Friday, May 29, 2009

New on DVD: Florence Nightingale (1985) and The Miracle Worker (1979)

I've been meaning to return soon to the subject of my TV on DVD Wish List, and was delighted to discover that two fondly remembered TV-movies from the '70s and '80s have made their way to DVD.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE (1985) stars Jaclyn Smith in the title role. (Click title of post for the DVD link.) Smith starred in several colorful TV-movies and miniseries in the early '80s; GEORGE WASHINGTON (1984), starring Barry Bostwick in the title role, is high on my wish list, and I'd also enjoy seeing JACQUELINE BOUVIER KENNEDY (1981) again.

Smith wasn't the world's greatest actress, but she had a certain reserve which worked well in these parts, and -- as demonstrated by FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE -- she was surrounded by excellent actors and production values. FLORENCE NIGHTGALE had a top-drawer cast including Claire Bloom, Timothy Dalton, Timothy West (EDWARD THE KING), and Jeremy Brett.

The 1979 TV version of THE MIRACLE WORKER (DVD link here) has also been released.

This film is a bit unique in that Patty Duke, who played Helen Keller in the 1962 original, here plays Annie Sullivan, with Melissa Gilbert (LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) as Helen. The movie also stars Diana Muldaur.

This was the first of a string of very good TV-movies Gilbert made when on hiatus from LITTLE HOUSE. In 1980 she starred with Maximilian Schell and Joan Plowright in an excellent version of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, and in 1981 she tackled SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS with Eva Marie Saint and Ned Beatty.

Gilbert also played missionary Jean Donovan in CHOICES OF THE HEART (1983) and starred in one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure TV-movies, BLOOD VOWS: THE STORY OF A MAFIA WIFE (1987). (Depressing ending, but compulsively watchable. It's even got Talia Shire, straight out of the GODFATHER cast; Joe Penny is a charismatic actor whose career as a leading man was far too short.) Apparently BLOOD VOWS was available as a DVD import at one time, but no longer.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE and THE MIRACLE WORKER are each available for under $10 from Deep Discount and can also be rented from Netflix.


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