Four hours is a long time for this latest TV conversion of a Danielle Steel novel, but scripter Suzanne Clauser, director Paul Wendkos and the sharp cast make it pass relatively quickly and with more intelligence than usual for a romantic melodrama.
Story tells how plucky Southern belle Paxton Andrews (Jenny Robertson) becomes a heroic Vietnam journalist. The first two hours carry Andrews from her upscale Georgia home through journalism school at Berkeley; her boyfriend’s death in combat prompts her to move to Vietnam as a correspondent for his father’s newspaper. Part 2 picks up in the thick of war and continues through the fall of Saigon.
She quickly falls in love with Peter (Steven Eckholdt), a law student brother of her roommate (Tracy Griffith), though it takes the aspiring reporter months to discover that the siblings’ father (Ed Flanders) owns the San Francisco Sun.
Peter is soon drafted, only to be killed offscreen.
In Vietnam, Paxton involves herself in a platonic relationship with a fellow journalist (Chris Allport) and a romantic one with an officer (Nick Mancuso). She ends up with a sergeant (Ted Marcoux), who winds up missing in action. On her own once more, Paxton embarks on a search for him and their adopted orphan.
Pic has a lower hooey level than might be expected, and features some bright — if brief — appearances by top-billed stars Rue McClanahan, Flanders, Hope Lange and Billy Dee Williams.
McClanahan is convincing in a non-comic part and Esther Rolle supplies much-needed warmth as the Andrews family cook.
Robertson, onscreen for virtually the entire four hours, carries the story with panache while not pouring on the theatrics.
Overall look is good, heightened by extensive and convincing location work — all of it within Los Angeles County. Dramatic conclusion to the story should, for most, repay the four-hour investment.