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Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes (2001)

TV-PG | | Drama, Crime, Thriller | TV Movie 20 May 2001
Fans of Mary Tyler Moore may be taken aback by her performance in this fact-based drama, in which she plays a character far removed from her bubbly Laura Petrie and Mary Richards personae. ... See full summary »


(book), (teleplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ken 'Pappa' Kimes
Ken Radley ...
Arianthe Galani ...
Mark Mitchell ...
Tony Vatelero
Alex Breden ...
Kenny at 4 Years
Jared Daperis ...
Kenny at 8 Years
Daniel Daperis ...
Kent at 12 Years
Matthew Vennell ...
Kent at 15 Years
Matt Robinson ...
Kent at 18 Years (as Matthew Robinson)
Leighton Phair ...
Carolyne Cooper ...


Fans of Mary Tyler Moore may be taken aback by her performance in this fact-based drama, in which she plays a character far removed from her bubbly Laura Petrie and Mary Richards personae. She gets deep inside the role of Sante Kimes, whose childhood of abuse and exploitation leaves a legacy of amorality that she passes on to her son Kenny (Gabriel Olds). Written by Chance Fell

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Real-Life Case That's Still Making Headlines.


Drama | Crime | Thriller


TV-PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 May 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Most Deadly Family  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mary Tyler Moore stated she accepted the role because she felt such a strong connection with Sante Kimes. See more »

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User Reviews

Mary Tyler Moore hams it up in this campy telemovie!
19 June 2001 | by (Providence, Rhode Island) – See all my reviews

This telemovie sprang up out of nowhere. I remember seeing a print ad for it in the TV guide one week before it premiered on television and I saw a picture of Mary Tyler Moore all dolled up like a two dollar hooker. This was something I had to see.

I admit that I had never heard or read anything about the case of Sante and Kenny Kimes and had this not been sold on the premise that it was based on a true story, I would never have believed it either. Mary Tyler Moore and Gabriel Olds portray the mother and son duo who murder a wealthy New York socialite for her money.

The story starts out in the 60's and we see Mary Tyler Moore as Sante Kimes. Hidden behind a huge brown curly wig, make-up that looked like it had been applied with a butter knife and ridiculously over-sized sunglasses, she makes her move on a wealthy building contractor, Ken Kimes, played by Robert Forster. With her two young sons in tow, it doesn't take long for her to win the affections of Ken and move into his mansion. The most bizarre thing about this part of the story is trying to make Mary Tyler Moore look like she's in her 40's when she obviously looks like she's past the age of 60. This problem conflicts with the present when she unfortunately looks just the same.

Nonetheless, Sante Kimes is a born criminal. Her mother was a prostitute and she was brought up basically on the streets where she had to learn how to shoplift and hustle. Even though she has all the money she could ever want as a result of her marriage to Ken Kimes, she still has the instinct to continue conning people and run credit card scams. Through all of this, we see her two sons grow up. The oldest son, Kent, realises during his teenage years that something is terribly wrong with his mother. His mother actually encourages him to steal and trick people. He is caught stealing a neighbour's surfboard and his mother actually tells him that the only thing he did wrong was getting caught.

When Kent has finished high school, he decides he has had enough of his mother's crooked lifestyle. He moves out to join the army, leaving his vulnerable younger brother, Kenny, in the wake of his mother's self-destruction. Their father is oblivious to Sante's problems. He believes it is just something that she uses in self-defence to her past lifestyle of hardship from being raised on the streets. What he doesn't know is that Sante is well aware of what is right and what is wrong and she prefers to live the lifestyle of doing 'wrong'.

We get to witness Sante Kimes using Kenny as a pawn in her game of shoplifting. She uses him to distract the cashier while she sneaks a dress into her handbag. At such a young stage of his life, Kenny doesn't realise that there is something wrong with this picture. It is during his birthday party that his mother is arrested for credit card fraud and sentenced to time in jail.

Several years later, Sante is released into the care of Ken. Unfortunately, she has no plans of changing her previous ways and this conflicts with Kenny who is now a young man starting college. It is also about this same time period that Ken passes away from a heart attack while Sante makes a trip to the bank. Defenseless again, Sante convinces Kenny to join her in making one last con. They are to move to New York and befriend a wealthy socialite, Irene Silverman, played by Jean Stapleton who gives a her best in a restrained performance.

