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Desert Hearts Details


Director Donna Deitch makes a strong impression in her first feature film, a simple story of a lesbian love affair, based on Jane Rule's 1964 novel Desert of the Heart. Helen Shaver stars as Vivian Bell, an uptight 35-year-old Columbia University professor who travels to Reno to get a divorce. She arrives in Reno on her way to Frances Parker's (Audra Lindley) ranch, where she is staying to establish six weeks of residency in order to obtain the divorce. Once at the ranch, Vivian catches the fancy of Frances's adopted daughter Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), a casino worker ten years younger than herself. Vivien tries to remain unruffled as Cay makes unabashed overtures to her. Cay thinks that all Vivian needs is the love of another woman, and soon enough the two are in each other's arms. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

  • Release date:April 4, 1986


Awarded by
Sundance Film Festival Donna Deitch Special Jury Prize: Dramatic 1985 Winner
Independent Spirit Awards Patricia Charbonneau Best Actress 1986 Nominee


Helen Shaver
as Vivian Bell
Patricia Charbonneau
as Cay Rivvers
Audra Lindley
as Frances Parker
Gwen Welles
as Gwen
Andra Akers
as Silver
Dean Butler
as Darell
Katie La Bourdette
as Lucille
James Staley
as Art Warner
Jeffrey Tambor
as Jerry
Antony Ponzini
as Joe Lorenzo
Alex McArthur
as Walter
Tyler Tyhurst
as Buck
Denise Crosby
as Pat
Donna Deitch
as Hungarian Gambler
Tyler Tyhurst
as Buck
Denise Crosby
as Pat
Antony Ponzini
as Joe Lorenzo
Alex McArthur
as Walter


Donna Deitch
Donna Deitch
Jane Rule
Book Author
Natalie Cooper
Robert Elswit
Jeannine Oppewall
Production Designer
David Brisbin
Production Designer
Linda M. Bass
Costume Designer