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Sarah, Plain and Tall (film)

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Title: Sarah, Plain and Tall (film)  
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Subject: Glenn Jordan, Skylark (1993 film), Peter De Vries, 43rd Primetime Emmy Awards, Les Misérables (1978 film)
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Sarah, Plain and Tall (film)

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Video release poster
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Produced by Glenn Close
Glenn Jordan
William Self
Screenplay by Patricia MacLachlan
Carol Sobieski
Based on Sarah, Plain and Tall by
Patricia MacLachlan
Starring Glenn Close
Christopher Walken
Music by David Shire
Cinematography Mike Fash
Editing by John Wright
Production company Hallmark Hall of Fame
Self Productions
Trillium Productions
Country United States
Language English
Original channel CBS
Release date February 3, 1991
Running time 98 minutes
Followed by
"Sarah, Plain and Tall"
Hallmark Hall of Fame episode
Episode no. Season 40
Episode 2
Production code 288
Original air date February 3, 1991

Sarah, Plain and Tall is an American television film in the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology series. It first aired in February 1991. It is the first of three installments in the film adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's novel of the same name.

Plot summary

The story is set in Kansas in 1910. Jacob Witting, a widowed farmer who is still saddened by the death of his wife during childbirth around six years earlier, finds that the task of taking care of his farm and two children, Anna and Caleb, is too difficult to handle alone. He advertises in the newspaper for a mail-order bride. Sarah, from Maine, responds describing herself as "plain and tall", and travels out to become his wife. But she grows homesick: miles and miles of Kansas farmland prove no substitute for Maine's ocean vistas. Papa, Jacob Witting, is a lonely and hard-working man. Like his children, he misses his wife, but he realizes that eventually he must move on with his life. Therefore, he places a newspaper advertisement 'for help.' 'You mean a housekeeper?' Anna asks. 'No,' her father says. 'Not a housekeeper. A wife.' Papa receives a reply from Sarah Wheaton, who lives in Maine. Although she loves living by the ocean, Sarah accepts Papa's offer to move inland and try living with him and his children.

The story focuses on Sarah and her new family getting to know one another. Sarah is under no obligation to marry Papa and is free to leave if she so desires; much of the story's suspense depends on whether or not she will decide to stay. Sarah describes herself in a letter to Papa as 'plain and tall.' Upon arriving at the farm, she proves to have good sense, an interest in helping with even the most physically demanding chores, and a quiet, warm personality.

Sharing is one of the important themes of the book. It is through sharing that Sarah slowly makes herself part of the family, and it is through sharing that the children come to know and love her. The children are at first unsure of whether they should share part of themselves with Sarah. Caleb thinks his unruly behavior might drive Sarah away; thus, he keeps his distance from her. Anna is afraid that Sarah will miss the ocean too much and will leave the farm to return to New England; thus, she is slow to commit her love to Sarah. Only the farm animals are able to offer unconditional love, for they are not afraid of being hurt; MacLachlan notes that 'the dogs loved Sarah first.'

Sarah's efforts to share in all of the farm's labors, including the repairing of a roof, are tempered by her need for independence. When she learns to drive the wagon by herself and then leaves for town, the children and their father worry that she will not return. When she does return, she has not only established her freedom to stay or leave, but she has won the confidence of her new family. She has shown that she stays not out of necessity but out of choice. MacLachlan presents the growth of the sharing relationship between Sarah and her new family deftly, making Anna's fears of rejection suspenseful while showing a gradual and believable development of bonds among the characters. This treatment makes Sarah, Plain and Tall a moving account of people developing a sense of belonging and a belief in their own self-worth.



Generally well received by the public, it was considered "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes with 80% approval based on five reviews. It was nominated for nine Emmys in 1991, it won one, for "outstanding sound mixing for a drama miniseries or a special". It was also nominated for two Golden Globes.

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