Category Archives: 1994


Lights, Camera, Novel: Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

Christy TV SeriesSome of the best stories originate from real life, like Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel Christy. Marshall was inspired to write her famous book based on the experiences of her mother, Leonora Whitaker, who left her family and home in North Carolina to teach at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains in 1909. After Marshall and her parents later visited the mission school in Del Rio, Tennessee in the late fifties, Marshall wanted to tell her mother’s story. Many elements in Christy are rooted in fact. Marshall conducted extensive research into Appalachian life and culture, so even the fictionalized aspects of the novel are still well-founded.

Twenty-seven years later, Christy was developed into a TV series, which debuted on Easter Sunday on CBS. True to the novel, the show was filmed in Tennessee. Kellie Martin portrayed Christy. Tyne Daly won an Emmy for her supporting role as Alice Henderson, a Quaker missionary, and LeVar Burton joined the cast in season two. Fans of Marshall’s novel enjoyed the series, though their satisfaction was short-lived. Executives canceled the show soon after the season two finale was shot. Twenty-one episodes were filmed in all.

Viewers were upset about the cancellation because the season two series finale ended on a cliffhanger with Christy split between two very different men vying for her affection, the rugged Dr. Neil MacNeil and the handsome Reverend David Grantland. Seeking resolution, fans wrote to CBS requesting that the show be put back on the air. Five years later, in 2000, PAX network (since renamed Ion) continued the unresolved plot line in a made-for-TV movie. Some of the same actors reprised their roles, but Christy was recast using an unknown actor, Lauren Lee Smith. Three TV movies adapting Marshall’s novel were released between 2000 and 2001 giving fans the closure they were denied in the canceled TV series. The movies — Christy: Return to Cutter Gap, Christy: A Change of Seasons and Christy: A New Beginning — were filmed primarily in Canada.

Lauren Lee Smith as Christy

A book cover with Lauren Lee Smith as Christy.

Christy still boasts an active fan base. Starting in 1997, enthusiasts of the novel and TV show have met to discuss their fascination for Christy. The annual meeting was dubbed “ChristyFest,” and it often occurs in Townsend, Tennessee, the filming location of the TV show. This year ChristyFest will be held May 23-25 in Del Rio, Tennessee. From the ChristyFest site, it appears that registration will open soon.

No doubt, Christy has captured the attention of loyal fans, and the love triangle between the main characters is a big draw. In writing this post, I found evidence of a Neil and Christy fan site with photos from the TV show and the TV movies, interviews with cast members, episode guides, and analysis and more. There are also special fan fiction sites and some fictionalized Twitter accounts created from the perspectives of Christy, Neil, David, and Alice.

Catherine Marshall is recognized as a Christian writer. The Christy Awards were created to acknowledge Christian fiction writers and the three Christy TV movies were backed by the support of the now defunct PAX network, which focused on “family-based” programming. It appears that Inspiration Network, or INSP TV, currently broadcasts episodes from the Christy TV series. INSP headquarters are in the Charlotte metro area.

Kellie Martin as Christy

An audiobook cover with Kellie Martin as Christy.

Read the original blog post on Catherine Marshall’s Christy here. The complete TV series is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog along with the original novel and an audiobook version of the novel read by Kellie Martin.

Sources consulted here: Christianity Today, The Christy Awards, ChristyFest site and blog, Christy Fan Fiction, IMDb, Inspiration Networks/INSP TV, Neil and Christy fan site, Twitter (see paragraph above for the specific accounts), Wikipedia (Catherine Marshall, Christy [novel], Christy [TV series])

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2000-2009, 2001, Buncombe, Historical, Marshall, Catherine, Mountains, Novels by Region, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship

Lights, Camera, Novel: Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllOn-screen, the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is much like its novel counterpart. Clocking in at a hefty 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ debut work is no quick read. And the miniseries isn’t exactly a half-hour sitcom either. Given the length and the detail of the novel, it’s not surprising it would take four hours to adapt the epic life story of Confederate widow, Lucy Marsden.

Lucy’s life story was heavily influenced by her marriage at age fifteen to Captain Willie Marsden, thirty-five years her senior, and, until his death, the last surviving Confederate soldier. Gurganus’ celebrated novel is told from the perspective of the still spunky ninety-nine year-old Lucy who resides in a North Carolina nursing home.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All spent eight months on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than four million copies. The novel also won Gurganus the Sue Kaufman Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. All this proving it was worth the seven long years it took to Gurganus to write Confederate Widow.

Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He drew a great amount of inspiration from his grandmother, Willie Ethel Pitt Gurganus, who he would visit during his lunch breaks when in grade school. Despite their time together, she never shared her life stories with him. Lucy is his imagination of his grandmother’s experiences as a Confederate-era woman.

Right around the release of the novel in 1989, New York Magazine wrote a detailed profile on Gurganus, still available here through Google Books. The miniseries, which was broadcast on CBS, starred Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson, Anne Bancroft and Blythe Danner. Lane played Lucy from teenage to middle age. Bancroft portrayed elderly Lucy.

Confederate Widow Miniseries

Photo courtesy of the Sonar Entertainment website.

The adaptation won four Emmys (Art Direction, Costume Design, Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress) out of its nine nominations. The miniseries was filmed in Madison, Georgia rather than North Carolina. The novel was set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina.

