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Sarah, Plain and Tall
Approx. run time 98 minutes
Production company Hallmark Hall of Fame
Self Productions
Trillium Productions
Creator Patricia MacLachlan (novel)
Written by Patricia MacLachlan
Carol Sobieski
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Produced by Glenn Close
Glenn Jordan
William Self
Starring Glenn Close
Christopher Walken
Editing by John Wright
Music by David Shire
Cinematography Mike Fash
Country United States
Language English
Original channel CBS
Release date February 3, 1991
Followed by Skylark
"Sarah, Plain and Tall"
Hallmark Hall of Fame
Episode no. Season 40
Episode 2
Production no. 288
Original airdate February 3, 1991
Episode chronology
← Previous Next →
"Decoration Day" "Shadow of a Doubt"
Episode list

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a television film in the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology series that was released in 1991. It is the first of three installments in the film adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan's novel of the same name.


Plot summary

The story is set in Kansas in the year 1910. Jacob Witting, a widowed farmer who is still saddened by the death of his wife during childbirth several years earlier, finds that the task of taking care of his farm and two children, Anna and Caleb, is too difficult to handle alone. He advertises in the newspaper for a mail-order bride. Sarah, from Maine, travels out to become his wife. But Sarah grows homesick: miles and miles of Kansas farmland prove no substitute for Maine's ocean vistas. When Sarah leaves for a trip into town, the children wonder if she will come back.



Generally well-received by the public, it was considered "Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes with 80% approval. It was nominated for nine Emmys in 1991, of which it won one. It was also nominated for two Golden Globes.


  • A long search was made to find a working steam locomotive for Sarah's arrival. One was found at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska. The train had been built in 1908 by the Baldwin Locomotive works. It needed extensive repairs before its fires could be stoked. A contribution from the Sarah, Plain and Tall production saved the day. The train has been preserved and is on display at the town's museum.
  • The gravestones for the small cemetery where Jacob's wife Catherine lay were hand-carved out of sheets of Styrofoam and then painted and stained.
  • John and Ada Bryan's old home served as the Witting house. The Bryans lived in the home from 1948 to 1960 before moving. Although they thought about selling the house, they could not bring themselves to do it, saying that their children would never forgive them. Although the house was in very bad shape, it was remodeled by a movie company who wanted it to shoot a movie called The Last Cattle Drive. Extensive renovations were completed, including enlarging the doors so camera equipment could come in and out. The movie plans were scrapped, but when a location scout for Sarah, Plain and Tall came upon the house, he knew he had found an ideal location.

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