Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt

THE BLACK steam engine cuts through the 'Tennessee countryside, making its way into the Great Sinokies. One passenger, a 19-year-old girl, sketches the conductor then looks up as the mountains appear in her window. "The mountains were always a source of inspiration and peace to me," the narrator begins. A new television series begins here too, though, the heroine and the story wi11 be familiar to many: they were created by Catherine Marshall in Christy, a 1967 best-seller which has sold over 4 million copies. The two-hour pilot for the six-part series airs on Easter Sunday evening on CBS.

Marshall first attracted attention as a writer with her inspiring biography of her husband Peter MarshaLl, a Scottish immigrant who was pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and, for two years before his death at age 46, chaplain of the U.S. Senate. A Man Called Peter was popular in both book and movie form in the '50s. Catherine Marshall later married Leonard LeSourd, editor of Guideposts, and continued to write and lecture until her death ini983.

For Ken Wales, who co-produced Christy with Barney Rosenzweig, creating the television version has been a personal odyssey that began when he heard Catherine Marshall speak in 1976. A feature film version of the story was canceled in 1969, and interest in the project died. Now, Wales says, viewers want stories about characters like Christy--people with convictions and values confronting real problems.

The pilot condenses too many scenes into two hours: an accident results in surgery on a kitchen table, vandalism is followed by arson in the schoolhouse, and a cache of moonshine is discovered, which leads to confrontations with moonshiners, a fall into the creek and fending. But my children, who watched the preview episode with me, want to see the succeeding .shows, and I will join them.

I recall reading Christy when it came out. I was in high school, and the impulsive, romantic and idealistic Christy left an impression. Kellie Martin is almost too pretty, too sweet and too naive in the role (she offers the same wide-eyed, earnest gaze to both a smitten young preacher and an angry armed bootlegger), but she conveys intensity, and energy as well as youth.

David Grantland, played by Randall Batinkoff, is the natural love interest. The young seminary graduate is a committed and tireless worker, but his strong rhetoric and moralizing do not endear him to the mountain people. …

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