Karol Ann Hoeffner’s teleplay, wrested from Danielle Steel’s novel, only underscores how shallow the stereotyped characters are and how skinny the plot is. Productions based on Steel’s works usually camouflage the mechanics, but “Family Album” all but gloats over the tedious story, directed flatly by Jack Bender; Steel devotees will gobble it up even so.
Movie actress Faye Price (Jaclyn Smith, looking great), touring Korea in the 1950s, meets shipping magnate Ward Thayer (Michael Ontkean); he pursues her, then they marry.
Four children later, he’s bankrupt and a bum, she’s back making pix, and he has an affair with a studio chief’s delectably tempting daughter, layabout Maizie (Kristen Dalton), in Mexico.
Faye reads about it and boom! — Ward, a boozer and wastrel, is out of the house until it’s convenient to have him back. Faye, after hearing comments about directors Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino, takes up directing.
The children are growing. Greg (Brian Kramer)plays football, while Lionel (Joe Flanigan) goes to film school; actress-in-waiting Valerie (Kristin Minter) always sides with her dad, while the youngest, Anne (Leslie Horan), feeling lonely and unwanted, moons over Sylvia Plath.
Ward doesn’t like it that Greg’s unable to scrimmage at the Orange Bowl because he flunked out of college, nor does he like Lionel’s homosexuality, or his friend John (Joel Gretsch).
Vidpic is bookended by a bearded Ward looking through a family album after Faye’s funeral. Flashbacks, a montage and views of Hollywood life — the Mocambo and Ciro’s sets are nothing like the real thing — are shallow indeed.
Bender, who directed the recent telepic, “The Gambler V,” drags in a sheets-and-shoulders cliche with Faye and Ward, and the Lionel/John scenes are stilted.
Acting is necessarily artificial. Ontkean tries, but not hard enough. Minter’s Valerie shows some depth, Flanigan makes a game try, and Paul Satterfield as actor Paul Steel carries his role well. Dalton sexily displays Maizie; Horan ably projects Anne’s surliness.
Lots of I’m-so-proud-of-you! dialogue permeates the two-parter, but nothing’s real. Smith, a capable performer a true beauty, needs a better showcase.