Swing Shift
Swing shift.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed byJonathan Demme
Written byNancy Dowd
Bo Goldman
Ron Nyswaner
Produced byJerry Bick
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Edited byGib Jaffe
Craig McKay
Music byPeter Allen
Bruce Langhorne
Patrick Williams
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 13, 1984 (1984-04-13)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$6.6 million

Swing Shift is a 1984 American romantic drama war film directed by Jonathan Demme and produced by and starring Goldie Hawn[2] with Kurt Russell. It also features Christine Lahti, Fred Ward, Ed Harris, and Holly Hunter, in one of her first movie roles. Lahti received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress but the film was a box office bomb, grossing just $6.6 million against its $15 million budget.


During World War II, Kay Walsh (Goldie Hawn) signs up to work in an armaments factory in California while her husband Jack (Ed Harris), a U.S. Naval seaman, is overseas in naval service. Lonely and vulnerable, Kay falls for the charms of another man, a musician named Lucky (Kurt Russell), and befriends her embittered neighbor Hazel (Christine Lahti), a former singer. The three of them enjoy their time together until Kay's husband comes home and realizes what has occurred.



Swing Shift has become a case study in star/producer/director conflict.[3] Over Demme's objections, an additional 30 minutes' worth of new scenes were written and shot to emphasize Hawn's onscreen love triangle, pushing back the intended release date from Christmas 1983 and inflating the budget.[1] There were reports that the reshoots were ordered because Christine Lahti was upstaging Hawn, but Hawn maintained that she and her producing partner Anthea Sylbert were "just trying to get the movie to work."[1][4] Demme had the phrase "A Jonathan Demme Film" removed from the credits and promotional materials, and screenwriter Nancy Dowd requested to be credited under the pseudonym "Rob Morton."[1]


Critical response

As of December 2019, Swing Shift holds a rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and wrote "There's no suspense and no big emotional payoff, but the movie is always absorbing."[6] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune awarded two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote "Although the World War II drama does manage to work up considerable emotion for a few big moments, we also find the script wanting at as many moments. One more run through the typewriter would have helped."[7] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote "Despite what seem to have been certain differences of opinion in the course of the production, 'Swing Shift' plays very smoothly. No one need be ashamed."[8] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote "Its elaborate and meticulously re-created period settings and moods prove far more interesting and diverting than the undernourished characterizations and love stories that flutter and sputter across the foregrounds."[9] Variety found that the characters "were not people worth fighting a war for" and remarked that while "[g]reat drama, to be sure, does not depend on likeable characters...the writing and acting are too flat for the challenge."[10] Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times stated "Weak, flat, mystifyingly inconsistent, the present version is understandably disownable."[11] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote "There are no high spots, no exciting moments. The picture just goes popping from one recessive, undeveloped scene to the next."[12] Steve Jenkins of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote "Given the pseudonymous script credit, covering the contributions of three writers, and the serious disputes between Jonathan Demme and Goldie Hawn during production, it is perhaps not surprising that Swing Shift should emerge as a disappointingly bland, muddled and inconclusive affair."[13]

Steve Vineberg of Sight & Sound called Jonathan Demme's original cut "extraordinary – one of the best movies made by an American in the 80s." He described the story of the film as "a Hollywood tragedy. It echoes what RKO did to Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons."[3]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Christine Lahti Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Won


  1. ^ a b c d "Swing Shift - History". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  2. ^ "Swing Shift". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Swing Shift: the unmaking of a masterpiece?". Sight & Sound. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Landazuri, Margarita. "Swing Shift". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  5. ^ "Swing Shift". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Swing Shift". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  7. ^ Siskel, Gene (April 16, 1984). "Missing scenes mean 'Shift' works only part time". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 3.
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (April 13, 1984). "Goldie Hawn in Comedy, 'Swing Shift'". The New York Times. C13.
  9. ^ Arnold, Gary (April 19, 1984). "Labored 'Swing Shift'". The Washington Post. D6.
  10. ^ "Film Reviews: Swing Shift". Variety. April 18, 1984. 10.
  11. ^ Benson, Sheila (April 13, 1984). "'Swing Shift' Feints on its Punches". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 1.
  12. ^ Kael, Pauline (May 14, 1984). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 139.
  13. ^ Jenkins, Steve (December 1985). "Swing Shift". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 52 (623): 391.