12 February 2004 | richard.fuller1
Visually Decent, But I Doubt It is Based On Personal Fact
Film version of the notorious Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire in 1911 that saw over a hundred people, most of them young immigrant girls, perish, and most of them from jumping.
The factory was on the top three floors of an eleven story building and had no access for fire escapes or any other form of rescue should a fire break out.
The film here follows the story of four young women who work there. We are given tired plots of Stephanie Zimbalist and her two-timing boyfriend, who is cheating with a good friend of hers, Gina (played by Stacy Nelkin, the only one with a foreign accent).
It seems that David Dukes may have been some form of early champion for workers, and Zimbalist has an uninteresting moment of feminism (she protests the womens' purses being searched and the men's pockets not getting the same treatment).
Ted Wass was the philandering Vinnie. In real life, Wass was married to Janet Margolin, who here is paired up with David Dukes.
Tom Bosley of Happy Days was the boss, and Charlotte Rae is very impressive as a woman who arranges marriages for young people. She would have a small scene and wouldn't be in the fire, but nevertheless, she is very convincing here in this part.
Also keep an eye out for a very young Valerie Landsburg, who had played Doris on Fame. Here she is a young hair-bowed girl named Loretta.
But outstanding is Rhoda Gemighani as Mary Grasso, Loretta's mother.
Even with Tovah Feldshuh, Janet Margolin and Stephanie Zimbalist, it seems that unknown Lauren Frost as Sonya is the central character.
The fire would start in the most low key manner, which made it all the more effective. From there, we would be subjected to our cast surprised, running then desparate to escape, finally realizing all is lost in some instances, in others being saved by the grace of God.
Feldshuh's fate is a bit odd and peculiar, Dukes and Margolin was the stuff movies are made for, then it would be the incredible moment with Gemighani that captured what happened that horrible day.
There would be rescues with ladders stretched to the next building, jumping to a fireman's net, and then the infamous elevator incident with Gemighani.
Finally, all that was left was the young girls jumping, as the terrified crowds below could only watch. Pairs would hold hands and leap. There would be a mysterious man seen who also jumped, who talked a girl into doing likewise. It is still unknown who he was.
There is one final miraculous rescue.
In the end, Sonya's family is grieving for the loss of their daughter. No way she could have survived. The conclusion is so remarkable you can't help but smile.
We are treated to a finale of those that are left to enjoy what they have and realize what is really important.
Ruthie gets an ice cream cone from Poppa.
And check out that new hat.
Nice and decent period piece of an actual tragedy.