Wednesday, April 03, 2013

'A Sensitive, Passionate Man'


That's how I would describe "A Sensitive, Passionate Man," a 1977 TV movie starring David Janssen as a laid-off rocket engineer whose life spirals out of control as he descends into alcoholism.

My friend Beverly recommended the movie after I saluted Janssen, who I think is a wonderful, underrated actor, on what would have been his birthday.

Sue Mudge, on the Facebook fan page for Janssen's most famous TV series, "The Fugitive," said she has a love/hate relationship with the production. She loved it at the time it aired, but as it turned out, Janssen was having his own problems with alcohol during filming. (He died in 1980 at age 48.)

Just remember, she said, this isn't our hero, Dr. Richard Kimble.

That being said, it's an excellent piece of work.

Janssen's Michael Delaney fits the description of the film's title. He is obviously in love with wife Marjorie, played to perfection by Angie Dickinson.

But he's fighting a one-two punch: his father's alcoholism/early death and Delaney's depression following his layoff. He seeks solace in the bottle.

This isn't a Friday night popcorn movie. It's a disturbing portrait of a pitiful (in the charitable sense) disease.

But it shows off Janssen's acting chops and casts him in a darker light than the good-guy image to which fans of his three TV series (the other two are "Richard Diamond" and "Harry O") are accustomed. Dickinson also tends to be underrated because of her physical beauty. Here, she takes a difficult role and makes you feel her pain, to coin a phrase.

I don't know that I will watch this movie again, but I am glad I screened it. It is a noteworthy part of Janssen's filmography along with his TV work and appearances in such movies as "Marooned" and "The Green Berets."

 Knowing that Janssen's fate was similar to Michael Delaney's, though, makes this a particularly poignant performance.

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