16 August 2006 | CosmicDwellings
"North & South" the television mini-series is to the 80's what "Rich Man, Poor Man" (the first-ever TV mini-series) was to the 70's.
It's a fabulous adaptation of the first classic novel in the trilogy from author John Jakes. The story itself covers the two decades leading up to the years of the election of President Abraham Lincoln and the imminent proclamation of the Civil War - North versus South. The intertwining stories evolve around the families of the Hazards (the 'North' in the title) and the Mains and their two central figures of George and Orry who form a friendship whilst embarking on their West Point training in 1842.
"North & South" is a wonderful historic timeline and as I have grown older (and wiser!) it very much interests me to learn about the contrasting attitudes to such controversial aspects as 'Slavery' and 'Abolitionists', and how these attitudes originated.
The series also portrays some great characterisation development as we get to know about the friends and enemies in George and Orry's lives, and also the women that stole their hearts as young men. This aspect of the story also uncovers a romantic tale that is set to the turbulent backdrop of the American Civil War.
"North & South", along with "Rich Man, Poor Man" is overshadowed by 1977's "Roots" as the greatest mini-series of all-time. However, it does come a close second/third and also shares the same kind of timeline and themes as "Roots". But, don't let this one get away, even if it's just to see the great scenery, costumes, and brilliant all-star cast including Gene Kelly, Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, Olivia De Havilland, Lesley-Anne Down et al.
The series is beautifully crafted and is firmly tied to actual historic events and it's a pity the Emmys and Golden Globes didn't honour a lot more of the actors and actresses for their portrayals. Patrick Swayze and James Read, the two virtual unknown lead actors at the time, turn in compelling performances as Orry Main and George Hazard respectively. However, it's Kirstie Alley's riveting performance as George's 'Abolitionist' sister Virgilia that steals the show many times. Plus, Terri Garber, David Carradine and Philip Casnoff as Elkanah Bent are the delicious villains of the piece you just love to hate.
"North & South" Books 1 & 2 are now available on two DVD sets.