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Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with When Will This Cruel War Be Over? (book).

"After two long years of fighting for the Confederation against the insufferable Yankees, Papa's recent letter from the front sounded optimistic. Papa's sure that victory is not far off for the South. Soon, Papa and Tally will both return to Willow. But for now, Mama faithfully keeps our affairs in good order while supporting the Southern cause."
Emma Simpson sounds confident at first

"When Will This Cruel War Be Over?" is the final entry in the Dear America film series. It was based on Barry Denenberg's When Will This Cruel War Be Over?. The film premiered on July 5, 2000 on HBO. It starred Melyssa Ade as Emma Simpson and Melanie Nicholls-King as Iris.

Emma Simpson is a young girl living a privileged life in the south during the Civil War. She experiences tragedy firsthand as family members die and the Yankees invade their land.


In the south during the Civil War, Emma Simpson (Melyssa Ade) lives in a large house, called "Willow," with her mother, Sarah Simpson (Gina Clayton) and numerous slaves. Emma's father has been away fighting for two years in the Confederate States Army against the Union Army. Meanwhile, Emma's mother handles the household management without her husband. When Mrs. Simpson becomes deathly ill, their trustworthy slave, Iris (Melanie Nicholls-King) takes care of her.

Emma's aunt Caroline (Kate Hennig) and cousin Rachel (Jennifer Gould) move into Willow to help Emma care for her mother. Not long after their arrival, Emma's mother succumbs to her illness and dies. In the midst of her grief, Emma recalls a memory of her meeting Tally Mills (Brendan Wall). Around a year ago, they met during a party at Willow, where they discussed the politics of the war. Emma receives a letter from Tally, detailing the appalling conditions of the war.

One day, a Yankee officer, Colonel Davenport (Richard Hardacre) orders Emma, her aunt and cousin to leave Willow, so the house can be used as a hospital. He allows them to stay, after Emma pleads their case. As the Yankees take over the house, Emma and her family confine themselves to one room. Iris keeps a nightly vigil outside Emma's room, which provokes scorn from the Yankee soldiers.

After complaining to Colonel Davenport about his soldiers, Emma looks at the wounded and offers water to one of the dying. The experience causes her to contemplate the consequences of war. The Yankees finally leave, taking many of the Simpsons' possessions with them. Amongst the celebrations, Emma searches for Iris. Upon finding her, Iris informs Emma that she is leaving and they share a tearful goodbye. Tally arrives, just as Emma, her family, and their last slave Amos (Hadley Sandiford), begin to fix up the house.

Cast and characters[]

Crew and credits[]

  • Directed by: William Fruet
  • Written by: Rhonda Olson
  • Adapted from the book: "When Will This Cruel War Be Over?" written by Barry Denenberg
  • Based on: the Scholastic book series "Dear America" created by Jean Feiwel
  • Executive producer: Deborah Forte
  • Co-executive producers: Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater
  • Editor: David B. Thompson
  • Production designer: Ian Brock
  • Director of photography: Ludek Bogner
  • Line producer: Lena Cordina
  • Executive in charge: Christie Dreyfuss
  • Music by: Jack Lenz and Douglas John Cameron
  • Associate producer: Tessa Abdull
  • Production manager: Lena Cordina
  • 1st assistant director: Mark Pancer
  • Location manager: Karen Perez
  • Art director: Roderik Mayne
  • 1st assistant art director: Theresa Tindall
  • 2nd assistant director: Joanna Moore
  • Production coordinator: Nancy Wilson-Kelly
  • Script supervisor: Donna Gardon
  • Set decorator: Jeff Fruitman
  • Costume designer: Joyce Schure
  • Key wardrobe: Marie Grogan Hales
  • Property master: Alan Doucette
  • Make-up: Mary Sue Heron
  • Hairstylist: Etheline Joseph
  • Camera operator: Barry Bergthorson
  • Sound recordist: Bryan Day
  • Re-recording engineer: Steve Foster
  • Gaffer: Michael Forrester
  • Key grip: Brian Potts
  • 1st assistant camera: Lisa Piltcher
  • Post production supervisor: Lynda McKenzie
  • Assistant editor: Paul Rubenstein
  • Construction coordinator: Bill White
  • Transport coordinator: J. Skavinsky
  • Stunt coordinator: Anton Tyukodi
  • Special effects by: Brock Jolliffe
  • Casting: Susan Forrest and Sharon Forrest
  • Production accountants: Bev Ross, Donna Demers
  • Scholastic financial executive: Diane Vilagi
  • Scholastic post production manager: Carolyn Kelly
  • Production services provided by: Protocol Entertainment Inc.
  • Special thanks to: Dome Audio Video & Effects, The Lab

Home media[]

"When Will This Cruel War Be Over?" and "A Line in the Sand" are the only two Dear America films not released on home video. The episode is available to watch or purchase on several streaming services.

Differences from the book[]

  • Several minor characters from the book are omitted, including Denise, Dolphy, Nelson, Dinah, Emma's cousin Elizabeth, Mr. and Mrs. Garlington, and twins Lily and Lucy Broyles.
  • In the movie, the Simpsons' home is named "Willow", unlike the book, where it is nameless.
  • Instead of Colsten, Caroline's and Rachel's last name is Smith in the movie.
  • Emma's mother gives her a copy of Jane Eyre with the note "For my dearest Emma." In the book, she gives Emma a copy of Emma with a similar note, though Emma does read Jane Eyre in the book too.
  • Mrs. Broyles does not appear in the film, but is mentioned by Rachel as being her neighbor in Richmond. Like in the book, her house is invaded by Yankees.
  • The tombstone of Emma's mother reveals her name to be "Sarah," while she is unnamed in the book.
  • In the movie, Colonel Davenport orders Emma, Caroline, and Rachel to leave the house, until Emma pleads with him to let them stay. He gives them choice to stay or leave in the book.
  • At the end of the film, Iris gives Emma a tearful goodbye and leaves to pursue her freedom. However, in the book, Iris stays with Emma until at least 1875 as revealed in the epilogue.

Behind the scenes[]



From the Dear America website (August 2000)


See also[]

External links[]