Straight Talk

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Straight Talk
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barnet Kellman
Produced by
Written by Craig Bolotin
Music by
Cinematography Peter Sova
Edited by Michael Tronick
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • April 3, 1992 (1992-04-03) (United States)
Running time
91 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $21,202,099

Straight Talk is an 1992 American comedy-film distributed by Hollywood Pictures, directed by Barnet Kellman and starring Dolly Parton and James Woods. Parton did not receive star-billing in any other theatrically released films until the 2012 film Joyful Noise, alongside Queen Latifah. Her previous starring films had been 9 to 5 (1980), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Rhinestone (1984), and Steel Magnolias (1989).

Plot summary

Shirlee Kenyon is a down-home country girl who, through a series of mistakes, is hired as a radio talk show host. Her show is wildly successful but her success is based on the lie that she is actually a clinical psychologist. She has to learn that giving advice and following it can be harder than she thought.

Shirlee starts off in the film as a dance instructor living in Arkansas. After she is fired for giving advice to her clients rather than teaching them dance, she attempts to convince her common-law husband to move to Chicago with her. After he declines and then belittles her, she decides to move there herself.

Once she arrives, she is standing on a bridge enjoying the view of the city when she accidentally drops a twenty-dollar bill. As she climbs over the rail in an attempt to retrieve the money, Jack (played by James Woods) sees her from his office window. He is a reporter for a Chicago newspaper. He thinks she is trying to commit suicide, so he runs out to rescue her. As he attempts to grab her and save her, Shirlee almost falls and drops the money she was trying to recover. After they recover, she complains that he caused her to lose the twenty dollars she'd been trying to retrieve. Jack tries to give her money, saying she must need it more than he if she is willing to risk her life to retrieve it. She refuses and the two part. A bit later the same morning, Shirlee stops into a cafe for breakfast, and strikes up a conversation with another customer, Janice (Teri Hatcher), who is annoyed at having been stood up by her boyfriend the previous evening. Shirlee tells Janice that he is taking her for granted, and advises her to end the relationship, only to realize that Janice's boyfriend is, in fact, Jack; Jack shows up, and Janice tells him she no longer wants to see him, adding that Shirlee has helped her to realize how much Jack takes her for granted. Jack thanks Shirlee for "wrecking his entire day", as he exits the cafe.

Shirlee goes on many different job interviews, and finally lands a job as a switchboard operator at a local radio station. After a few hours on the job, she inadvertently walks into a recording office, and the manager mistakes her for the new radio therapist. He puts her on the air and she reluctantly begins talking with the show's callers, eventually completing the show before being fired by the producer once he comes into the office. However, Shirlee's radio segment becomes in high demand with their radio audience therefore the radio station boss Mr. Perlman demands that Shirlee be the new radio personality, then Alan is forced to find Shirlee and convince her to do the show offering a $800 per week contract. Shirlee accepts the position, but there is one condition: she must agree to pretend to be a real clinical doctor. She doesn't want to misrepresent herself, but reluctantly accepts and becomes a popular radio figure as "Doctor Shirlee."

Jack, the newspaper reporter, suspects something when he realizes the woman who was ready to risk her life for twenty dollars is a doctor. Although his editor doesn't agree, Jack pursues the story. He begins to date Shirlee, at first in an attempt to get closer to her to uncover her story, but he soon begins to fall for her. Shirlee's boyfriend from Arkansas comes Chicago to try to get her back, though his attempts fall short, and Shirlee and Jack wind up making love. Afterwards, Jack develops true feelings for her and refuses to publish the story, eventually resigning from his job over the matter. However, while this is happening, Shirlee receives another visit from her ex, who tells her that he just remembered having previously met Jack in Arkansas, and that he was asking a number of questions about her. This leads Shirlee to realize that Jack is, in fact, a reporter, and his interest in her is merely a means to uncovering her story. She storms off, and refuses to take Jack's calls.

As Shirlee's popularity increases—her show has become so popular in Chicago that producers want to syndicate it nationally—a mishap involving some of her previous advice to one of her callers eventually causes her to confess the truth to everyone on air that she is not a real doctor, and then she leaves the show. All of her listeners call in and want her back, regardless of her credentials. Someone calls the show and tells everyone listening to honk their horns at midnight if they want Doctor Shirlee back. Jack tracks Shirlee down on the same bridge where they'd first met and convinces her to take him back. When she hears the horns, Jack tells them that they are for her. She eventually goes back to the radio show, but wants to be called just "Shirlee."


The vast majority of this film was shot in historic downtown Lemont, Illinois. The "Flank Center" building was used to house the dance sequence scenes in the beginning of the film. Both Dolly Parton and James Woods ate at local establishments during filming off times. Most filming occurred in the early hours of the morning with the usage of high intensity floodlights to depict daytime. This was done to reduce interference with the general public who crowded the streets throughout the weeks of filming. The bar in the raining scene, Tom's Place, and the Barber Shop are still open with some small movie memorabilia.


Actor Role
Dolly Parton Shirlee Kenyon
James Woods Jack Russell
Griffin Dunne Alan Riegert
Michael Madsen Steve
Deirdre O'Connell Lily
John Sayles Guy Girardi
Teri Hatcher Janice
Spalding Gray Dr. David Erdman
Jerry Orbach Milo Jacoby
Amy Morton Ann
Philip Bosco Gene Perlman
Charles Fleischer Tony
Keith MacKechnie Gordon
Jay Thomas Zim Zimmerman
Paula Newsome Ellen
Tracy Letts Sean
John Gegenhuber Waiter


Parton composed ten original songs for the film soundtrack, including a rerecording of her 1976 "Light of a Clear Blue Morning".


The film received mixed reviews, with much of the praise going to Parton and Wood's performances, while at the same time criticizing the story itself.[1][2]

Box office

Straight Talk opened at the American box office in the number 4 position, grossing $4,575,746.[3] The movie spent four weeks in the box office charts and grossed $21,202,099.[4]

Home Media

The film was released to VHS and laserdisc shortly after its theatrical release by Hollywood Pictures Home Video. A DVD release came from Hollywood Pictures Home Video in 2003. In 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the home video rights to the film, along with many others from Hollywood and Touchstone Pictures and released the film on DVD and Blu-ray. Mill Creek's DVD of the film is available by itself, as part of a double-feature set with Big Business, and a triple-feature set with Big Business and V.I. Warshawski.


  1. Thomas, Kevin (1992-04-03). "MOVIE REVIEWS : Parton Gets Hung Up in Phony 'Talk'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Canby, Vincent (1992-04-03). "Straight Talk (1992) Review/Film Dolly Parton Dominates A Comedy". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Dutka, Elaine (1992-04-07). "Weekend Box Office : 'White Men' Outjumps 'Basic Instinct'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Straight Talk (1992) - Weekend Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo

External links