made-for-TV movie premiered April 18, 1999. It tells the true story of two
women, Sarah Louise (Sadie) Delany and her sister, Annie Elizabeth (Bessie).
These remarkable women reached the age of 109 and 104 respectively, and this
movie is based on the book (and Broadway play) that was written in 1993 by
Amy Hill Hearth. In 1991 this The New York Times reporter knocked on the door
to the sisters house in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Sadie (who in this TV film is portrayed
by Diahann) welcomed the reporter with open arms, while Bessie (played here
by Ruby Dee) was much more suspicious - she had never seen anything good come
from white people. These daughters of a slave had seen racism and sexism
up close - especially since both women had been working professionally all
their lives. Neither had ever married (they both agreed that that's the sole
reason they reached such a high age). Bessie became the second black female
dentist in New York State, and Sadie became the first black home economics
teacher in New York City. Ms. Hearth - the reporter - was soon captivated
by the Delanys' wisdom and wit, and both sisters warmed to this woman, who
they soon saw as family, and they eventually wrote the book together. (In
May 1997 Sadie and Ms. Hearth wrote a second book, "On My Own at 107: Reflections
on a Life Without Bessie".)
Ms. Carroll told The New York Times, "It was very easy for me to recall those feelings of being the first black woman, the feelings of acceptance, the feelings of rejection and the feelings of 'let's move on, my eye is on the goal'. Sadie's eye was always on the goal. The end justifies the means. And I think that we are very similar in character. She was much more quiet and manipulative in a nice way to achieve her goal. In that way, I am perhaps like Sadie."
This TV film is well made. It's full of warmth, knowledge
and humor. A story about two wonderful Human Beings who followed their own
path, and in doing so, became an inspiration for their community. TV GUIDE
praised the film:
"The best-selling book and acclaimed Broadway play becomes an appealing, superbly acted TV film that views the black experience through the eyes of the Delany sisters. Diahnn Carroll and Ruby Dee give sterling performances as the gentle former teacher Sadie and the outspoken retired dentist Bessie, who, at ages 103 and 101 respectively, tell their stories to a journalist, Amy Hill Hearth (well played by Amy Madigan). Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald is a standout in her role as Bessie in her 20s; Richard Roundtree portrays Booker T. Washington; and Della Reese has a cameo as the Delanys' grandmother."
The film was directed by Lynne Littman and produced by Camille Cosby and Judith James.
CAST & CREDITS
Diahann Carroll ... Sadie Delany
Ruby Dee ... Annie Elizabeth 'Bessie' Delany
Amy Madigan ... Amy Hill Hearth
Lisa Arrindell Anderson ... Sadie in her 20s
Audra McDonald ... Bessie in her 20s
Mykelti Williamson ... Papa Delany
Lonette McKee ... Mama Delany
Richard Roundtree ... Booker T. Washington
Della Reese ... Martha Logan
Directed by Lynne Littman
Based on the book and Broadway play "Having Our Say"
by Amy Hill Hearth, Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany.
Teleplay by Emily Mann
Released on promotional VHS only.
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