Gurganus did not write the screenplay, which was instead adapted by Joyce Eliason. The New York Times review of the miniseries indicates that Gurganus played a small part in the production. And, Gurganus in turn spoke positively of the television adaptation.

In 2003, Ellen Burstyn starred as Lucy in a theatrical adaptation of Confederate Widow on Broadway. A critic from Variety notes that it was a very long two hours and twenty minutes, attributed partially to the fact that the page-to-stage adaptation was conceived as a one-woman show. Apparently the production closed after one official show. A few years later in 2007, the novel was adapted again for the stage, this time by Gurganus, as a part of the Theater of the American South Festival. The production was pared down to a one-act, one-woman play that was better received than its ill-fated Broadway predecessor.

Visit Sonar Entertainment’s site for a short clip from the miniseries and some production shots. But if you’re interested in watching the miniseries for yourself, copies of the movie are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog in two locations in addition to the novel. The original blog post on Gurganus’ novel is available here.

Sources consulted: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, News & Observer (two different articles), People, Sonar Entertainment, Variety (two different articles), Wikipedia (Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All)

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Gurganus, Allan, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Margaret Maron. Shooting at Loons. New York: Mysterious Press, 1994.

Judge Deborah Knott leaves her seat in Colleton County and heads to the Outer Banks in this, the third installment in Maron’s popular Deborah Knott series. Filling in for a temporarily incapacitated judge in Carteret County, Deborah is happy to be away from her nosy, trouble-making family and back in Beaufort, NC– home to her cousins, and the site of many happy girlhood summers. However, her nostalgic memories are rudely banished when she finds Andy Bynum, and old family friend, floating murdered in the surf. Deborah isn’t sure who would want to kill the amicable fisherman, but his death hangs like a pall over what was supposed to be her peaceful ocean getaway.

Andy’s death isn’t the only problem. North Carolina’s so-called Crystal Coast is on the brink of war–with increasing levels of tourism, there is continual tension between the High Tiders, who have been fishing the waters for centuries, conservationists, who want to curtail potentially harmful traditional fishing techniques, and developers, who are looking to get the most out of any land they can buy. Andy Bynum, a local and former poacher who unaccountably founded a conservationist organization, was in the center of the conflict. Deborah isn’t sure who killed him, but it’s a fact that many people wanted the stubborn community leader dead. But who pulled the trigger? Knott must carefully navigate a sea of lawyers, judges, greedy developers, tight-lipped locals, and unexpected old friends to find the killer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.


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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Carteret, Coast, Maron, Margaret, Mystery, Novels in Series

Toni L.P. Kelner. Dead Ringer. New York: Kensington Pub., 1994.

In the second book in the Laura Fleming mystery series, Laura and her husband Richard return to the small town of Byerly for her family reunion. Her calm vacation is quickly livened up with amateur sleuthing when a stranger is shot to death at the town’s mill and she discovers that her aunt is being blackmailed.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Catawba, Kelner, Toni L. P., Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Jan Karon. At Home in Mitford. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Mitford, N.C.–“a town delightfully out of step with contemporary America”–is the home of Father Tim Kavanagh. Episcopalian rector Father Tim gives of himself to the point of exhaustion, but even in the midst of a town that loves him he is lonely. In steps a stray dog that responds to scripture (Father Tim names him Barnabas), an orphan named Dooley, and a new neighbor that wants to “go steady.” This is the first in Jan Karon’s series of books about Father Tim and the fictional village of Mitford.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.


Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Karon, Jan, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational

Laurence Naumoff. Silk Hope, N.C. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994.

The old farmhouse outside of the small Piedmont community of Silk Hope has passed down through generations from mother to daughter. The original occupants stipulated that only women could inherit the house. The current owners, Frannie and Natalie Vaughan, have just inherited the house and are faced with a tough decision. The sisters couldn’t be more different — Frannie is a rebel, the wild one in the family, while practical Natalie comes up with the idea to sell the house and land. As they struggle to decide what to do with the house, the sisters have to consider their own roles in the family’s history, and determine whether or not, in the modern South, women still need a sanctuary all their own.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Chatham, Naumoff, Laurence, Piedmont

Philip Gerard. Cape Fear Rising. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1994.

When Sam Jenks and his wife Gray Ellen move from Chicago to Wilmington, N.C. in August 1898, they find a city in turmoil. Amidst a vicious, racist political campaign, a group of white citizens begin to mobilize against the city’s large African American population. Based on the actual events of the November 1898 Wilmington riot that led to the murder of many African Americans and the violent overthrow of the city’s government, Gerard dramatizes one of the most significant periods in North Carolina history.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Coast, Docufiction, Gerard, Philip, Historical, New Hanover

Doris Betts. Souls Raised From the Dead. New York: Knopf, 1994.

The novel looks into the troubled relationship between Mary Grace Thompson, the teenage daughter of state trooper Frank Thompson, and her estranged mother, Christine. Mary Grace has a life-threatening kidney disease and the story takes us through the emotions and spiritual questioning a family faces during a tragedy. The novel is set in Carrboro, Hillsborough, Durham, Jacksonville, and Chapel Hill at the UNC hospital.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Betts, Dorris, Orange, Piedmont