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Masterpiece Theatre's American Collection Season 1 Episodes

Season 1 Episode Guide

Season 1

7 Episodes 2000 - 2003

Episode 1

Cora Unashamed

Wed, Oct 25, 2000 120 mins

A stately adaptation of Langston Hughes' short story "Cora Unashamed" stars Regina Taylor as maid Cora Jenkins, the only African-American in the small Iowa town of Melton. Cora's proper and stern employer (Cherry Jones) is constantly bullying everyone, especially her emotionally fragile and intellectually slow daughter, Jessie. Cora's appalled, but she couldn't possibly speak out. Or could she? Jessie (age 18): Ellen Muth. Jessie (age 5): Molly Graham. Arthur: Michael Gaston.

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Episode 2

The American

Wed, Jan 3, 2001 90 mins

The series' "American Collection" continues with "The American," Henry James' 1877 novel about an American in Paris. Matthew Modine stars as a brash parvenu who made his money in the American West. He's in Paris to soak up the culture and find a wife, and he soon finds the icy Claire de Cintre (Aisling O'Sullivan), who's descended from Bourbon kings. He melts her heart, but to say that her family disapproves would be a decided understatement. Madame de Bellegarde: Diana Rigg. Mrs. Bread: Brenda Fricker.

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Episode 3

The Song of the Lark

Wed, May 2, 2001 120 mins

A minister's daughter (Alison Elliott) from an 1890s frontier town becomes an international opera star in an adaptation of Willa Cather's 1915 novel "The Song of the Lark." She's Thea Kronborg from Moonstone, Colo. "Big dreams fit a person like you," her boyfriend Ray (Robert Floyd) tells her. Thea has determination to match and (being beautiful and sweet) a string of men ready to help her every step of the way, beginning with Ray. Wunsch: Maximilian Schell. Dr. Archie: Arliss Howard. Bowers: Norman Lloyd. Fred: Tony Goldwyn.

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Episode 4

The Ponder Heart

Mon, Oct 15, 2001 120 mins

Peter MacNicol stars as the richest and most generous man in his 1930s Mississippi town in an adaptation of Eudora Welty's fanciful 1954 comic novel "The Ponder Heart." MacNicol plays Daniel Ponder, who lives to give things away. Of course, this exasperates family patriarch Sam Ponder (Boyce Holleman), but Daniel's niece Edna Erle (JoBeth Williams) manages to keep him under control. Then Sam and Edna Erle decide that Daniel should find a wife, but not a 17-year-old beauty (Angelia Bettis).

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Episode 5

A Death in the Family

Mon, Mar 25, 2002 90 mins

An idyllic family copes with a sudden tragedy in this adaptation of "A Death in the Family," James Agee's Pulitzer Prize-winning roman à clef set in Knoxville in 1915. The thinly disguised Agee character is 7-year-old Rufus Follet (Austin Wolff), the beloved son of Mary and Jay (Annabeth Gish, John Slattery), who adore each other. This bliss won't last long: Jay is involved in a serious auto accident. Mary, steeling herself for the worst, awaits word.

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Episode 6

Almost a Woman

Sun, Sep 15, 2002 120 mins

"Almost a Woman." The Peabody-winning coming-of-age chronicle of a Puerto Rican girl (Ana Maria Lagasca) in early-1960s New York, based on Esmeralda Santiago's 1999 memoirs. Santiago would grew up to become a noted author, but when she arrives in Brooklyn at age 13 with her mother (Wanda De Jesus) and two of her six brothers and sisters, she can barely speak English. Still, the principal of her school (Cliff DeYoung) sees potential in "Negi," and pushes her to apply to the prestigious High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. But getting in is only the first step. Tata: Miriam Colon.

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Episode 7

Our Town

Sun, Oct 5, 2003 120 mins

Paul Newman earned 2002 Tony and Emmy nominations as the Stage Manager in this performance of "Our Town," Thornton Wilder's sturdy 1938 slice of Americana (which was filmed during its Broadway run and first aired on Showtime in May 2003). The Stage Manager, omniscient and omnipresent, observes the goings on in Grovers Corners, N.H. "It's a very ordinary town," says Mr. Webb (Jeffrey DeMunn), the newspaper editor, "a little better behaved than most, [and] probably a lot duller." That may be, but Wilder captures the "livin'...and...dyin' " in Grovers Corners with a sweetness that makes simpler times a shimmering ideal.

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