Picks and Pans Review: Call Me Anna

updated 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Nov. 11, 9 P.M. ET)

B

The life story of actress Patty Duke has been turned into a strangely volatile, sometimes interesting TV movie. Ari (Kate & Allie) Meyers plays Duke as an overwhelmed child star in the sway of two managers (Howard Hesseman in coke-bottle glasses and Deborah May) who pushed her unmercifully. Meyers gives a touching performance, conveying this confused child's neediness, pain and unhappiness.

Jenny Robertson plays the actress as a teen and as a young adult, when she begins to exhibit unbalanced behavior and severe mood swings. During this section the film begins to get pretty wiggy, but then apparently so did Duke. At one point, we see her get married on a whim to a stranger (David Packer) who sublets her apartment.

Duke plays herself as an adult, coming unraveled until a caring psychiatrist (Karl Malden) diagnoses her as manic-depressive. This portion of the film is like one long, ponderous public service message for lithium. Ironically, Patty herself is the least persuasive and sympathetic of the three Dukes.

Don't expect consistency. A good cast keeps the lack of continuity from being too disconcerting. But Call Me Anna is at first harrowing without being sensational. Then it shoots off like a bottle rocket in the middle. Finally it thuds back to earth.

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