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Desert Hearts (1986)

Director: Donna Deitch     Starring: Helen Shaver
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Learn more about Desert Hearts:

Format: DVD
Sku: 204339087
UPC: 754703762832
UPC 14: 00754703762832
Rating: Game Rating Code
See more in Gay & Lesbian
The best-selling lesbian title returns with never-before-seen additional footage!

Desert Hearts ranks as the all-time classic lesbian favorite romantic film - and also stands as the top-grossing lesbian-made lesbian feature of all time (drawing $2.4 million at the box office).

Based on Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart, the movie tells the story of Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver), a repressed English professor who goes to Reno for a quickie divorce in 1959. She spends the weeks waiting for her final divorce papers at a dude ranch where she meets Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau), a beautiful young casino worker.

Cay is a free spirit - an artist by day and casino worker by night, as well as a lesbian. Her surrogate mother Frances (Audra Lindley in an amazing departure from her comic role in Three's Company) disapproves of her lifestyle, while also craving Cay's affection and attention.

To everyone's surprise, Vivian and Cay hit it off immediately as Cay introduces the shy academic to the wild-west casino scene as well as the breathless beauty of the desert. It's not long before Vivian finds her friendship moving into unexpected passion. And for Cay, it's the first time she has met someone who stirs her deepest emotions.

"...herladed a new wave of American gay and lesbian independent films.  Emanuel Levy,
"Truly a landmark film in its positive and very realistic depiction...warm, expansive performances.  Find-A-Video
"A smooth and sensitive film that convincingly circles around the many different kinds of love...  Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice
"Daring, erotic, touching.  Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
"Startlingly intimate and unabashedly erotic.  The Hollywood Reporter

Editor's Note
An east coast English professor travels to Reno intent on dissolving her unfulfilling 12-year marriage and meets up with a fiery yet sensitive lesbian casino worker who forces her to confront emotions she hasn't experienced in years.


Video Features Aspect Ratio 1.85:1, DVD, Collector's Edition, Widescreen, Dolby, Hi-fi Stereo

Technical Info

Release Information
Video Mfg Name Studio: Wolfe Video
Video Release Date Release Date: 6/5/2007
Video Play Time Running Time: 94 minutes
Video Release Year Original Release Date: 1986
Video CategoryId Catalog ID: 4436D
Video UPC UPC: 00754703762832
Video Number of Discs Number of Discs: 2

Audio & Video
Video Original Language Original Language: English
Video Audio Spec Available Audio Tracks: English
Video Color Spec Video: Color

Aspect Ratio
Video Aspect Ratio Anamorphic Widescreen  1.85:1

Cast & Crew

Video Cast Info Andra Ankers
Video Cast Info Audra Lindley
Video Cast Info Helen Shaver
Video Cast Info Patricia Charbonneau
Video Cast Info Carol Jefferies, et. al. - Producer
Video Cast Info David Brisbin - Art Director
Video Cast Info Donna Deitch - Director
Video Cast Info Jane Rule - Based On Novel By
Video Cast Info Jeannine Claudia Oppewall - Production Designer
Video Cast Info Natalie Cooper - Screenplay
Video Cast Info Robert Elswit - Cinematographer
Video Cast Info Robert Estrin - Editor
Plot Summary
At 35 years of age, literature professor Vivian Bell heads out to Reno for a quickie divorce. But when she gets to Nevada, where she has to wait until her papers come through, a whole new world opens up to Vivian when avowed lesbian Cay Rivers openly begins to seduce her. Vivian at first resists Cay's overtures, but as time goes on, she is forced to admit her attraction.| But as Vivian's days in Nevada come to a close, she faces a quandary: can she actually bring this randy cowgirl into her stodgy, intellectually elite New York life? Or will she have to give up the best love she's ever experienced?


Nominee (1987)
   Video Award Name Independent Spirit, Patricia Charbonneau, Best Female Lead

Winner (1986)
   Video Award Name Sundance Film Festival, Donna Deitch, Honorable Mention - Dramatic

Nominee (1986)
   Video Award Name Sundance Film Festival, Donna Deitch, Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic

Professional Reviews

"...[Shaver] does a commendable job....Deitch offers some sound film making..." 08/21/1985

Movie House Commentary 8 of 10
Desert Hearts is a movie that is well known among devotees of lesbian movies, whatever their motivations. It has enough reality and romance for those who watch for the story, and it has enough nudity for those guys who just like to see women touching each other. It probably ranks with "Personal Best" as the two most famous and influential major movies about lesbians...Frankly, it isn't that good a movie, although I like some things about it. The directing style follows a deliberately picaresque narrative...One thing the two women did quite well was the romance. Their tentative first kiss in the rain and their hesitant love scene were played with a certain clumsy sincerity, played so effectively that those two scenes managed to carry the entire movie, at least as far as it could be carried. I give the film a lot of credit for handling the romance in a natural and sensitive way.

Chicago Sun-Times 7 of 10
The movie stars Helen Shaver, an underrated Canadian actress of cool elegance, as Vivian, a professor at Columbia University in New York who travels by train to Reno to get a divorce. Patricia Charbonneau plays Cay, the direct, unabashed woman who falls in love with her at first sight. The third woman in the story is Frances (Audra Lindley), the no-nonsense older woman who runs the guest ranch where would-be divorcees wait out their Nevada residency requirements..."Desert Hearts" was made on a small budget, and this is one film where it didn't help to cut corners. (I have a notion they would have done some scenes over if they'd had the time and money.) The movie makes no large statement; it is not a philosophical exploration of lesbianism, just the story of two women and their attraction. It's not a great movie, but it works on its own terms. - Roger Ebert

Product Attributes

Product attributeActor:   Shaver,Helen
Product attributeLabel:   Wolfe Video
Product attributeMusic Format:   DVD
Product attributeVideo Format:   DVD
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