When Hallmark Hall of Fame gets it right, their movies can be magic. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of their gems. The wonderful Glenn Close plays Sarah, opposite Christopher Walken as Jacob Witting, a widowed farmer still mourning his wife. They meet through letters when Jacob places an advertisement for a helpmate, someone who can “make a difference.”
Although the letters Sarah of Maine exchanges with Jacob and his children in Kansas are read only during the first few minutes of the film, their warmth and honesty set the tone for the entire story.
“I am strong and I work hard and I’m willing to travel, but I am not mild-mannered,” writes Sarah in her answer to the advertisement.
Six-year-old Caleb is enchanted by the idea of a new mother and asks his father to write for him: “He asked me to send you the footprint of his dog, Nick…He wanted me to tell you that he holds his breath, that he has been holding his breath for a long time.” Sarah sends Caleb a footprint from her cat Seal, so named “because she’s gray like the seals that swim off shore in Maine.”
Sarah tells about her life there in a letter to the the older child, Anna: “My favorite colors are the colors of the sea — blue and gray and green, depending on the weather. My brother William is a fisherman and he tells me that when he’s in the middle of a fogbound sea, the water is a color for which there is no name…Sometimes he sees whales.”
Eventually, Sarah leaves her coastal home for a potential new life in the green fields of Kansas. “I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet…P.S. I am plain and tall.”
Wonderful cast, wonderful movie, and so nice to see Walken play someone vulnerable and tongue-tied without a trace of menace in him.
Film Friday: Do you give Sarah, Plain and Tall your stamp of approval?
Visit Film Friday’s Pinterest pinboard, Lights, Letters, Action!