Mare Winningham could have been as winning in less time

April 15, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

"She Stood Alone" is both the title and the entire plot of an NBC movie at 9 tonight on WMAR-TV (Channel 2).

Starring Mare Winningham, who may be the most underrated actress on TV, the movie is based on an incident in the life of Prudence Crandall -- a New England schoolteacher who, in 1832, allowed young black women to attend the all-white school she ran.

Because she let the black women into her classroom, Crandall's school was boycotted. Then, Crandall was put in jail for being in violation of the "black law," a law which appears to have been passed for the sole purpose of putting Crandall out of business. The law forbid the education of black women who are not from Connecticut.

As Crandall, Winningham is, well, as winning as usual. This is an inspiring story that serves as a reminder that discrimination was not limited to the South.

But because the two-hour movie has only about 90 minutes worth of drama, it is repetitious and slow-going at times. It is all Crandall and not much else.

There is one diversion in this one-woman show. It comes when Crandall takes a trip to Boston to visit William Lloyd Garrison, the widely known abolitionist. Garrison, played by Ben Cross, befriends her during her stay.

She and Garrison meet again later when he visits Connecticut.

"I've prayed every night to see you again, to renew the strength we found together in Boston," Crandall says. "I'm trembling."

Hokey lines like that should be warning enough to would-be screenwriters and actresses to ask for either a little more story or a little less air time.

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