Archive for April 14th, 2018

by Adam Ferenz

When, following the success of Winds of War, Dan Curtis met with ABC executives to discuss also bringing War & Remembrance to the screen, he told them in no uncertain terms that he would agree to it only if he was given carte blanche to present the history as starkly as he could. Despite worries about FCC interference, the eventual series came off beautifully, and won the Emmy for best miniseries. That sort of dedication is apparent for the entire nearly 40 hour run time of this series. Curtis had been uncertain if he wanted to do the sequel-Winds of War had exhausted him-and was eventually convinced by those around him to speak with ABC, a development that often makes for less than enthusiastic film-making. Not here.

Why is such an often emotionally overwrought and soapy story placed on this list? Because of the Holocaust sequences. Period. These are etched in the memory as holding a special power because of their honesty, stripped of sensationalism. The sequence (spoilers) in which a character we have watched for 38 hours, is taken from a ghetto, loaded onto a train, hauled hundreds of miles to Auschwitz, unloaded, herded into a line, forced into a building, stripped of his clothing, and then gassed, before being cremated and his ashes poured into a river, is a sequence few will forget once they’ve seen it.

The casting of the two sides of this epic is something of legend. Robert Mitchum came in as Pug Henry, the head of the Henry family. In “Winds of War” his son, Byron, was played by Jan Michael Vincent, while Natalie Jastrow, Byron’s Jewish girlfriend, was played by Ali McGraw. All three were too old for the roles. Only Mitchum survived. Hart Bochner and Jane Seymour took over the parts for “War and Remembrance” and it is Seymour’s face, the horrors of living through the Holocaust etched on her face, that is among the final and most powerful images in the saga. Oh, and the series also cast John Houseman as her uncle, Aaron. Houseman was replaced in War and Remembrance by Sir John Gielgud, who, like Seymour, made the character his own. His passion and pain during the sequences set in the Theresiendat ghetto, is another in a long line of unforgettable moments linked to the Holocaust in this one.

There’s the White House Cottage gassings sequence, and the Babi Yar massacre, too. The later saw German officers and their wives lining up on the hillside of a ravine to watch Jews and others be mowed down by machine gun fire. There is also, of course, Pacific and Atlantic war footage, including some tense moments when the fleet Pug is in charge of is attacked, and a brilliant remounting of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which Curtis seamlessly blends footage from Tora! Tora! Tora! Unfortunately, the series is not all about the historical events. (more…)

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