Jerry Levin, you may recall, is the television news reporter who was kidnapped in Beirut by Muslim extremists in 1984, held hostage, and released after 11 months. But the emphasis of this TV movie is suggested by the casting: Levin is played by David Dukes, an excellent stage actor who has been in TV movies like The Winds of War but is by no stretch a TV star. On the other hand, Levin’s wife, Lucille, nicknamed Sis, is played by Marlo Thomas, and that girl is a TV star and a half.
Thus it is that Held Hostage becomes the story of Sis’ suffering and her efforts to have her husband freed. Since the alternative was to watch Jerry inside his bare cell, this approach makes sense dramatically. But two hours in solitary confinement sounds downright blissful after you’ve experienced Marlo Thomas’ nonstop overacting here.
As Sis, Thomas wears a strawberry-blond wig that, oddly enough, makes her look like Shelley Long. As if that weren’t distracting enough, Sis is from Alabama, so Thomas gets to affect a Southern accent. Combine these two actor’s props and you’ve got instant ham. The script, by Dennis Nemec and Bruce Hart, only further encourages Thomas. There are lines here that demand melodrama: ”Jerry is a reporter, and he speaks the truth,” Thomas declaims at one point, ”and the truth is nobody’s enemy.”
But Thomas must have been jealous of Dukes; he gets to look his costar straight in the eye, take a deep breath, and say, ”You and I are embarked on a great adventure, the likes of which very few people get to experience in their lives.” Once again, TV has cheapened the harrowing experiences of real people it professes to be saluting. D