"RESTING PLACE," Sunday, 9-11 p.m. (2)(8) (Illustrated on cover)--"That boy left a lot of memories," says the mother of Lt. Dwyte Johnson, a Vietnam War hero who is denied burial in his Southern hometown's all-white cemetery in 1972 because he is black.
"It's not a question of fairness, it's a question of . . . timing," says the local newspaper editor (G. D. Spradlin). The town has integrated schools but is not quite ready for integrated burial. It is a good and decent town that is unwilling to do the good and decent thing.
For Johnson's parents (C. C. H. Pounder and Morgan Freeman), a white friend of the family (Frances Sternhagen) and Maj. Kendall Laird (John Lithgow), it is a question of fairness--and of old-fashioned, rip-roaring racism.
Laird's quest to honor the burial wishes of Johnson's parents is the catalytic spark for this intriguing and deeply affecting two-hour "Hallmark Hall of Fame" story, which is also a neat little mystery.
The Marian Rees production is easily one of the season's best dramas, featuring a superior script by Walter Halsey Davis, direction by John Korty and a fine performance by the versatile Lithgow as Laird, who is assigned by the Army to oversee Johnson's burial. Brian Taratina and Richard Brooks also excel in support as soldiers in Johnson's unit.
Johnson's men nominated him for a Silver Star for bravery. But when Laird attempts to elicit praise from them for a newspaper story he hopes will convince the town to change its mind about the burial, he is largely rebuffed. As if rehearsed, each soldier repeats almost the same story about the lieutenant ("He was a good Joe"), making Laird suspicious that they're covering up the real circumstances of the high-achieving Johnson's death in Vietnam.
Among the many producing credits of Rees is last fall's soaring production of "Love Is Never Silent," and Korty, most famous for a landmark TV classic called "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," most recently directed that swell little crime film, "Deadly Business."
This time they collaborate on a poignant story that carries the residue of America's dark recent past.