Monday, February 20, 2017

MOVIE OF THE WEEK BLOGATHON: Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole (1972)




The Classic Film and TV Cafe today hosts the Movie of the Week Blogathon. Click HERE for contributions and a stroll down Memory Lane. Click the banner for a video trailer.




"Oh, Maggie, Maggie. Take a risk. Don't you know that's all the difference between being alive and being dead? Take a chance, girl. Take your lumps. And learn to say goodbye."



Susan Hayward as Dr. Margaret Cole

Susan Hayward (my late dad called her "Susie baby") was a movie star and actress with an undeniably unique mix of beauty, guts and vulnerability. The model from Brooklyn worked her way through the studio system, paying her dues in bits and supporting roles before becoming a popular headliner. During an era when outstanding actresses had equally outstanding roles to play, Susan Hayward received five Oscar nominations, winning in 1959 for I Want to Live!.

ABCs popular Movie of the Week proved a home for many greats from Hollywood's classic era. It was a time when fans, new and old, still wanted to see the stars, but too many producers were tone deaf to that idea. In 1972 Susan Hayward appeared in two made-for-TV films. Heat of Anger was a crime drama with Susan portraying an attorney, directed by Don Taylor, who appeared in one of Susan's Oscar nominated films, I'll Cry Tomorrow. In Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole Susan plays a physician at a turning point in her life.



Susan Hayward, Darren McGavin

Maggie Cole had a comfortable and happy life as a medical researcher working with her beloved husband played by Richard Anderson. A massive coronary takes his life and Maggie finds that the work she thought she loved as much as her husband no longer interests her. Running from her loss, Maggie leaves California for a temporary position taking over a Chicago general practice from a vacationing doctor. The vacationing doctor played by Darren McGavin never does seem to leave on that vacation. He uses this ploy to test potential partners and he doesn't have a lot of faith in Maggie Cole.

The screenplay for Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole was written by Sandor Stern, an Ontario born physician who wrote for the CBC before moving to California as a full-time writer and director of television and film. The medical aspects of the story ring true as does the attitude of the various doctors depicted. The emotions of the patients and others in the involving script are heartfelt to the core without being sentimentalized.

The film was directed by Jud Taylor, an experienced overseer from TVs Dr. Kildare to Star Trek to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Among his many made-for-TV successes, Taylor was nominated for an Emmy for Tail Gunner Joe.

Maggie Cole has spent the last 15 years of her career in a laboratory. Perhaps she was hoping the change of pace, of venue and the distraction of patients would keep her from concentrating on life without her husband. Familiar and favourite actors fill up the cast. Maidie Norman (Bright Road, About Mrs. Leslie) plays Nurse Ferguson, who is immediately on Maggie's side, just like the audience. Fergie is friendly and smart, just the friend and colleague Maggie needs.



Michelle Nichols, Susan Hayward

Michelle Nichols plays Lisa, a young woman with big dreams and a leukemia diagnosis. Maggie is unaware of the diagnosis when she becomes friends with Lisa, even boarding with her grandmother played by Jeanette Nolan (The Big Heat, Dirty Sally).

Beverly Garland (Gunslinger, My Three Sons) and Richard Carlyle (Torpedo Run, Crime Photographer) play a couple dealing with the uncertainty of a brain tumor. Michael Constantine (Room 222) is a treat as an eccentric neurosurgeon. Frank Puglia (Black Hand, Tall in the Saddle) has a bit as a stubborn patient not interested in seeing a "lady doctor". I kept waiting for his return.

Maggie Cole learns about days and nights with too many patients and not enough hours. She learns about life as a "street doctor" and how to communicate. She learns about the grief of others in a very moving scene with Jeanette Nolan. Maggie learns to stop looking inward and to give her heart again.  She learns to say goodbye, as Dusty Springfield sang in the theme song Learn to Say Goodbye by Hugo Montenegro and Bradford Craig.



















16 comments:

  1. The made-for-TV movies certainly provided a venue for some of the great stars of Hollywood (e.g., Bette Davis, Ray Milland, Olivia de Havilland). One of the things that always intrigued me about this movie is the parallel between the premise and Susan Hayward's career. She had only recently returned to acting after a five-year hiatus (and really didn't make many movies in the 1960s). In SAY GOODBYE, MAGGIE COLE, she plays a physician who has returned to practice after a life-changing event. Perhaps, the plot is what attracted Ms. Hayward. It's too bad her health prevented her from doing the weekly MAGGIE COLE TV series.

