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Crazy Mama (1975)

In an interview for Films in Review shortly before receiving her Oscar nomination, Ann Sothern complained that Tisha's Whales cameo left her "very little to do," then went on to speak fondly of Jonathan Demme's Crazy Mama as a film in which Tisha "had a good part – not like in The Whales of August."

Actually, that's rather an underassessment of Tisha's Whales role, which was definitely larger than that of her two cameo co-stars, Mary Steenburgen and Margaret Ladd. And it was a role in which Tisha, then in her early 40s, quite successfully portrayed a character in her late teens or early 20s!

Still and all, Tisha's portrayal of the young Sheba, her mother's Crazy Mama character, was meatier than her Whales role, with Tisha's Sheba character receiving closer camera focus and the central image at the close of her scene.

Crazy Mama plays largely as a comedy, with three generations — Sheba (Ann Sothern), Melba (Cloris Leachman), and Cheryl (Linda Purl) — on a late-50s cross-country crime spree, having been evicted from their California hair salon and seeking to garner enough loot to buy back the family farm in Jerusalem, Arkansas, that had been foreclosed a quarter century earlier. They're joined by various odd-ball characters, and most charmingly Merie Earle as 82-year-old Bertha, who "hasn't had thus much fun since I escaped from the nursing home"!

But it's not a very successful crime spree, with the film turning to a darker mood as most of the gang are gunned down by The Law and Sheba and Melba discover that Jerusalem, Arkansas, has by 1958 lost its rural charm and become as much a commercial strip as any beachfront California resort.

Crazy Mama's score includes a number of 'Fifties songs . . . with the lyrics to "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (Barnaby Records), the opening-credits song, giving some hint of the movie's darker side.

Note: Cloris LeachmanIMDb is the only actress to have won five Emmys in five separate categories. In Crazy Mama, her son Bryan Englund (d. 1989) played "Snake" while her daughter Dinah Englund played her mother's character, Melba, as a young child with Tisha in the opening scene.

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