Woman with a Past (TV Movie 1992) - Plot Summary Poster

(1992 TV Movie)


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  • A woman lives a normal life with her second husband and her two sons of the first marriage. One day she is caught by her past and the film reveales in flashbacks her stations of life until the day the police found her in her new life: First marriage, alcohol addiction, robberies, prison, escape from prison, search for work, second marriage, fight for the children,... In the end she has not only to fight for her freedom but also for the respect and love of her betrayed children and husband.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dee Johnson is a successful California realtor, happily married to Mike and the mother of two sons, Todd and Brian, from her first marriage. She and Mike just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. While showing a house, Dee notices a car parked on the street whose occupants seem to be watching her. She shrugs it off, but the next day sees the same car following her and Mike as they drive the boys home from softball practice. Abruptly she orders Mike to turn at the next corner because she wants to check on a house. She is relieved when the other car goes straight on. Mike drops his family off at home and goes to get a pizza. While Dee is chopping carrots, the doorbell rings. Her caller identifies himself as a federal marshal and asks to check the registration on her car. When she steps outside, she is arrested and put into a police car. Todd and Brian run screaming after her and Mike, who has just returned with a pizza, drops the box and runs after the boys.

    Her story is told in flashbacks. Dee's real name is Virginia "Ginny" Porter and she is from West Virginia. Her husband, Wayne, is cruel and abusive to both her and the children. The Porters live in a run-down trailer park and Wayne has trouble keeping a job. It is Todd's birthday and Wayne brings him a pocket knife. When Ginny points out that he is too young, Wayne becomes abusive and slaps her around. Ginny's mother, who is there for the birthday party, locks herself in the bedroom with the children.

    Wayne and Ginny separate and she takes out a restraining order against him. But that doesn't stop Wayne, who continues to threaten her. Then he kidnaps the boys while Ginny is away, holding the babysitter at gunpoint. The police are unable to locate him and eventually the case goes "cold."

    Despondent, Ginny turns to alcohol as a way of coping. She becomes romantically involved with an old friend, Merle, who offers to help her. He has a friend, Pinky, who claims to be a private detective. He guarantees that for $250, he can find the boys within a week. But several months and nearly $700 later, the children are still missing. Ginny realizes they have been conned. Having no money, Merle decides to rob a store. While Ginny waits in the car, he holds up first a pawn shop, then a gas station. But the money means nothing to Ginny because the boys are gone. She begins to drink heavily and a disgusted Merle leaves her.

    Ginny decides to conduct a hold-up on her own. But she has been drinking and her reflexes are slow. She is captured outside the store and ultimately sentenced to twelve years in prison. While there, she learns that Wayne has divorced her and been awarded permanent custody of the boys. Neither she nor her mother have visitation rights. She tries to explain to her attorney that Wayne cannot cope with children and will probably abuse them. But there is nothing the attorney can do.

    Once she is no longer drinking, Ginny is clear-headed enough to concoct a plan. She becomes a model prisoner and two years later enters the work release program. She lands a job in an auto parts store and learns to type. Having obtained Wayne's Florida address from her mother, Ginny puts her plan into action. One day she calls the prison and tells them her boss wants her to stay an hour later. Her supervisor is supposed to wait with her after work until the prison van comes, but Ginny knows it won't be coming on time. She persuades her boss to leave, and as soon as he is gone, she takes off.

    After several days of hitch-hiking, Ginny arrives at Wayne's house. Brian doesn't remember her but Todd does and they have a joyous reunion. Wayne allows her to stay but it is obvious he hasn't changed. He tries to rape her and threatens to call the police when she resists. The next day, Ginny tries to leave with the children. But Wayne catches up with her, beats her, and locks her out of the house.

    Knowing she is a fugitive and wanting to get as far away as possible, Ginny hitch-hikes to California. After altering her appearance, she changes her first name to Dee. She gets a job cleaning motel rooms and at night practices her typing. She also works hard to alter her West Virginia accent and use correct grammar. Her goal is to get a job as a secretary.

    Mike Johnson hires her to work in his realty office. Soon he and Dee fall in love. She tells him about trying to get her boys back, but not that she is a fugitive. Over time she earns a realtor's license. At last she and Mike are married and move into the house of her dreams.

    Dee's mother calls and tells her that Wayne has had a change of heart. He now says she can visit the boys anytime. An ecstatic Dee flies to Florida. Wayne has remarried and his new wife, scarcely more than a teenager, is pregnant. He asks Dee for money, threatening to turn her in if she doesn't comply. When she returns to her hotel room, the boys beg her to take them with her. They are obviously afraid of their father. Dee gives them her phone number and urges them to call her if they need her. That night Wayne goes on a tirade, making threats and using a baseball bat on the walls and furniture. The boys try to flee in his pickup truck but only succeed in smashing it into a wall. Wayne is under arrest and Dee tells him she is taking the boys. He again threatens to turn her in to the police who are there, and this time Dee stands up to him. She tells him to go ahead. Then he capitulates and tells her to take the boys, as they are costing more than they are worth.

    The boys are slow to warm up to Mike, but eventually trust him enough to call him "Dad." Then comes the day of Dee's arrest. She learns that Wayne has been arrested for manslaughter and turned her in as part of a plea bargain. Mike believes it is a case of mistaken identity, but a tearful Dee tells him the truth. The boys remember their father's violent behavior, but they too are shocked to learn that their mother is a fugitive. Todd at first refuses to see his mother, and it seems likely that Mike will file for divorce. But once he has time to think it over, Mike decides to stay and take care of the boys.

    Unfortunately, Dee will be returned to West Virginia to serve out the remainder of her sentence. Her attorney fights extradition and many people write letters of support on her behalf. Although it is obvious that Dee is no longer a threat to society, the judge feels that to block extradition would send a message that what she did was all right. The movie ends with Dee taking leave of her family to return to the West Virginia prison. Her attorney assures her he will appeal. A message appears on the screen that after two years, Dee was paroled and now lives with her family in California.

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