A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story

A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story is a 1989 American made-for-television drama film based on the 1985[1] ruling Thurman v. City of Torrington. The film stars Nancy McKeon as Tracey; Dale Midkiff as Buck; and Bruce Weitz as Tracey's lawyer, Burton Weinstein.[2]

A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story
Film poster
Written byBeth Sullivan
Directed byRobert Markowitz
StarringNancy McKeon
Dale Midkiff
Graham Jarvis
Yvette Heyden
Theme music composerNicholas Pike
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Lee Miller (producer)
Beth Sullivan (associate producer)
CinematographyEric Noman Van Haren
Editor(s)Harvey Rosenstock
Running time96 minutes
Production company(s)Dick Clark Productions
U.T.L. Productions
Original networkNBC
Picture format480i SDTV
Audio formatMono
Original release
  • October 2, 1989 (1989-10-02)


The movie opens with Tracey Thurman being rushed to the hospital after being physically assaulted by her estranged husband, Buck.

An extended flashback shows how Tracey and Buck met. Tracey was working in a hotel in Florida and came across Buck and his fellow construction workers. At first, Buck was a charming person, until, over time, he started to display raging tempers. He took them out on Tracey, telling her all about how his mother abused him as a child. Despite the violent outbursts, she agreed not to leave him. When she told him that she was pregnant with his child, he punched her in the face and stomach. She then returned to Torrington, Connecticut to be with her friends, Judy and Rick. Buck found her and seemingly humbly apologized for his behavior. He asked to marry her and promised to settle down in Connecticut. Tracey was hesitant, but when Buck promised never to hit her again, she agreed. After they got married, she gave birth to a boy, C.J.

Buck's attempts to find work proved futile, so the family had no choice but to return to Florida. Over the next year, Buck managed to gamble away all their money, and continued to beat her in front of C.J. Tracey left him and returned to Torrington. Buck showed up and told her that he found a job at a diner, but she didn't care. However, after he then proceeded to kidnap C.J., Tracey called the police and had Buck arrested. The police said that she could have her son back if she and Buck got back together. Tracey decided to divorce Buck, and was given custody of her son without Buck seeing him for the time being. As she left, Buck attacked her in her own car. Buck was arrested, and Tracey issued a restraining order against him, but he continued to harass and threatened to kill her. Tracey went to the police, but they did very little to help.

After the divorce was finalized, he showed up again, causing Tracey to call the police hoping that when they saw him threatening her, they would arrest him. Buck demanded Tracey to come out immediately, and when he stated that he wanted them back together, she refused to stop the divorce. When the police showed up, Buck pulled out a knife and stabbed her numerous times. He then went into the house and grabbed C.J., showing him his injured mother lying on the ground in a pool of blood. Many neighbors witnessed Buck still assaulting Tracey, and yet the police did nothing to stop it. It wasn't until after Tracey was loaded in the ambulance that police finally apprehended Buck.

In the hospital, Tracey's lawyer, Burton Weinstein, together with Tracey's sister, discussed filing a civil lawsuit against the Torrington police department for not protecting her. Tracey spent months recuperating, and Buck was sentenced to 20 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 1991. Tracey was apprehensive about the possibility of his parole, knowing that upon his release, he would be coming after her. However, Weinstein was able to keep Tracey focused on the lawsuit. Following the civil suit trial, the jury ruled in favor of Tracey, finding that her rights were violated, and she was awarded $2,300,000. She is also granted a permanent restraining order against Buck and he will not be allowed to contact C.J. until he turns 18. Happy with the decision, she hugs Weinstein.


  • Nancy McKeon as Tracey Thurman
  • Dale Midkiff as Buck Thurman
  • Graham Jarvis as Officer Danziger
  • Yvette Heyden as Judy Bentley
  • Terri Hanauer as Cheryl
  • Philip Baker Hall as Judge Blumenfeld
  • David Wohl as Nagel
  • David Ciminello as Rick
  • Priscilla Pointer as Tracey's Mother
  • Seth Isler as Lewis
  • Burton Collins
  • Bruce Weitz as Burton Weinstein
  • David Wells as Minister
  • Lee Ryan as Officer Avery
  • Don Stark as Officer Driscoll
  • Hank Stone as Joe (as Hank Woessner)
  • Todd Bryant as Card
  • J. G. Hertzler as Doctor (as John Hertzler)
  • Paul Comi as Officer Dempsey
  • Joe George as Captain Kyker
  • Redman Gleeson as Officer Bray
  • Alan Haufrect as Officer Cooper (as Alan Haufrecht)
  • William Long Jr. as Sergeant Cherney
  • Madison Mason as Officer Jones
  • Raymond O'Keefe as Sergeant Smith
  • Al Pugliese as Sergeant Kangas
  • Charles David Richards as Officer Davis (as Charles Richards)
  • David Hooks as Judge #1
  • Richard Balin as Judge #2


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