A THOUSAND MEN AND A BABY (TV movie)

12/7/1997. CBS. Sunday, 9 pm. 2 hrs.
Drama.
aka: "Narrow Escape."
Code: TMB 12/1997

PLOT

The crew of a U.S. aircraft carrier Point Cruz rescue an abandoned Korean War orphan in 1953. Based on a true story.

CREDITS

Writer: Richard Leder.
Director: Marcus Cole.

CAST

Richard Thomas as Dr. Hugh Keenan
Gerald McRaney as Capt. John "Chick" Hayward
Jonathan Banks as Father O'Riley
Doris Roberts as Sister Philomena

CHARACTER

Reverend Edward O’Riley, ship’s chaplain. (Note: though the part is always credited as "O’Riley," the crew address him as Father Riley; Riley is what is coded into the closed-captions as well. This site accepts the print credits to avoid confusion with other sources.)

Concerned for the crew’s morale. Willing to manipulate people, including his commanding officer, to do the best for the baby and the crew. Second generation Irish. Fond of an occasional whisky. Excellent poker player. Sentimental. Warm and caring toward the baby; fond of children, and capable of expertly handling and feeding a baby. Good friend; good counselor. Credits God with the plan to rescue Danny; says he just helped it along. Gives Hugh a big emotional hug when he says goodbye.

COMMENTS

The reviewers aren’t kidding about the necessity for hankies—the film misses none of emotional strings to pull, both over the baby and the patriotic images. If none of those work for you, then there are the family-at-Christmas ones, too. All the guys are turned to mush by little Danny in his baby-size navy uniform. If you like this sort of movie, you’ll love it. If that much sentimentality annoys you, be forewarned.

COSTUME

Navy uniforms, khakis, dress blues, and dress whites to meet Vice President Nixon.

He wears glasses in one scene.

CRITICS

"…The ship’s tender but tough Father O’Reilly (Jonathan Banks ) whose eyes mist up whenever he surveys the doting men and the baby. But don’t sell the priest short: If a five-card-stud stud is needed to win the baby a passport in an all-night game, he’s your best bet." "…turgidly predictable." The Boston Globe, 12/5/1997, Living, p. C18.

"Keep your hankies handy for this touching true story of Christmas." The Houston Chronicle, 12/05/1997, Houston, pg. 1.

"CBS programmers might as well go ahead and reserve a slot to repeat A Thousand Men and a Baby at holiday time next year, and the year after that--and on and on--because what they have here is a story so irresistible that it deserves to become a classic." "Sure, it's saccharine. Yes, its storytelling is flawed here and there. But if you're as soft a touch as this viewer, you'll need to keep more than a box of tissues at your side. A pile of super-absorbent beach towels would be more like it. " Los Angeles Times, 12/6/1997, Calendar; F2. (It was repeated the following Christmas.)

"Jonathan Banks plays that other staple of military movies, the Irish chaplain. The Rev. Edward O’Riley, as fond of Hallmark homilies as is is a wee drop of the whisky." "…the perfect feel-good movie for the holidays." Seattle Times, 12/7/1997, TV p.2.

LINES

"If I were a gambling man, and I’ve never been a gambling man, I’d bet on the Yankees."

"I think he likes you, Doctor."

"The men are taken with him, they’re all pulling for him."

"It’s for Danny. Trust me, Doctor."

"Have you heard about the Captain’s baby, Mr. Vice President?"

"…and then I hear something. A glorious voice in my heart and soul." (God?) "No, it’s my mother."

"Easy, no. But there is an answer, somewhere in your heart there is an answer waiting to be discovered."

"No, I can’t take credit for the plan. That comes from the main office. But maybe I did help it along."

"How we’ll all, all, miss you, young man. But you’re in good hands now. God bless you, son."

LOCATION

Filmed in San Diego, California, beginning 5/19/1997.

SCREEN TIME

25 minutes in 22 scenes, throughout.

WORKED WITH

Gerald McRaney (SSM 3/1982; SSS 12/1982; SSF 10/1983)
Doris Roberts (ROS 11/1979)