”I tried to write a poem for Jill today, but all I could think of was Sunshine...Beautiful Sunshine.”
The 1973 TV movie Sunshine is based on the journals of tape recordings by Jacquelyn M. Helton. She died from cancer at age 20, and made these tapes for her 2 year-old-daughter Jennifer (called Jenny). In the movie Jacquelyn’s name was changed into Kate Hayden, and her daughter was called Jill.
The movie starts with Kate’s funeral, and then moves back in time.
Kate had married David when she was only 16 years old, only to show her mother. But when she became pregnant she left him. A little later she meets and falls in love with Sam Hayden, and little Jill Patricia Hayden is born.
But about 6 months later Kate realizes something is wrong with her leg. She learns that she has a malignant tumour on the bone, and needs to amputate her leg. Otherwise the tumours will spread to her lungs, and she will die. But Kate refuses (”I can’t learn to walk on one leg while Jill is learning to walk on two”). Instead she reluctantly agrees to try chemotherapy.
But later Kate decides she wants to stop with the chemotherapy, and stop taking the painkillers. She doesn’t like how they make her feel, and that she because of them treats her daughter badly. Because of the pills she is always angry and screaming, and little Jill is always crying.
Worried about what will happen to her little girl when she grows up without a mother, Kate’s doctor advices her to write letters to her daughter, that she’ll be able to read when she gets older. When Kate says she can’t type, the doctor suggests she instead uses a tape recorder.
Lindsay and Sidney share the part of Jill (at age 2 ½) - credited as ”Lindsay Green Bush” and ”Sydney Green Bush”.Some of the most memorable Jill-scenes:
- Little Jill (age 6 months) is sitting on the floor, in front of Sam and his friends. Suddenly the picture freezes, like a photo was taken - and Jill is suddenly about 2 ½ years old instead!
- Jill is sitting by the counter in the kitchen, eating ketchup, while her mother is being sick, and Sam is playing his guitar. It looks rather dangerous, but when her mother gets into the kitchen and sees what she’s doing, she angrily grabs her, and starts yelling at her - calling her a bad girl. Sam stops her, and takes Jill by the hand and they leave the room. A little later Kate calls to Jill, and asks her to come and give her kiss. But Jill hasn’t forgotten how she was treated and replies ”No!”.
- Late at night Kate is crying in bed, while Sam is sleeping. She starts having problem breathing, and little Jill hears her and walks over to her, asking ”Are you all right, Mommy?”. Kate suddenly screams, and Sam wakes up. Poor Jill of course gets scared, and walks away.
- While many scenes in this movie must have been really hard for the girls, the scene where Jill is playing on the swing in the playground with the other kids must have been a nice change! She sure is looking very happy!
- Also, the scene at the end of the movie, where little Jill is waiting for Sam together with Nora - and then gets to go for a ride with him on his motorcycle is a pure joy to watch.
Kate Hayden - Cristina Raines
Sam Hayden - Cliff DeYoung
Nora - Meg Foster
Carol Gillman - Brenda Vaccaro
Weaver- Bill Mumy
David - Adam Fudge
Cory Givitz - Corey Fischer
Jill Hayden (at 2 1/2 years) - Lindsay Green Bush
Jill Hayden (at 2 1/2 years) - Sydney Green Bush
Dr. Wilde- James Hong
Jill (at 6 months) - Sarah Valentini
Interviewer - Bill Stout
Bartender - Noble Willingham
Nurse - Adrian Ricard