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TV version of Frank family story focuses on protectors

By Arthur Unger / April 14, 1988



The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank CBS, Sunday, 9-11 p.m. Actors: Mary Steenburgen, Paul Scofield, Lisa Jacobs, Eleanor Bron. Writer: William Hanley, based on ``Anne Frank Remembered,'' by Miep Gies. Director: John Erman. ANY dramatization of any part of the story of Anne Frank seems destined to suffer in comparison with the real thing: ``The Diary of Anne Frank.'' The poignant notes of this teen-ager, hidden with her family and a few friends during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, have become a symbol of the personalized effect of intolerance and war.

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``The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank'' avoids the pitfall of once again rehashing the diary itself, which was dramatized first as a play with Susan Strasberg as Anne, then as a movie with Millie Perkins as Anne, and most recently as a TV drama with Melissa Gilbert in this starring role. Instead, the drama concentrates on the preparation for the hiding, the mechanics of it, the persecution around it, the beautiful people who helped conceal the hiding place. And, eventually, the heart-rending culmination, which resulted in the death of Anne Frank.

Mary Steenburgen portrays Miep Gies, Otto Frank's loyal secretary, who, without regard for her own safety, risked everything to help the family. She succeeds in bringing vividly to life the quietly heroic person that Mrs. Gies actually was. Lisa Jacobs is undoubtedly the most spirited and buoyantly believable Anne since Susan Strasberg created the role.

``The Attic'' becomes Miep's story, with Anne and the rest of the Frank family on the periphery. Miep emerges as a warm and wonderful symbol of human decency. But the drama is so skillfully written, acted, and directed that, while we empathize with Miep, the precarious conditions in the attic and on the streets always hover ominously over our consciousness.

``The Attic'' is, of course, required viewing for the millions of readers of the Anne Frank diary. It adds another dimension to that beloved book. But it is perhaps even more important viewing for those who may be unfamiliar with this bittersweet tale.