“Mary and Tim” is a TV movie adaptation of a little-known novel written by Colleen McCullough, entitled “Tim” which was published in 1974, three years before McCullough’s blockbuster novel “The Thorn Birds.”

“Mary and Tim” is a delightful story, casting Candice Bergen as Mary and a relatively unknown actor named Tom McCarthy as Tim.  The theme is a May-December romance, but the roles are reversed whereby Mary is much older than Tim.


Candice BergenCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                            Candice Bergen - Wikimedia


Mary Horton was in her 40’s and had been a widow for some time.  She owned a book store which kept her busy.  Her friend Forbsie helped out in the book store and was somewhat of a confidante to Mary.

Some workers were repairing the home next door to Mary, and were fooling around so that one of the workers fell into Mary’s rose garden, doing some damage.  He apologized to Mary; his fellow workers had played a trick on him just to get a laugh.  Tim was mentally challenged, yet a handsome young man in his late 20’s, who had compensated for his disability by being extremely capable at his work.  His father, Ron Melville (Richard Kiley) had taught him well, and Tim was polite and kind.


Rose GardenCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                             Rose Garden - Wikimedia

Tim Repairs the Damaged Garden

Tim agreed to come over to Mary’s on Saturday when he was not working to repair the damage to her garden.  He did an excellent job, and Mary offered him the job of caring for her garden permanently on his day off.  He accepted the challenge.  Mary said she would write down the instructions each week so that Tim would know what needed to be done.  Tim hesitated at that, stating that he knew exactly what needed to be done.  Mary realized that Tim was unable to read.  She offered to teach him to read, but he said he had failed in every attempt to learn; it was just too hard for him.  Nevertheless, Mary persisted and Tim started to make very good progress.

Mary had a vacation home on the ocean and asked Tim to come with her one Saturday to help with the grounds around the house.  She told him to bring his swim suit also.  Mary did not want to swim but Tim persuaded her, and they had a nice afternoon at the ocean.

Tim’s Sister Plans Her Wedding

Tim’s parents were pleased when his sister Justine (Kelli Williams) announced that she was getting married to her boyfriend Steve.  Tim would be a part of the wedding party, and the plans were underway.  When Justine’s future in-laws came to dinner one evening, Steve’s mother made it clear that Tim was welcome to be in the wedding party, but she believed that the wedding reception was an event that Tim could not handle, and thought that he should leave after the ceremony.  Mary told them that she would pick Tim up before the reception and that they would spend the day at her place on the ocean.  Everyone was relieved.

On that day, Tim kissed Mary and she realized that what was happening between them should not be.  She made Tim promise never to do it again and he made the promise.  His father had taught him that he should always keep a promise.

                                                           Richard KileyCredit: Wikimedia Commons 

                                                               Richard Kiley - Wikimedia

Tim’s Sister Confronts Mary

Justine visited her parents one day after she was married and confronted Mary about her friendship with her brother.  She did not like what was happening and accused Mary of taking advantage of her handicapped brother.  Tim admitted that he had kissed Mary one time, but had made her a promise that he would never do it again.  Mary was totally embarrassed at the confrontation, and decided to take an extended vacation to separate herself from Tim for a time.  By that time, she had strong feelings for Tim also.

Tim’s Mother Has a Heart Attack

Tim’s mother had a heart attack and Tim found her on the floor, thinking that she was only sleeping.  She passed away, and shortly thereafter Tim’s father had a long talk with Mary.  He worried about Tim’s welfare because Ron himself was not in the best of health.  He did not want Justine to take him in since she was a recent newlywed and would undoubtedly have children which would make it difficult for Tim to stay with her.  Ron had decided to put Tim in a group home and asked Mary if she would agree to be Tim’s legal guardian and check on Tim often.  She did not give Ron an answer immediately, but went to look over the group home that Ron had in mind.  She was not satisfied with it.

Tim Proposes to Mary

Before Mary left on her extended trip, Tim showed up at the book store and asked her to marry him.  Mary said that they did not have a lot in common.  Tim pointed out that they both loved gardening, and swimming, and reading.  Mary pointed out that she was so much older, and that they were different from each other.  Tim acknowledged that he was slow but that he was not stupid.  He wanted to take care of Mary for the rest of her life.

The situation was resolved in Mary’s mind, but the outcome will not be given away here.  Some situations are too complicated to work out to everyone’s satisfaction.  You will have to view the film to learn the final resolution.


Colleen McCulloughCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                         Colleen McCullough - Wikimedia

Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough died on January 29, 2015 at the age of 77.  She was born in Wellington, Australia.  She spent the last several years of her life on Norfolk Island, off the coast of Australia.

As a young girl, Colleen had an ambition to become a doctor but discovered that she had a strong allergy to the soap used in hospitals.  She therefore became trained in neurophysiology, which aids in diagnosing neuromuscular diseases.  She obtained a position at Yale University where she spent ten years in the University’s Department of Neurology.  She wrote her first two novels when she worked at Yale.

McCullough’s most famous novel, “The Thorn Birds,” has sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and has been translated into more than twenty languages.  She wrote twenty additional novels after that outstanding success, but none of those reached the popularity of “The Thorn Birds.”



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