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'Tuesdays With Morrie': Winfrey produces TV film

Jack Lemmon plays Morrie Schwartz in the ABC TV movie "Tuesdays with Morrie"

December 2, 1999
Web posted at: 3:49 p.m. EST (2049 GMT)

From Gloria Hillard
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

(CNN) -- When talk show host Oprah Winfrey likes a book, she recommends it to her audience. When she loves a book, she might make it into a film. That's the case with Mitch Albom's 1997 "Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man and the Last Great Lesson" (Doubleday Books).

Albom is a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press, and his book has been on the New York Times' nonfiction best seller list for more than two years.

The book tells of Albom's reunion with his professor-mentor Morrie Schwartz, who's dying from ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In the last four-and-a-half months of Schwartz's life, Albom flies to Boston every Tuesday to spend time with him. Each visit is like a seminar. Schwartz holds forth -- at various levels of energy and spirit -- on marriage, family, aging and culture, essentially lessons on how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie... on TV

Hank Azaria plays Albom in the made-for-television film, which airs December 5 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Jack Lemmon plays Schwartz, a character whose values the actor says he shares.

 Some of the title character's comments -- affectionately dubbed "Morrie-isms":
  • Death ends a life, not a relationship.
  • Love wins. Love always wins.
  • Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Don't wait.
  • What's wrong with being No. 2?

    "There are a lot of things that Morrie believes that I believe," the 74-year-old Lemmon says, "(but) I doubt that I will ever be able to express them as simply, as directly, as Morrie."

    Mentors and apprentices

    One of the hardest aspects of ALS is that the mind remains sharp as a progressive degeneration of both the upper and lower motor neurons causes muscular paralysis. The average age of the disease's onset is 55. About two in 100,000 people suffer with Lou Gehrig's disease -- some 30,000 in the United States at any time.

    Schwartz compiled his observations in "Letting Go: Morrie's Reflections on Living While Dying," which was published in September 1996, about a year after his death. Walker & Company reissued it this year under a new title, "Morrie: in His Own Words."

    Hank Azaria as Mitch Albom

    In a book chat, Albom said his life completely changed after reuniting with Schwartz:

    "I used to be a classic workaholic, and after seeing how little work and career really mean when you reach the end of your life, I put a new emphasis on things I believe count more. These things include family, friends, being part of a community and appreciating the little joys of the average day. Believe me, that's a big switch from how I used to think and feel."

    Like Albom with Schwartz, Azaria says he found a mentor in Lemmon. Azaria says he was touched by the chance to work with the two-time Academy Award winner.

    "I have the best seat in the house watching this man," Azaria said during filming. "It's amazing."

    Review: 'Tuesdays With Morrie'
    May 6, 1998
    CNN Chat Transcripts: Meet Mitch Albom

    ABC: 'Tuesdays With Morrie'
    The Oprah Winfrey Show
      •'Tuesdays With Morrie' Special
    ALS Association
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