The only problem with this part of the storyline is that we, the viewer, have no idea as to how Sante devised this plan or as to how she had even heard of Irene Silverman in the first place.

Kenny Kimes rents out an apartment from Irene Silverman. The plan is to let Irene get comfortable with Kenny living in her premises and then wait till she is alone to strike while the iron is hot. From the start, Irene suspects something is amiss. Kenny can't provide his social security number upon renting out the apartment. He pretends he left his wallet elsewhere and that he will give her the details later. He has given her information that he is a young businessman with a personal secretary, played by his own mother, Sante Kimes. With that premise alone, the two spend most of their time in Kenny's apartment devising their masterplan and biding time while Irene grows more and more suspicious.

From hereon in, the telemovie attempts to take the 'Hitchcockian' approach. Irene suspects, perhaps even knows, that she cannot trust Kenny and Sante. She sees shadows under his apartment door when she walks down her hallway. Her passport goes missing from her office. Her dog wakes her up in the middle of the night because he senses that something is not right. When Irene contacts the list of references left by Kenny during his apartment interview, she discovers that no one has even heard of him. It's at this point when she orders Kenny to vacate the premises. Jean Stapleton really tries her best to portray the growing terror that will result in the utmost horrific climax, but she doesn't quite reach that pinnacle.

The most horrific thing at this point is watching Mary Tyler Moore wearing different wigs, more and more make-up and ridiculously tight and outdated clothing that makes her stand out more than anything, if at all, trying to be inconspicuous. Gabriel Olds doesn't inject much sympathy into his character, portraying Sante Kimes' son. We see him at times second-guessing his motives and perhaps questioning his integrity to carry out this masterplan concocted by his mother - but his rather bland portrayal of this character only leaves questions as to whether he is stupid for doing what his mother asked him to, or stupid for thinking that they can actually succeed in making this plan work and on top of that, getting away with it.

Before the climax of this telemovie, Sante Kimes poses as Irene Silverman, bedsheets pulled up to her face in the darkness as she pretends she is bedridden with sickness. A notary sits in the other room, processing Wills and Power of Attorneys in the name of Irene Silverman, thinking that the woman in the bed is actually her. If this was really true, would a notary really accept a signature given by someone who won't show their face or get out of bed? Why not just do it over the phone?

With all their chess pieces in place, Sante and Kenny Kimes make their moves on Irene Silverman. All the tenants in the apartment building have left for the Independence Day weekend. Irene has sent her personal servant on vacation leave and has just turned down her best friend's offer to stay the long weekend at her apartment. We, as the viewer, never get to witness Irene's demise. We see Mary Tyler Moore looking truly evil in her huge wig and Tammy-Faye-Bakker makeup, skulking around the darkened apartment coaxing Irene Silverman to come out from hiding so they can finish her off. Kenny is attacked by Irene's dog as they close in on the pantry, and the next scene shows Sante and Kenny lifting a body bag into the back of their trunk which they then drive off to dispose of it.

The telemovie is very scratchy as it concludes here. Several days after the murder/disappearance of Irene Silverman, Sante and Kenny are arrested in a FBI sting involving an old contact of theirs that they used to murder someone earlier in their past. Someone bright in the FBI department makes the connection that these two criminals must have something to do with Irene Silverman's disappearance and the two deviats are tried and convicted of her murder, even though her body has not been found. The two are sentenced to over 100 years in prison and will most likely never see the outside world again.

The only really humane scene is shown at the conclusion of this telemovie, when Sante Kimes in prison tries to contact her oldest and estranged son, Kent, who is now a vacuum cleaner salesman. She woefully explains on his answering machine that she has been incarcerated along with Kenny on the charge of manslaughter. Kent, standing by the telephone and shaking his head in pity and disgust, decides not to answer.

Mary Tyler Moore was not the right choice to portray Sante Kimes. In some scenes, she is truly evil, in other scenes, it is more humorous than anything to see her carousing around in outfits 20 years too young for her and trying to pass herself off as a 'older' sex icon. We, as the viewer, never really get to understand her motives or reasons as to why she is the way she is and why she used Kenny to assist in the murder of Irene Silverman.

Her outfits and makeup definitely get a 10 for camp comedy, but Mary Tyler Moore gets a 5 for trying to portray this role with any true conviction.

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