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A Death in the Family

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A Death in the Family
updated 4.8.2003

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This luminous novel was unfortunately marred by an editorial oversight regarding the version of The Lord's Prayer. The characters in the novel are purported to be Roman Catholic, while James Agee himself was Episcopalian. The version of the "Our Father" in the novel includes the final line "For Thine is the Power . . ." which is in the Protestant version, NOT the earlier Catholic one. This "modern" final line was added either in the Book of Common Prayer, or in the King James' revision, I am not sure which. Anyway, I thought it was really too bad. Oh well!

Alice King
Hampden, MA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I watched this movie although I have never read the book. I think the little boy took his father's death really well. The ending was something I would never have thought of. But I thought it was nice that the boy took after where his father left off.

Robert Hamlett
Polk City, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Very well done. I am looking forward to watching other adaptations in Masterpiece Theatre's American Collection. The acting, costumes, and locations in Tennessee were superb. Annabeth Gish did an excellent job, along with the rest of the cast.

Dana Pasterjak
Ormond Beach, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
A Death in the Family was a respectable production, suffused with beauty and some of the harsher edges of Agee's novel avoided in the Tad Mosel play and the later movie version.

From time to time, I had the feeling that the production was veering dangerously close to Hallmark greeting card cliches and the superficiality of Kodak commercials. But several fine scenes helped balance out the occasional overabundance of syrup, like the scene of the family gathered in the living room the night Jay is killed, drinking and joking; or Uncle Andrew's bitter summation of the priest who officiates at the funeral.

David Oberman
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I was a little surprised at the ending to A Death in the Family until I read that the novel was unfinished. The ending did not make sense. Also, there were a few errors -- why did the widow restart the clock but did not set the time correctly? I did not agree with the "haunting" part of the story (footsteps and presence of ghost). I didn't think it was needed; the child could not have known about them since he was asleep. I wish the story wound back to the mother and child (not the child and uncle), since it started out with the father, mother and child and their close bond. It should have ended with the mother and child alone in the house, continuing their lives after the death of the father.

Douglas Zander
Milwaukee, WI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I viewed A Death in the Family last night. Please, please don't invest any more money in the American Collection. They are dreadfully boring. Nobody so far can hold a candle to the Brits for acting, accuracy, costumes, and props.

John Forstall
Pensacola, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I just watched A Death in the Family and it was so moving and well-acted I had to write to thank you. I saw this play years ago (at the old Playhouse in the Park in Philadelphia, I think). I loved it then (as a much younger person) and I feel its beauty is still true and real. Thanks again for Masterpiece Theatre. It's very dear to my heart. May it go on forever.

Patricia StClair
Westmont, NJ

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I have looked forward to A Death in the Family for over a year when I first learned PBS was bringing the story to television. I am a big fan of public television. Some time ago I read the story, and even before that I had run across Knoxville: Summer 1915 in one of my older brother's college books. I know in my mind what the streets looked like as they returned home from the picture show and the dark of night as Jay drove away, not knowing it was the last drive. The little moment-by-moment details make this story. After all, life is like that -- moments, not great events, but a collection of seconds, hours, years. I'm sure PBS will do it justice.

Michael Miller
Madison, TN

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