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Letters from Frank (1979)

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22 November 1979 (USA)  »

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It's a sin to grow old...
23 January 2005 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

...and from between 1974 until about 1988 or so, no one was better at getting to the truth of teaching us that then Art Carney. Following his Oscar-Winning performance in Harry and Tonto, Carney had about a dozen opportunities to deliver nuanced performances across a number of films and a variety of genres on both the big screen and TV. Many of these characters mixed the wisdom gained through the years with the chagrin of being pushed aside because of those same years. This included fine performances in The Late Show, Going In Style, W. W. and the Dixie Dance Kings, and this made-for-TV movie, Letters From Frank. Of these, Letters From Frank about a 65-year-old Editor being put out to pasture, probably showcased his ability to express his anger through vitriolic anger the most; in the others mentioned, he limited himself to one vitriolic episode per movie and other engaged mostly in sardonic whimsy. This distinction alone would be enough reason to give a quick look at Letters From Frank, but despite a confusing and mostly one-note first third, there are many jewels on display here.

Maureen Stapleton is a joy to watch as Frank's feisty wife, Betty, who helps him finally getting over getting mad and to focus on getting himself better before taking on the issue of exacting a small measure of justice. Lew Ayres and Margaret Hamiltion get to show that they haven't lost their sense of timing and a young Michael J. Fox makes a nice contribution. In the midst of the final payoff, the two unknowns who play the movers almost steal the movie altogether. Mike Farrell and Jenny O'Hara are appropriate as Frank's son Richard, the recipient of the letters, and his supportive wife.

By 2/3rds through, you'll know how it all ends up. It doesn't matter because as Frank is reminded, it's not the destination that matters, but the quality of the journey.


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