- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

Eddie Carswell of the pop group NewSong says he never imagined one of his songs would get turned into a movie.

"The Christmas Shoes," which appears tomorrow evening on CBS, is based on the eponymously named holiday hit he wrote with Nashville songwriter Leonard Ahlstrom. It earned them the No. 1 spot on Billboard's adult contemporary singles chart in January 2001.

While Mr. Carswell was working on the song, he told one of his longtime friends, Donna VanLiere of Nashville, Tenn., about the idea: the story of a young boy who wants to give his dying mother a final gift of love, a pair of Christmas shoes. When the boy reveals that he lacks the money to pay for them, a stranger helps him make the purchase.

Convinced the song's story line would also make a good book, Mrs. VanLiere adapted it into a novella, also called "The Christmas Shoes," which was published by St. Martin's Press. It appeared on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list last December, where it caught the eye of Beth Grossbard at Beth Grossbard and Craig Anderson Productions in Los Angeles.

Since CBS makes a Christmas movie every year, Ms. Grossbard approached the network with the idea of producing "The Christmas Shoes" for this season's special. The CBS Sunday Night "Movie of the Week" airs at 9 p.m., starring Rob Lowe ("The West Wing") and Kimberly Williams ("Father of the Bride").

Mr. Lowe plays the part of Robert Layton, a workaholic lawyer who has lost sight of what is important in life. He wants to buy his dream home when it goes on sale in a prestigious neighborhood, even though financing the purchase strains the relationships with his wife and daughter. Only when he crosses paths with 8-year-old Nathan, played by Max Morrow, does he remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Mr. Lowe says starring in "The Christmas Shoes" interested him because he loves "The Champ," "Brian's Song," "Terms of Endearment" and other melodramatic movies. He is convinced viewers will appreciate the sentiment of the holiday story. During a screening of the film, he says the touching scenes caused many people in the audience to cry.

"There were hankies flying around everywhere," Mr. Lowe says. "There is always more to be grateful for in your life than [you realize]."

The actor believes TV programs with meaningful story lines are important in today's society. "The message is timeless," Mr. Lowe says. "With such uncertainty in our world and with this country having to make some very tough choices and having to live up to them, it's nice to feel the support of family and faith."

Miss Williams, who plays the role of the dying mother, Maggie Andrews, says the thoughtful theme was one of the reasons she decided to take the part.

"We need more positive films," she says. "I thought the story was very sweet I knew there was something in it that was worth telling."

Miss Williams had never heard the song before filming the project, but she had read the book. She even added the line, "You are my greatest joy," from the text to the script. In this instance, her character is telling her son how much she loves him.

"I just thought that was such an important line for a mother to say to her son and important for him to know," she says.

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