual of berating Dolores, who breaks down crying and confesses her troubled home life. An unusually sympathetic Vera implies that she killed her late husband Jack, and engineered it to look like an accident. Vera's confession forms a bond between the two women and allows Dolores to take control of her own situation and future.

Still in the past, as a total solar eclipse approaches, Dolores and the young Selena have an argument about Dolores' suspicions regarding Joe's sexual abuse of Selena. Selena flees home for the weekend to work at a hotel to raise money from the high number of tourists coming to watch the eclipse. Joe soon returns from working on a fishing boat, and as a treat, Dolores has bought him a bottle of Scotch. After Joe gets drunk, Dolores reveals that she knows that he has stolen from Selena's account and molested his own daughter. Dolores provokes him into attacking her and falling down an old well, leaving him to die as he plunges to the stone bottom.

In the present again, Selena hears the story on a tape left for her by Dolores, who had foreseen her departure. While on the ferry, Selena suddenly uncovers a repressed memory of her father forcing her to give him a handjob. Realizing that her mother was telling the truth all along, Selena rushes back to her, who is attending the coroner's inquest, in which Mackey makes a case to be sent to a grand jury in an attempt to indict Dolores for murder. Selena tells Mackey that he has no admissible evidence, and that despite an often-stormy relationship, Vera and Dolores loved each other. Realizing this, Mackey reluctantly drops the case.

The film ends with Dolores and Selena reconciling on the ferry wharf before Selena returns to New York.



Dolores Claiborne received mostly positive reviews from critics, as it currently holds an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews.[1]

Box office

The movie debuted at number three for the week of March 26, 1995 with $5,721,920. It went on to make $24,361,867 domestically. It ranks as the 15th highest grossing film based on a Stephen King novel.[2] It ranks as the 17th highest on the same list adjusted for inflation.[3]


  1. ^ "Dolores Claiborne (1995)".  
  2. ^ "Dolores Claiborne".  
  3. ^ "Stephen King".  

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