Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End
Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End is a 1999 Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-television drama film and is the third of three television films based on the trilogy of children's books by Patricia MacLachlan: Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) and its sequel Skylark (1993). Though they do not share a title, the events in the film Winter's End are taken from MacLachlan's book Caleb's Story, though in order to appeal to a more adult audience than the children's books the events are expanded and the tone made slightly more serious. The movie premiered on CBS on November 21, 1999.
|Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End|
|Written by||Patricia MacLachlan|
|Directed by||Glenn Jordan|
|Music by||David Shire|
|Executive producer(s)||Glenn Close|
|Producer(s)||Robert Bennett Steinhauer|
Patricia MacLachlan (co-producer)
Edwin Self (supervising producer)
|Cinematography||Ralf D. Bode|
|Running time||95 min.|
|Original release||November 21, 1999 (Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions)|
One fine day, with the overall level of tedium at its peak, an old man shivering underneath a green blanket is discovered in the family barn. The guy turns out to be none other than John Witting (Jack Palance), father of Jacob (Christopher Walken).
This is especially odd, since John was supposed to be dead. Then again, perhaps that was merely wishful thinking on Jacob’s part, since the two men had not seen one another since John up and left Jacob’s mother back when Jacob was a child.
Jacob doesn’t have mixed emotions; he hates his father. This isn’t helped by the fact that John is initially cold, distant and crotchety to the family. He likewise doesn’t help his case when he explains to Jacob why he had to leave mom: because she was a nag.
In a way, however, the idea that John doesn’t sugarcoat his abandonment of his family underscores the simple honesty that makes the “Sarah, Plain & Tall” series so compelling. Credit scribe Patricia MacLachlan, who returns to write “Winter’s End” (as she had the previous two legs of the trilogy). MacLachlan imbues these stories with such warmth and gentility that they stand as glaring counterpoints to the type of whiz-bang mayhem that typically passes for sweeps event programming.
Glenn Jordan, who helmed the first “Sarah, Plain & Tall,” comes back to direct the third and manages never to deviate from the understated, evocative style of its predecessors. He is able to incorporate Palance’s character triumphantly, with the actor showcasing a particularly sensitive edge. Close is, as always, a revelation, and of the children, young Emily Osment nearly steals the show as the innocent and inquisitive Cassie.
Chief among the superb tech work is Ralf Bode’s unobtrusive photography of the Kansas locale in tandem with Charles Rosen’s lush production design, which brings “Winter’s End” an agreeably washed-out, dust-blown look. 
- Glenn Close as Sarah Witting - 2nd wife of Jacob, mother of Cassie, and stepmother of Anna and Caleb. She is a loving woman who is surprised at the arrival of her father in law John Witting but tries to help him rebuild his relationship with Jacob.
- Christopher Walken as Jacob Witting - Husband of Sarah and Catherine (deceased) father of Anna and Caleb from his 1st marriage to Catherine (deceased) and Cassie from his marriage to Sarah. He is surprised at the arrival of his father John Witting who abandoned him as a child but tries to rebuild a relationship with him though he was hurt by his father's leaving.
- Jack Palance as John Witting - Father of Jacob, father-in-law of Sarah, and Catherine (deceased) and grandfather of Anna, Caleb, and Cassie. He abandoned Jacob when he was a child but returns in the movie to rebuild a relationship with his son. He owned the farm Jacob and Sarah live on.
- Emily Osment as Cassie Witting - Jacob's youngest child and Sarah's only child and the younger half-sister of Anna and Caleb. She loves to talk and often sometimes gets into mischief. She is the first to discover that her grandfather John Witting had returned.
- Christopher Bell as Caleb Witting - Jacob's middle child and only son (from his 1st wife Catherine). He is the stepson of Sarah, the younger brother of Anna, and the older half-brother of Cassie whom he loves dearly.
- Lexi Randall as Anna Witting - Jacob's oldest daughter (from his first wife Catherine), the stepdaughter of Sarah, older sister of Caleb, and older half-sister of Cassie whom she loves dearly. She leaves home to be a nurse and has a boyfriend named Justin who is serving in World War I whom she loves dearly.
- George Hearn as Dr. Hartley-the doctor who Anna works for and the father of her boyfriend Justin who is serving in World War I.
- Calen Pick as Justin Hartley - son of Dr. Hartley and boyfriend of Anna Witting whom he loves dearly. He serves in World War I but returns home safely to Anna with a broken left arm. He writes her letters all the time while he's away. Calen Pick the actor who plays him is the nephew of Glenn Close who plays Sarah.
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