Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (1975)

Forty-eight years ago today, the TV movie Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic premiered on NBC. I am pretty sure that I saw it in installments as an after school special type show. But it was sever or eight years afterward and had already entered the realm of camp classic. It is star-studded for a TV movie, like Battle of the Network Stars star-studded. I found an entire copy and put it below. You have to see this film.

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Title: Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic
Genre: Drama
Written by: Richard and Esther Shapiro
Directed by: Richard Donner
Starring: Linda Blair, Larry Hagman, Verna Bloom, William Daniels, Mark Hamill
Theme music composer: James Di Pasquale
Country of origin: United States
Original language: English
Producers: Stuart Cohen (associate producer), David Levinson (producer)
Production location: Universal Studios
Cinematography: Gayne Rescher
Editor: Richard Bracken
Running time: 96 minutes
Production company: Universal Television
Distributor: Sony Pictures Television
Original network: NBC
Original release: February 11, 1975

Sarah Travis is a 15-year-old girl dealing with feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Her parents are divorced and she has minimal contact with her unemployed, alcoholic father, Jerry. Sarah lives with her mother, JoAnne, and stepfather, Matt. They do not notice how lonely Sarah is. She feels overshadowed by her sister, Nancy, and wishes to live with her father.

Sarah begins drinking alcohol at her mother’s party after becoming uncomfortable with personal questions from the guests. She soon associates happiness with drinking. She surprises herself by singing, which everyone at the party appreciates. When Sarah becomes inebriated at the party, her parents wrongly blame her teenage friend, Ken. JoAnne is more concerned with what others think than the welfare of her daughter.

Ken invites Sarah to join him riding his horse Daisy, and Sarah becomes more popular at school. However, her home life continues to be confusing and erratic. JoAnne decides to fire Margaret, the housekeeper, but it was Sarah who was watering down the scotch after taking illicit drinks.

Sarah starts drinking at school, and she misses classes. She forges notes from her mother. The school counselor tells JoAnne that something is wrong in Sarah’s life. The counselor characterizes Sarah as a student with a high I.Q. who once took a diligent approach to her schoolwork. JoAnne resents the counselor’s interventions and feels that she is being targeted because of the divorce.

Sarah confesses to Ken that she drinks to make things easier. Sarah is unable to contact with her father by telephone. Sarah passes out from drinking though she is babysitting. In a confrontation with Matt and JoAnne, Sarah states that she has been drinking almost daily for two years.

A doctor’s visit fails to convince JoAnne that Sarah has a problem. Sarah attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where she meets Bobby, who is even younger than Sarah. What Bobby tells the group resonates with Sarah. She recognizes herself in what Bobby says, such as the constant lying.

During her family therapy sessions, Sarah expresses a desire for her family to be complete once again and for her parents to stop fighting. When Matt reveals that he is unable to have full custody of Sarah because of the nature of his job, Sarah once again feels the irresistible urge to drink. She asks a group of rough-looking teenagers to purchase vodka for her, inviting them to do anything to her. They tease her by drinking most of the bottle themselves. After drinking the remaining vodka, she takes Daisy for a ride. Ken tries to stop her riding Daisy so fast. Daisy is mortally wounded in an automobile accident, and the police shoot Daisy.

Sarah spends time in a hospital, where she expresses remorse for the way she has acted. She realizes how much she has loved her family and her friends at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She admits that she is an alcoholic.

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