Based on the bestseller by Catherine Marshall, Christy tells the story of an idealistic 19-year-old who leaves the comforts of her city home to teach school in the impoverished Appalachian community of Cutter Gap, Tennesse, in 1912. Strength, determination, and faith guide young Christy Huddleston through unforeseen difficulties, help her to gain understanding of the proud mountain people, and win her mentorship, friendship, and the love of two men.
Smokey Mountains For The Soul!
This show was my daily dose of inspiration when it used to be shown on our Cable TV. Needless to say I miss seeing it again thoroughly but its effect is still fresh in my mind. ‘Christy’ is an adaptation of Catherine Marshall’s famous novel by the same name. What Patricia Green, Michael Rhodes and the rest of the ‘Christy’ team have done is to not only adapt the novel, but also add their own input and ingenuity without reverting from Marshall’s basic conception of story and moral point of view.
The character Christy was inspired by the experiences of Marshall’s own mother as a teacher in the rural Smokey mountains of Tennessee at the start of the 20th century. Marshall’s novel, as such, is tackled in the first two episodes of the series itself and all the rest of the episodes are imaginatively built up by the show’s team. ‘Christy’ is basically about a young conscientious girl who leaves the comforts of her city life to teach in the far-off rural village of Cutter Gap surrounded by the ethereal Smokey Mountains. More than anything, this series is about a girl growing up, maturing through her bitter-sweet interaction with the people of Cutter Gap. Christy’s initial shock at the stark hand-to-mouth existence of the villagers, her sense of moral justice, wanting to do something but not knowing the right way, her emotional conflict and the comfort and friendship she finally establishes with the kind Miss Alice at the backwood’s Mission, Fairlight Spencer and most of all, “her children”, are all beautifully brought out making this series a kind of a growing inspirational experience.
Kellie Martin is excellent as Christy! They couldn’t have found anyone better! More than just enacting a character, she comes alive as a person, an individual and helps the audience empathize with her situation which is so important when playing such a character. Adding to the story and drama are of course the two men in Christy’s life – the opinionated and rather sullen Scottish doctor McNeill and the handsome and equally opinionated preacher David Grantland. Christy’s interaction with these two men eventually develops into a rather humorous love-triangle with frequent debates and arguments between the two opinionated men on God and science and the object of their mutual affection, Christy!
What ‘Christy’ also beautifully portrays is rural life – from the outbreak of scarlet fever, unavailability of good medicine to superstitions ingrained in the minds of the rural folk and their constant vulnerability to corrupt rich city men promising them money for their land… All these various aspects of rural life at the start of the century are effectively mingled with Christy’s story and her character is strengthened by her involvement in all these issues. What drew me to this series is a sense of identification with Christy and her life… especially her conversations with Miss Alice, with the latter always providing a kind word and advice when needed. Also Christy’s friendship with Fairlight is beautifully etched. I can’t forget their “secret” place – a clearing at the edge of the woods facing an enormous valley and the colossal, vibrant Smokey Mountains in all their glory… Tyne Daly and Tess Harper, both have given one of the best, most endearing performances of their respective careers and the same can be said of Kellie Martin.
Last but not the least, Christy’s relationship with her children, her students is also well established, from making an otherwise quiet girl little girl to express herself, to winning over the roguish Lundy Taylor, all the student characters especially Rob Allen become familiar as the series advances.
All in all, watching this show is an altogether enriching experience in the company of the idyllic Smokey Mountains. I especially used to love Christy’s narration at the start of each episode about her arrival in Cutter Gap, starting with ‘When I left my city home to be a school teacher at the Backwood’s mission, I dreamt of adventure…’ MEMORABLE!