The Portrait

BEYOND BELIEF: FACT OR FICTION "The Portrait." First midseason airdate Jan. 23, 1998. The show presents five stories in an anthology format so the audience can guess which stories are based on fact and which are not. The show is hosted and narrated by Jonathan Frakes. In the third segment of the premiere episode of the second season, James Morrison plays William Corzene, a successful landscape artist whose sideline is painting special portraits for a select clientele.

William is adding finishing touches to a portrait of a woman draped in a gown and jewels. The painting does not show how gaunt and drawn Edith Waterson's face really is, only her elegance and gentility. When William, with a soothing smile, says the portrait is finished, she looks relieved, amazed. Bracing her by the elbow, he gently helps her step feebly around to the front of the easel. She declares it "very lovely." He startles her by telling her she can take delivery on Wednesday.

She tells him, "I just didn't think it would be so soon." Ever accommodating, William tells her he can postpone it.

But like William's other portrait clients, as Frakes's narration states, she never picks up her painting. William's assistant Amy adds it to the others hanging in a small gallery of the unclaimed portraits. "What if it's wrong?" William wonders aloud about his work. Amy emphatically reassures him that he has a special gift, that he has been chosen.

William's next portrait client coughs so much during the sitting that William stops painting. In between hacking coughs, Daniel encourages William to keep working. As with Edith Waterson's portrait, Daniel's painting does not show his sunken cheeks or his darkly circled eyes. William soon finishes the painting, much to Daniel's bittersweet gratitude.

While William cleans his brushes, a young woman with a smooth face and bright eyes walks into his studio. She asks him to paint her portrait, but William politely declines. Michelle Taylor insists, even mentioning she does not have much money, only to hear William point out, "It's not about money. I'm just very selective about who I paint."

Michelle finally clinches his cooperation by snapping, "Mrs. Waterson said you would help me."

With Mrs. Waterson as a referral, William assumes Michelle is terminally ill and wants him to help her end her suffering. He poses her in the corner of a white sofa with her bare arms draped across its upholstered arms. He paints as fast as he can so he can end her anguish as soon as possible.

Unlike his other portrait subjects who look sicker than their portraits indicate, Michelle looks just as healthy as she does in her portrait, still beautiful before the disease overtakes her. Finally, with warm eyes and a kind smile, William tells her, "It's finished. Your portrait is done."

When he shows her the finished painting, Michelle is surprised but seems happy. She also tells him she didn't expect it to be so powerful. Through tears, she asks when she can take it home. William tells her she can take delivery on Wednesday.

As usual with William's portrait clients, Michelle never shows up for her portrait. But police detectives show up at the studio to interview William, who they say is the last person to have seen her alive. Near a blank canvas waiting on the standing easel, the detectives tell William she died under unusual circumstances.

When Amy arrives at the studio, a distraught William tells her Michelle wasn't sick, only depressed because her boyfriend had left her. "She was 23. She had her whole life ahead of her. But I painted her portrait. And it killed her."

Alone in a darkened studio, William works on his next portrait - his last.

The morning after he completes his self-portrait, Amy finds him collapsed on the studio floor in front of the easel holding his final work. An autopsy determines a heart attack caused his death. Those familiar with William's foray into portraiture may suspect otherwise. "The Portrait" is said to have been inspired by actual events.

This review and captured pictures is provided solely as a record of James Morrison's work as an actor, and does not intend or imply any infringement of any copyrights or trademark.


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