The Magic of Ordinary Days is a Hallmark Hall of Fame production based on a novel of the same name by Ann Howard Creel and adapted as a teleplay by Camille Thomasson. It was directed by Brent Shields, produced by Andrew Gottlieb and stars Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich, and Mare Winningham.
The film first aired on CBS on January 30, 2005, and received an encore broadcast on the same network exactly five years later.
Livvy (Olivia Dunne) (Keri Russell) is a young woman of Denver who has become pregnant by a naval flight instructor on furlough during the war. Embarrassed by his daughter's out of wedlock pregnancy, her father decides to deal with the issue by quietly arranging for her to marry. Livvy is sent off to a rural town in southeastern Colorado, there to be married to a young farmer in need of a wife. The groom is Ray Singleton (Skeet Ulrich), who farms a remote section of land on a family farm. Hearing of Livvy's dilemma from his pastor, Ray is moved by the story and agrees to marry without even having met her. Unbeknownst to Livvy, Ray has suffered the loss of both his father and mother, and the further loss of his younger brother when he was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Though young, handsome and a family man at heart, Ray has lacked the opportunity to find a wife in this remote region. His sister Martha (Mare Winningham), her husband and their three children are the only family he has left.
Ray and Livvy are an unlikely couple. Livvy has the benefit of a good education and until recently had been in graduate school studying archeology. The possesser of a broad formal education, she knows nothing of cooking or farming and is not particularly devoted to her religious beliefs. Though outwardly sophisticated, she has felt bereft and lonely since the death of her mother. Ray is a man of few words. A hard worker, he is kind, honest and patient. Family life and faith in God have been the central features of Ray's life. His daily activity is focused on working his family's farm. Livvy and Ray strive hard to be polite and courteous to one another, but are nevertheless awkward in each other's company.
Though she agreed to marry to please her father, Livvy never intended to remain in this stark life. She secretly writes to Lieutenant Edward Brown, the flight instructor who is the father of her child. A visit by her sister brings sharp contrast between the life Livvy came from and the life she is living now, but it is also apparent how much Livvy has changed her view of her surroundings. Her sister has no news of Lt. Brown, who has yet to answer Livvy's letters. Now without her husband who has been called up to serve, her sister finds herself lonely. She asks Livvy to leave Ray to come stay with her, suggesting they make up stories of Ray drinking and being violent to cover her leaving him. Livvy cannot bring herself to do this.
With most of the young men gone for the war effort, Ray's farm is lacking in farm hands. Needing to maintain production of food, the government supplies laborers to the farms. Ray's farm is supplemented by Japanese Americans interned at nearby Camp Amache. Life in the high country leaves Livvy feeling isolated and alone. She comes to befriend two sisters from the camp, Florence and Rose Umahara (Tania Gunadi and Gwendoline Yeo). Both are well-educated, and Livvy finds familiarity and comfort in their friendship.
Ray's sister Martha and her family give Livvy new insight into the lives of people in rural America. Throughout Ray proves to be a caring husband, both patient and supportive. He quietly does things to make her more comfortable in her surroundings, and it is clear that he is much brighter than Livvy had first suspected. Over time Livvy comes to value the life people like Martha and Ray lead. The love and forbearance shown to her stand in marked contrast with what she had known at home since the passing of her mother. With the baby coming she must choose the course her life will take.
The premiere broadcast on CBS in 2005 attracted 18.7 million viewers, making it the highest-rated television film since the 2001-2 season. According to the author of the original novel, "as of early 2009, the screenplay for a sequel has been written and approved. Hallmark Hall of Fame is waiting for principal actors to become available to begin production and filming."
In 2005, Robert Bianco of USA Today gave the film (3½ out of 4 stars), saying:
If only TV movies this good were ordinary events....Days does sometimes stress a link between "country" and "uncomplicated" that probably never existed. But underneath the contrasts between Ray's simple ways and Livvy's more cultured upbringing is a binding, universal message about the need to accept the consequences of our acts. An ordinary lesson, perhaps, but it takes an extraordinary movie to make us listen.