The film was based on the true story of a loving husband who is terrorized by the violent behavior of his wife.
The film stars Peter Strauss as Ed MacAffrey and, Judith Light as his wife Laura MacAffrey. Others in the film included James Gammon as Jack, Noble Willingham as Riley, Stephen Lee as Chuck, Mary Kane as Susan, Richard Gant as the Pope, Carroll Baker as Ruth and Ashley Johnson as Cindy.
After the original airing, the film was never rebroadcast on over-the-air television, reportedly because it incurred the wrath of several women's groups. However, the film was later shown a number of times on the Lifetime channel. The film has never been released on VHS or DVD, available unofficially only, recorded from the television showings. "Men Don't Tell" was seen in 18.3 million homes, ranking third among the week's prime time broadcast, behind ABC's Home Improvement and CBS's 60 Minutes.
An advertisement was created to promote the film's original broadcast.
An unofficial full upload of the film on YouTube has gained more than 125,000 views since March 2011.
The film's tagline reads "It's not supposed to happen. But it does, more often than you think. And when it does...".
In the book Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence by Philip W. Cook, the film's producer Nancy Bein was interviewed about the film. "I decided to do this movie because a friend, who is a psychologist, told me about a client who was a police officer and who had been a victim of domestic violence."
In relation to the script writing, Bein stated "We made a very conscious effort to make sure the man was very masculine, because a number of people when they heard about the subject felt that the man must be very wimpy." In relation to the casting, Bein stated "Judith Light said yes immediately. Peter Strauss was our second choice. Our first choice was an actor who said he was very offended that we sent him the script. He was angry at his agent for soliciting the script and forwarding it to him for him to read. Peter Strauss, a very bright man, accepted and did a very good job."
Speaking of the reception, Bein stated "CBS was very high on the movie. They saw it as very high concept because it was one movie that hadn't been done before. They turned out to be right, as it did very well. It did very well overseas as well. It was one of the highest-rated movies of the year. Out of some 300 two-hour movies, I think it was rated number four, so it did extremely well. A lot of the reaction was that people turned it on with the idea of just to watch a few minutes but ended up being compelled to watch the whole movie and feeling very differently by the time it was finished."
In 1994, the film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV" (Peter Strauss).
Ed MacAffrey, a loving husband and father, is terrorized by the violent behavior of his wife, Laura. He tolerates this not only because he loves her and is concerned over the welfare of his daughter, but also because men are traditionally regarded as weaklings if they allow themselves to be battered by their wives. After one of Laura's destructive tantrums brings the attention of the police, Ed is suspected of being the aggressor. Finally, Laura goes too far by hitting their daughter Cindy and Ed tries to defend himself - whereupon Laura crashes through the front window of her home and is rendered comatose. Ed is arrested for domestic violence and attempted murder.
As he is interrogated, he tells his story of years of abuse, and how he even once sought help by calling a domestic violence hotline, only to get scorned and hung up on. This interrogation takes all night, by highly skeptical police. While this is going on, his children have been taken to their paternal grandfather, himself a retired police officer, to spend the night. In the morning, his young daughter, who chose to remain silent through the years of abuse due to the humiliation and shame, asked the grandfather if her mother was in trouble. This surprised the grandfather, who then asked her why she thought her mother, who he thought was the victim of his son, would be in trouble? To this she said, "Because mommy hits daddy". When this is brought to the attention of the police, Ed is finally let go while Laura is arrested.Peter Strauss as Ed MacAffrey
Judith Light as Laura MacAffrey
James Gammon as Jack MacAffrey
Noble Willingham as Riley
Stephen Lee as Chuck
Mary Kane as Susan
Richard Gant as the Pope
Reni Santoni (uncredited character)
Carroll Baker as Ruth
Ashley Johnson as Cindy MacAffrey
Michael Rand as Alan MacAffrey
Cliff Bemis as Danny
Nick Angotti as Greg
Guy Killum as Cop #1
Katherine Cortez as Cop #2
Judith Drake as the Waitress
Susan Egan as the Florist
Robert Gallo as the Paramedic
Ray Loynd of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a favorable review and wrote "The most sobering point about 'Men Don't Tell' is that we go into the story conditioned to make jokes about wives hurling rolling pins at their husbands and then starkly witness how unfunny and terrifying it really is. Light's vicious, insecure wife is a harrowing portrait, although ultimately, to the actress's credit, touched with sympathy. Her bleak image in the movie's last scene is shattering under the fine direction of Harry Winer. And Strauss' pummeled husband - whose wife flails him with sudden, sharp fists that are so realistic they make you flinch - is a study of a warmly masculine man who is no wimp, and no wife hitter, either."
Matt Roush of USA Today gave a favorable review and called the film "violent, unsettling and sympathetically acted."
John J. O'Connor of The New York Times gave a favorable review and praised the leads for their "searing" performances.
Tom Shales of The Washington Post gave a favorable review and praised the film and Light as "superb at bringing out the pathos as well as the hostility in this character."
Rick Marin of Variety magazine wrote a favorable review, stating "Here's a new one for TV movies: husband-battering. The macho man who gets beat up by his wife and won't talk about it because, as the title of this perversely compelling CBS pic says, "Men Don't Tell." Shrink John H. Chamberlain, PhD. is, however, credited as consultant and, no doubt intended to give credence to the story. Both are burdened with backstory. Laura's nutbar mom (a creepy Carroll Baker) smacked her around. Ed's mom always covered up when his dad (gravely James Gammon) got drunk and hit her. Laura turned out aggressive, Ed passive. Until she pushes him over the edge. Strauss pulls this one out of a hat. He's very sensitive."
Lon Grahnke of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of five stars, stating ""Men Don't Tell" sounds like a bad joke, a shock-you-drama left over from the winter sweeps. A CBS movie about an abused husband? C'mon! Don't make me laugh. But there's nothing funny about Sunday's fictional drama about an overlooked aspect of domestic violence."