Ken Tucker
April 15, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Passion for Justice: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story

type
TV Show
Current Status
In Season
performer
Jane Seymour
broadcaster
ABC

We gave it a C-

The structure of the story told in A Passion for Justice: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story is so predictable, it undermines the effectiveness of Jane Seymour’s performance in the title role. As this fact- based TV movie tells it, Smith was the publisher of a small-town newspaper in 1950s Mississippi who spoke out against injustice and tried to oust a bigoted local sheriff. In response, white racists wreck the newspaper office, a cross is burned on her lawn, and her husband, a hospital administrator played by D.W. Moffett, loses his job. Richard Kiley is on hand as an avuncular civic leader who starts out as Smith’s ally; we’re supposed to be shocked when he ends up spouting such villainous sentiments as, ”Integration will never succeed, not down here.”

The one-woman-against-bad-men scenario devised by screenwriter Rama Laurie Stagner turns Smith into little more than a spunky gal-someone actually says of her, ”She’s bitin’ off more than she can chew this time.” Very quickly, we realize that Smith will suffer and then triumph. In real life, Smith won a Pulitzer Prize, and one assumes that the facts of her life were a lot more interestingly complicated than the way they are presented here. C-

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