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Plot & Details

The videotaped TV movie The People vs. Jean Harris premiered May 7, 1981-five weeks after the outcome of Jean Harris' trial. Ellen Burstyn plays Jean, the 57-year old headmistress of a Virginia girl's school. Jean was also the longtime lover of Scarsdale Diet author Dr. Herman Tarnower. On March 10, 1980, Jean was arrested for the murder of Dr. Tarnower. She never denied her guilt, but insisted that the court hear out her reasons. Those reasons form the dramatic core of this two-part, four-hour film (its second half was aired May 8, 1981). Martin Balsam and Peter Coyote co-star as, respectively, the defense and prosecuting attorneys. It was difficult for contemporary reviewers to assess The People vs. Jean Harris, since it wasn't completed until virtually the eve of its television premiere.


Golden Globes

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1981 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Ellen Burstyn Nominated

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