Locally made drama airs on MPT


Now here's something that has become exceedingly rare on television: A nice little local, non-documentary, dramatic film production.

"Sonny & Cornblatt," at 9 o'clock tonight on Maryland Public Television, tells a simple half-hour tale of love and loss and friendship and, especially, overcoming cultural and ethnic differences.

Baltimore actors Ben Presbury and Leon Sigel play the title characters, elderly neighbors, one Jewish and the other black, who slowly find common ground after the former loses his wife to a heart attack.

Shot with local production assistance and with Baltimore as a backdrop, the film is bittersweet and perhaps a little too 'N predictable. Yet it offers hopeful notes and addresses concerns many viewers will find resonate in their own lives.

And the story behind the film offers at least equal interest.

Baltimorean Tom Brandau, now a producer/director at WBFF-Channel 45, wrote "Sonny & Cornblatt" in 1988, upon graduating from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. It was one of several scripts aimed at securing production grants.

"I knew I wanted to do a story about two elderly guys who had a difficult time relating," says Mr. Brandau.

But limited funding did not become available until more than a year later, and the film was finally shot here in January and February of 1990. Most recognizable is a scene shot on Federal Hill, with the Inner Harbor as a backdrop. Mr. Brandau credits the Baltimore production community with offering much assistance, noting "everybody had this feeling that it was a special little project."

Editing took place piecemeal over the next year or so, and the film was not finished until March of 1991, when Mr. Brandau began showing it to offices on aging and other senior interest groups.

In 1991, the Retirement Research Foundation in Chicago awarded the film a prize, and it has also since won a Washington International Film Festival award and the Barry Levinson Award for local film work from the city of Baltimore.

* NBC's "Seinfeld" debuts for the season tonight with ahour-long episode (at 9, WMAR-Channel 2) that features cameo appearances by other NBC stars George Wendt ("Cheers") and Corbin Bernsen ("L.A. Law").

* A Media Monitor item earlier this week noted the Orioles/Blue Jays series this week was a three-game set. In fact, the series includes four games, concluding tomorrow with an afternoon meeting from Toronto's Skydome.

Cable's HomeTeam Sports service is the TV carrier for both games, at 7:30 tonight and at 12:35 p.m. tomorrow.

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