NORTH AND SOUTH
Review by Mark Wiechman
Patrick Swayze, James Read, Lesley-Anne Down, Wendy Kilbourne, Kirstie
Alley, Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor, Terri Garber, Genie Francis,
Director: David Wolper
Audio: Part One, mono, Parts Two and Three, Stereo
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 1212 Minutes, Five discs (several double-sided)
Release Date: October 5, 2004
we mustn't say things like that to each other.”
”Why not? We feel them.”
”There's nothing we can do.”
”You don't love him. You are not his.”
Ken Burns captured the romance of the history of the Civil War, North
and South created a fictional soap opera which captured the romance of the
times before, during, and after the war. It
launched Patrick Swayze’s career and saw many other stars in their final major
roles. Ken Burns made me thankful
for the sacrifices of our troops and made me glad I was not there, but North
and South makes me wish I had been.
David Wolper, fresh off of Roots and The
Thornbirds tells us in the documentary that Roots
told the story of the Old South from the black point of view while North and South tells the story from the white point of view.
This is probably accurate. The
series also has less controversy than it could have because it presented both a
southern and northern point of view. This
is its main strength; it avoids too much melodrama and instead presents mostly
believable characters who rise above stereotypes of the time.
Lieutenant Bent and Ashton Mains are a bit too evil to be believable and
belong more on Dallas’ Southfork
than in a historical series, but then every good story has to have a few evil
clowns to keep things interesting. Kirstie
Alley also delivered a great performance as an abolitionist who can’t stand to
sit at the same table as Orry Main merely because his family owns slaves.
favorite scene in the entire series happens in episode two when Orry and George
tour the slums near Hazard Ironworks and Orry comments on the dismal conditions
the workers live in. George replies
that this is certainly better than slavery, and they can leave at any time.
Orry does not like slavery but the message is that obviously the North
had its problems as well as the South.
This is the first crack in their friendship.
boxed set has three separate books: Book
One, North and South, which was by far the most popular and energized of the
three in film form. It provides the
biographies of Orry Mains and George Hazard, two young West Point cadets who
become friends for life despite Orry being a son of a slave-owning plantation
owner and George being the brother of an abolitionist and son of an ironworks
manager. Their friendship is
stretched to the breaking point leading up to the Civil War.
The love story between Orry and Madeline, portrayed lusciously by
Lesley-Anne Down is woven into his struggle with his father and his war injury.
He wants to modernize the South, but his vision of a modern south without
slavery would not come to be peacefully. Meanwhile,
George (played dashingly by James Read) marries a bonny and beautiful Irish lass
Constance Flynn (played by Wendy Kilborne, who resembles Mariel Hemingway but is
even more lovely) and struggles with family responsibilities.
Book Two is Love and War, which covers the two families through the war itself. Book Three is Heaven and Hell, which opens at the end of the war and covers Reconstruction. The second side of the last disc has one of the better documentaries on a TV series, which features the best sections of the wondrous soundtrack and opens with John Jakes explaining the genesis of the entire trilogy.
was inspired by a list he found at West Point of generals who had graduated from
that hallowed institution who fought against each other during the Civil War.
This heartbreaking contradiction was the most tragic aspect of the
American Civil War and Jakes realized that this was the heart of his story.
recently got to visit Boone Hall in Charleston, South Carolina, where much of
the miniseries was filmed. This
film captures the majesty of the Old South (and the Old North) beautifully.
The first chapter has some minor specs and flaws which could be excused
due to the age of the film, though it is a shame since it is so beautifully
filmed. The second and third
installments do not suffer from this problem but are not as picturesque and seem
to have been filmed more hastily.
first installment is only in mono, though the sound is still excellent.
The subsequent installments are in a very serviceable stereo.
one, but the featurette The History of
North and South is outstanding, and features interviews with Patrick Swayze
and Lesley-Anne Down as well as Director David Wolper, composer Bill Conti, and
author John Jakes. I
recommend that viewers watch this first. Patrick
Swayze tells of filming winter scenes in Mississippi in July in which the heat
caused him to pass out several times, and the fake snow actually melted!
Authentic, eh? Bill Conti's score is not only incredibly romantic and
haunting at the same time, but he only had three weeks to write and record the
entire first installment. He wrote
all day and recorded into the night.