As Sabinson concedes, pay and other perks are better in features. According to the Motion Picture Assn., the average cost of a feature movie to make and release is $27 million. Notwithstanding ABC's gargantuan $110 million, 32-hour "War and Remembrance" that aired in November, 1988, and May, 1989, a two-hour TV movie generally gets made for under $3 million.
The Actresses Talk
"We don't have to be a bankable proposition to make it on TV," says Angela Lansbury. "In movies we have to be big box office otherwise they can't raise the money. So luckily we've been afforded many, many more opportunities in television.
"It didn't used to be that way in the '40s," adds the actress who came up during that era when stars like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck outdrew men. "The world changed tremendously after World War II, and with it women kind of lost their mystique."
However on TV "the home audience is made up of a huge volume of older people, and they appreciate and thoroughly enjoy seeing a woman of their years who's out there doing it," says the 65-year-old actress. "Living it, and being a vital, healthy, liberated, opinionated, fair, honest, just person. \o7 That,\f7 " notes Lansbury "is the truth behind the success of 'Murder She Wrote.' "
Lansbury, who has had three Oscar nominations as best supporting actress ("Gaslight," 1944; "The Picture of Dorian Gray," 1945; "The Manchurian Candidate," 1962) and four Tonys for best actress in a musical, is hardly one to gripe. Though her movie career wound down in the 1970s, she has no regrets. "Absolutely not, good gracious no! Luckily I had a very strong movie career until the time I sort of stopped taking movies . . . and after that, I went into the theater, had a very successful theatrical career into my 50s. So it didn't stop me from plying my craft."
Lansbury, who had done live television on CBS' "Playhouse 90" and NBC's "Ford Television Theater" when she was in her early 30s, began on TV again in her late 50s with such TV movies as "Little Gloria, Happy at Last" on NBC in 1982; in 1989 she had the role of Penelope on ABC's "The Shell Seekers." "I just loved the fact that I was playing a woman absolutely my own age, who came from my own background."
After "Murder She Wrote" ends its run, Lansbury says she intends to do more TV movies. And as a result of the success of "Murder She Wrote," she now has "a three-picture deal" with the Hollywood Pictures division of Disney.
Lee Remick traces the decline in important roles for women to the late '60s. "Those various phases that movies have gone through such as the (Paul) Newman-(Robert) Redford buddy-buddy movies got rid of us ladies for quite a while," she says with a laugh. "Wonderful movies, and I adored every bit of them, but they did put us out of business. . . ."
The actress, who began in theater as a dancer and worked in live television theater on "Playhouse 90" and "Studio One," starred in 28 feature films including "The Long Hot Summer" (1958) "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959) and "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962), which brought her an Oscar nomination.
She, too, went on to a second career on television, making nearly as many TV movies and miniseries as she had features. So far they number 25 including "Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill," in the title role of Winston Churchill's American-born mother in a 7-part series for PBS in 1975; "Ike: The War Years" on ABC in 1979 as Kay Summersby, the general's wartime driver and close companion, and in the role of Frances Bradshaw Schreuder on "Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder" on NBC in 1987. She's had five Emmy nominations.
"I've been blessed with really wonderful roles in both (movies and TV), I really have," Remick says. "And I've always liked to jump around and do different kinds of roles in different media. 'Jennie,' that stands out. 'Haywire' (as) Margaret Sullavan. First of all she is crazy, which is always fun to play, interesting to play, and then 'Nutcracker,' another crazy. It's much more fun than the lady next door."
Remick, 55, who has been battling kidney cancer for nearly two years, hopes to be filming a TV movie this summer for ABC--"a melodrama. I don't dare" talk about it, she laughs, "because that's a jinx." She's using a cane these days, and "I could do it with the cane. That's the point of having that come across."
"I think I've probably had some of my better roles on television--television or the stage in my case," says Lynn Redgrave, 48, who recently starred opposite her sister Vanessa Redgrave in ABC's remake of the 1962 movie, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Redgrave considers that "my very best role that I've had probably, ever, in any medium . . . a \o7 towering \f7 role.