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Crisis at Central High

Crisis at Central High is a 1981 made-for-television movie about the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957, based on a draft of the memoir by the same name by former assistant principal Elizabeth Huckaby.[1]

Crisis at Central High
Written byElizabeth Huckaby (memoir)
Richard Levinson
William Link
Directed byLamont Johnson
StarringJoanne Woodward
Charles Durning
Henderson Forsythe
Calvin Levels
William Russ
Tamu Blackwell
Shannon John
Bonnie Pemberton
Music byBilly Goldenberg
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Robert Papazian
CinematographyDonald M. Morgan
Editor(s)John Wright
Running time125 minutes
Original release
  • February 4, 1981 (1981-02-04)

William Link and Richard Levinson wrote the screenplay and were executive producers together with David Susskind of Time-Life Productions.[2] The film starred Joanne Woodward as Huckaby and told the events from that character's point of view, although one obituary at the time of Huckaby's death cited her as saying the TV-movie enlarged her role.[3] Woodward was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special[4] and a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV,[5] in 1981 and 1982 respectively.[6][unreliable source?]

Composite charactersEdit

Like many docudramas, Crisis included some composite characters; at least one reviewer (O'Connor) criticizes the vague disclaimer to that effect, arguing that in a piece about such controversial events, alterations to the truth should be identified more specifically.[2] In addition to the creative license already mentioned with regard to her role in the crisis, Huckaby was reported to have said the film showed some events are out of sequence and slightly altered others.[3]


The movie was filmed on location in Little Rock[7] and at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas.[8] Many local Dallas actors had featured roles in the film, including radio personality Suzie Humphreys, TV and theater actor Jerry Haynes, teacher and actress Irma P. Hall, and Theater Three director Norma Young, as well as Taylor, a native Dallasite who was attending Southern Methodist University at the time the film was being cast.

Critical receptionEdit

Reviewer John O'Connor of The New York Times observed, "In the end, of course, the real heroes of this piece are the nine black students," whom O'Connor described as "played to quiet perfection." Actors highlighted for their portrayals included Calvin Levels as Ernest Green (the only senior in the group) and Regina Taylor as Minnijean Brown, launching that actress' professional career.[9] Other principal actors in the film included Charles Durning as the principal and Henderson Forsythe as Huckaby's husband, Glenn.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ News Releases Archived 2006-11-03 at the Wayback Machine, 40th Anniversary web Site
  2. ^ a b John O'Connor. TV: Little Rock, 1957: 'Crisis at Central High,' The New York Times (review), Feb. 4, 1981
  3. ^ a b Linda S. Caillouet.Central High crisis diarist dies, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 20, 1999 (retrieved November 3, 2006)
  4. ^ Television Academy Database - Joanne Woodward Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special
  5. ^ Joanne Woodward at Golden Globe Awards database
  6. ^ Awards and Nominations for Crisis at Central High (1981) on Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ Elizabeth Paisley Huckaby (1905–1999), Encyclopedia of Arkansas
  8. ^ Craig, J. B. Crisis at Central High, Book and Movie (Elizabeth Huckaby-5), Center for Arkansas History and Culture, December 19, 2017.
  9. ^ Regina Taylor at

Further readingEdit

  • Huckaby, Elizabeth. Crisis at Central High, Little Rock, 1957–58. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

External linksEdit