Sarah Plain and Tall was the most-watched made-for-television movie of the 1990s (50 million viewers upon first broadcast in 1991), this fine adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's novel stars Glenn Close as Sarah, a Maine schoolteacher who responds to a Kansas farmer's newspaper ad seeking a bride. Set in 1910, the story follows Sarah's trial run as stepmother to the children of the widowed Jacob Witting (Christopher Walken). The tough part of the experiment is the conflicting expectations the would-be couple have over Sarah's role in the household. The kids, too, have their doubts about a substitute for their mother, and Jacob isn't ready, emotionally, for a new beginning. But in short order the strong-willed Sarah brings happiness and vitality into the house, and love and understanding eventually blossom between the two lonely adults. Everything is right about this Hallmark production, from a bright script cowritten by MacLachlan to Glenn Jordan's sensitive direction and a pair of first-rate leads making every moment worth watching. A wholesome tale from the heartland, this is a good movie for any viewing situation, from an audience of one to an entire family. (Tom Keogh-Amazon)
1-Sarah, Plain and Tall;
2- Skylark and
3- Winter's End
in any of his many scary, creepy roles, he will surprise you as tenderhearted Jacob.
Set two years after the events in Sarah, Plain and Tall, a series of challenges test the resilience of the Witting family's bond. With a drought and the possibility of fire looming over the Kansas farm, Sarah (Glenn Close) leads a pilgrimage East to her old stomping grounds in Maine. The change of scene and an unexpected separation put a strain on everyone, including husband Jacob (Christopher Walken), but in the end the film imparts the same sense of nostalgic reassurance viewers embraced in the first film. First aired on CBS in 1993, this isn't quite the fresh experience of Sarah, Plain and Tall, and director Joseph Sargent doesn't have the same delicate touch as Glenn Jordan. But fans of the earlier work and/or the Patricia MacLachlan novel that inspired this series will love it all the same. (Tom Keogh - Amazon)
The third and final episode of the Sarah, Plain and Tall series is a 1999 production reuniting stars Glenn Close and Christopher Walken with original director Glenn Jordan. Taking the story eight years beyond the original tale, Winter's End is set in a harsh Kansas winter of 1918, with the specter of death everywhere: soldiers are dying overseas during World War I, influenza is at epidemic proportions in the U.S., and an old man has returned to the Witting farm with an uncertain reception. He's John Witting (Jack Palance), father of Jacob (Walken), and the two men have not seen each other since John abandoned his son years ago. Reconciliation comes hard, punctuated by cliffhanger disasters (Jacob breaks his leg and burns with a fever, Sarah almost dies in a heavy snowstorm), but this most brutal of trial periods for the Wittings still invites a viewer to yearn for a more innocent--perhaps mythical--time in America. A worthy and rewarding finish to a trilogy fit for families yet sophisticated enough for all ages, Winter's End may be one of the last network television classics in an era of audience relocation to multichannel cable. (Tom Keogh - Amazon)