WriterElizabeth Huckaby, Richard Levinson, William Link Release dateFebruary 4, 1981 (1981-02-04) NominationsPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie CastJoanne Woodward (Elizabeth Huckaby), Charles Durning (Jess Matthews), William Russ (J.O. Powell) Similar moviesThe Ernest Green Story (1993), The Rosa Parks Story (2002), Lean on Me (1989), Nine from Little Rock (1964), Murder in Mississippi (1990)
Unassuming yet determined teacher Elizabeth Huckaby (Joanne Woodward) is caught in the middle of one of Americas defining moments in the 20th century the racial integration of schools. Arkansas Central High is the venue, and Huckaby and her allies must fight mounting anger and racism to allow several black students to matriculate and lead normal student lives. This film depicts that entire fateful school year, which required military intervention to guarantee the students safety.
Crisis at Central High is a 1981 made-for-television movie about the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957, based on a draft of the memoir by the same name by former assistant principal Elizabeth Huckaby.
William Link and Richard Levinson wrote the screenplay and were executive producers together with David Susskind of Time-Life Productions. The film starred Joanne Woodward as Huckaby and told the events from that characters point of view, although one obituary at the time of Huckabys death cited her as saying the TV-movie enlarged her role. Woodward was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, in 1981 and 1982 respectively.
Story of the federally-ordered integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
Reviewer John OConnor of The New York Times observed, "In the end, of course, the real heroes of this piece are the nine black students," whom OConnor described as "played to quiet perfection." Actors highlighted for their portrayals included Calvin Levels as Ernest Green (the only senior in the group) and Regina Taylor as Minnijean Brown, launching that actress professional career. Other principal actors in the film included Charles Durning as the principal and Henderson Forsythe as Huckabys husband, Glenn.
Like many docudramas, Crisis included some composite characters; at least one reviewer (OConnor) criticizes the vague disclaimer to that effect, arguing that in a piece about such controversial events, alterations to the truth should be identified more specifically. In addition to the creative license already mentioned with regard to her role in the crisis, Huckaby was reported to have said the film showed some events are out of sequence and slightly altered others.
The movie was filmed on location in Little Rock and at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas. Many local Dallas actors had featured roles in the film, including radio personality Suzie Humphreys, TV and theater actor Jerry Haynes, teacher and actress Irma P. Hall, and Theater Three director Norma Young, as well as Taylor, a native Dallasite who was attending Southern Methodist University at the time the film was being cast.