In the late 1970s, a popular country song that became famous 10 years previously inspired a comedy film: Harper Valley PTA.
Taken from the song written by Tom T. Hall and performed by Jeannie C. Riley, George Edwards and Barry Schneider wrote the film, about a single Mum who is considered outrageous and told by the local Parent Teacher Association that she has to reform her ways.
Barbara Eden plays Stella Johnson, the widowed Mum who is shamed by the Harper Valley PTA.
Johnson exposes the hidden skeletons of her small town and her home is attacked. So she decides to retaliate, and discovers its the association’s women members who are jealous, while the men are on her side.
Willis Newton (Ronny Cox) and Kirby Baker (Louis Nye) are her allies, along with her best friend Alice Finley (Nanette Fabray), while Flora Simpson Reilly (Audrey Christie) is the president of the PTA who leads the charge against Johnson.
A staggered release across the USA, Harper Valley PTA was released in May 1978 in the Midwest, June in Canada, August in Los Angeles and January 1979 in New York City.
Made for $1 million by April Fools Productions, the little film did well at the box office in small town America, like Ohio where the movie was filmed, bringing in $25 million.
Although the film won no awards nor was reviewed by many critics, the film’s soundtrack was a popular seller, with the re-release of Reilly’s version of the song, as well as in 1981, Sherwood Schwartz created a TV series with Eden reprising her role as the feisty Stella Johnson.