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    1. I could not help but note that here Susan played the healer, but would be waging her own losing battle with cancer. As a cancer survivor, I can't help but pity the actress and feel anger for her suffering. Remember her last appearance at the Oscars?

      A series written by Sandor Stern with his medical background could have been successful and starring a female, important step in medical dramas.

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  2. Very interesting and very informative review! I admit this movie reads at first glance like the stereotypical "disease of the week" TV movies that came later, but with heavy hitters like Hayward, McGavin, Anderson, Constantine, and Dane Clark in the cast, it would be worth watching just to see old pros at work. I liked the opening titles and song, so thanks for including those!

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    1. I hope you check it out and find the movie to your liking. Rewatching it after all these years I didn't know what to expect, but found it a very real drama and applaud those involved.

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  3. TV films really became an outlet for so many big stars whose light began to,dim on the big screen. Folks like Hayward though still brought the big screen magic with them. Can't say I remember this one but I will have check it out.

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    1. At that time I was soaking up classic movies from TV and Susan Hayward's appearance here felt like a big deal to me. She always brought her own magic with her.

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  4. Loved Susan Hayward, Pat. I remember going to theaters to see her latest film, usually in very rich technicolor which suited her just fine. She was always a formidable dame even when playing against type as in I WANT TO LIVE. I loved her bio pictures too. The one about Jane Froman (I think that was the singer) who either lost a leg or lost the use of her leg) and Rory Calhoun (on whom I had a major crush as a teenager) played a pilot with whom she falls in love. Big Sigh.

    However, I don't remember watching this TV movie though the whole thing sounds familiar. So maybe I saw it and just don't remember. Anyway, I'll check it out. I also like Darren McGavin.

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    1. It is worth checking out.

      I love Susan Hayward. I must have watched With a Song in My Heart (that's the Jane Froman picture) a hundred times on television. I still have the soundtrack album.

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  5. I never heard of this one and I thought I had a huge list of TV movie titles stored in my brain. What was great about these films was the star-power packed into each picture. Every once in a while one of these films would have a good script to go along with the great casting, and, judging from your review, this one has a good script. And it sounds like Maggie learned to "take her lumps" at the end, too ( that's a new phrase to me! ). I'll be checking this one out.

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    1. Medical dramas have always been popular TV fare and this one had a nice authenticity to go with Susan's star power. I hope you like it.

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  6. Love this one and own it on VHS, fortunately I still have a combo player but when it goes I'll be sad because some like this one never made it to DVD.

    Aside from the obvious tragedy of her early death watching this is poignant since it was such a big ratings success when it was shown and had her health not collapsed it would have surely gone to series the next year.

    The part and the story are a good fit for Hayward's persona and she and McGavin are a good match. Their somewhat gruff manners spark well. Unlike many of the female stars moving into TV who chose some glamour undertaking wrapped in jewels and furs Susan played to her strengths of the tough outsider.

    True there are bows to her star status, I know there's at least one scene where the colors of the room match her hair and wardrobe, but overall the film tries to be at least somewhat realistic and Susan gives an assured committed performance.

    She and McGavin are really the main show but Jeannette Nolan makes her small role count turning her spotlight moment into a heartbreaker with the simplicity with which she plays it.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for the movie and lovely thoughts on the film. The emotional core rings true in so many ways. A series would have been one we'd still talk about.

      Our combo player is starting to show signs of wear and tear. My heart breaks thinking of it and my boxes of VHS tapes.

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  7. This sounds like quite moving and inspirational, too. I can imagine Susan Hayward is FABULOUS in this film.

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    1. One thing we can say with certainty about our Susie, is she never lets us down.

      It is on YouTube and you should check it out.

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  8. Great review of a fine film. One of my favorites back in the day. Hayward is terrific, as is the rest of the cast. Interesting side note: the movie features two actors who played the boss/handler of TV's Six Million Dollar Man; Darren McGavin, who portrayed Oliver Spencer in the original TV movie, and Richard Anderson who played Oscar Goldman in the TV series.

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    1. Thanks. I remembered it fondly so really wanted to feature it in the blogathon.

      I didn't realize that Six Million Dollar Man connection. Our TV world is small and cozy.

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