A Last Cry For Help* was an unusual made for TV movie about teenage suicide. It was written, produced and directed by Hal Sitowitz, a veteran TV writer. To me, it's the most realistic and enjoyable film on this subject. It also reminded me of two of my favorite Young Adult novels that are similar in subject and written around the same time. They are Flames Going Out by Kin Platt (1980) and also Gimme an H.E.L.P by Frank Bonham (also 1980). Flames Going Out is similar because it also involves a tragic romance between two disturbed teens. Gimme an H.E.L.P is similar because it also deals with a cheerleader who attempts suicide.
Part of why I loved this film is because of the sensitive acting of Linda Purl. She is just dead on as a depressed tormented teenager and expresses a wide range of emotions. After seeing this movie, I made it a priority to seek out her other roles. Another amazing character that she played was in a TV movie that came out the same year (1979) in which she played a mentally handicapped girl alongside Sean Cassidy. That film, Like Normal People, is highly recommended as well. As of this writing, neither have been released on DVD and are hard to come by on VHS. Other cool appearances by Linda are a brief cameo in the TV Movie Bad Ronald with Scott Jacoby. She also played Ron Howard's girlfriend in a couple of episodes of Happy Days!
It's also interesting to note that Linda Purl previously starred in the role of a suicidal teen 3 years prior in 1976 in an episode of the tv drama Medical Center.
About ten years ago, I was excited to discover that Linda Purl was a professional singer as well as an actress. The first song I ever heard by her was "L.A. Is Only A Movie" (released as a 45 single) which was part of the soundtrack to Leo and Lorree, a movie she co-starred in with Donny Most (1980). I then purchased her two CDs. The latter is a live album recorded at a music space owned by Desi Arnaz, Jr., who co-starred with Linda in the 1977 TV movie Black Market Baby.
Linda is an incredible singer and I've wanted to see her perform live for quite some time. I finally had the opportunity and saw her at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco. She was terrific and once again I was blown away by her talents. A truly amazing performer and I would highly recommend her live shows. My only complaint was that the set was too short (about an hour) and I wanted to hear more.
At the end of the show, I saw Linda in the lobby. I brought a picture from A Last Cry For Help for her to sign, but was pretty nervous. It was kind of surreal to approach this woman whose work I have admired for about 13 years. Well, I ended up not saying much, but she was still very friendly and gladly signed the photo (seen above).
You can find out more about Linda Purl on her website here: http://www.lindapurl.net/
*I was so enamored with the movie A Last Cry For Help that I made a zine named after it and later a book published in 2006 by Bodega. The first story in my Last Cry For Help book is loosely adapted from a scene in the movie. Copies are still available on Amazon.
and while you're at it, get a VHS copy of the Hal Sitowitz film.