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Charles Robert Carner
Once touted as a feature film for Goldie Hawn, Patty Duke is Betty Rollin Edwards, TV journalist and daughter of 76 year old Ida (Maureen Stapleton) who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When Ida's cancer remits after chemotherapy, she asks Betty to help her suicide since Ida feels that her reduced existence is not life.
Duke wears her brown hair in a showbiz blow- dried short style though it is more natural when she is seen with wet hair, and has a dark blue sparkly short evening dress for a restaurant dinner. Realising that Stapleton has the flashier role, Duke submits though she uses reactions and line readings to comic effect. When she wonders why she always gets the depressing assignments, she quips `I guess I'm a little morbid', her `Oh?' response to Ida telling her she is seeing a younger man Alvin Rose (Lee Wallace), the recital of a poem written for Ida ` teacher pianist fine folk dancer, must not will not succumb to cancer', and `Stupid people figure out how to make people die every day of the week. Why can't we?!' Duke is also moving when telling Alvin of Ida's malignancy and being unable to speak, and in the face of Ida's joy when Betty tells her she loves her.
The teleplay by Jerome Kass, based on Rollin's book, reveals how Rollin's actions were unknown until the book's publication, and the medical underground that Betty and her mathematician husband Ed (Dwight Schultz) seek information from. Ida is presented as constantly praising Betty whom she considers `her greatest accomplishment' and it is the force of her vivacity that makes her illness unbearable to her, including the de rigueur loss of hair thanks to chemo. Another restaurant scene where Ida is nauseous from the smell of the soup she tres to eat has unintentional black humour from Stapleton's wretching, but otherwise director Jeff Bleckner with the help of David Shire's music score creates something quite wonderful, non-exploitative and heart-rending. Bleckner would later direct the superb TVM Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995).
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