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Friday, May 22, 2015

The Golden Age of TV Movies: Maybe I'll Come Home In the Spring

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Opening Credits Screen Grab - ABC TV
  • ABC TV
  • Opening Credits Screen Grab

Welcome to The Golden Age of TV Movies, a monthly column about the many wonderful made-for-TV movies that were produced during the 1960s and 70s.

Oscar winner Sally Field was a popular sitcom star who had yet to prove her acting chops when Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring was broadcast as an ABC Movie of the Week in February 1971.

Field had become a popular teen idol after starring in the 1965 beach party sitcom Gidget, followed by the silly if enjoyable The Flying Nun a few years later. With Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring she proved herself to be an acting force to be reckoned with, perhaps even leading to her acclaimed, award winning portrayal in Sybil (1976) and her Oscar-winning roles in Norma Rae (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984).

Which means they liked her, they really liked her!

One thing the ABC Movies of the Week have never gotten enough credit for is the groundbreaking directness with which they addressed social issues of the day. Viewing many of these films today, it's easy to laugh at the badly dated fashions of the period and the quasi-elevator music scores. Look closer.

Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring is a work of surprising depth and maturity. As the film opens, teenage runaway Denise (Field) comes home to the welcoming arms of parents who profess to love her. The parents (Jackie Cooper and Eleanor Parker) probably do love their girls, but we soon see that this upwardly mobile couple is far more worried about keeping up appearances than in maintaining a happy family.

Brief flashbacks reveal Denise's life on the road: panhandling, drugs, sleeping in parks and eating out of trash cans. She comes home looking for stability, some real food and clean clothes.

What she finds are paranoid, smothering parents who cannot see that they drove Denise away. Nor can they see that their younger daughter Susie (Lane Bradbury) can't take much more and is nearing her own breaking point.

Denise (Sally Field, right) and Susie (Lane Bradbury) left. - ABC TV
  • ABC TV
  • Denise (Sally Field, right) and Susie (Lane Bradbury) left.

The film doesn't judge the parents, the daughters, or the street people who Denise once thought of as family. It merely presents what is: a series of lost souls unable to find their way in a harsh, judgmental world.

Which is the worse of the two, home or the streets? In truth, it's a toss-up.

click to enlarge Screen grab: Sally Field as Denise - ABC TV
  • ABC TV
  • Screen grab: Sally Field as Denise

Thanks to strong writing and great acting, Maybe I'll Come Home In the Spring offers a powerful and disturbing peek inside the American Dream turned nightmare.

The film, in its entirety: 

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