Falcon Crest

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Falcon Crest
Falcon Crest.jpg
Main title screen (Season 8)
Format Soap opera
Created by Earl Hamner
Starring Jane Wyman
Robert Foxworth
Susan Sullivan
Lorenzo Lamas
David Selby
Abby Dalton
Margaret Ladd
William R. Moses
Ana Alicia
Chao-Li Chi
Theme music composer Bill Conti
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 227 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Earl Hamner
Michael Filerman
Joanne Brough
Jeff Freilich
Camille Marchetta
Jerry Thorpe
Producer(s) Malcolm R. Harding
Barry Steinberg
John F. Perry
Phil Parslow
Running time 50 minutes
Production company(s) Amanda & MF Productions
Lorimar Productions (1981-1986)
Lorimar-Telepictures (1986-1988)
Lorimar Television (1988-90).
Distributor Lorimar-Telepictures (1986-1989)
Warner Bros. Television (1989-Present)
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Original run December 4, 1981 – May 17, 1990

Falcon Crest is an American primetime television soap opera which aired on the CBS network for nine seasons, from December 4, 1981 to May 17, 1990. A total of 227 episodes were produced.

The series revolves around the feuding factions of the wealthy Gioberti/Channing family in the Californian wine industry. Jane Wyman starred as Angela Channing, the tyrannical matriarch of the Falcon Crest Winery, alongside Robert Foxworth as Chase Gioberti, Angela's nephew who returns to Falcon Crest following the death of his father. The series was set in the fictitious Tuscany Valley (modeled after the Napa Valley) northeast of San Francisco.

Creation[edit]

The show was created by Earl Hamner, who had previously created The Waltons, which had just finished its final season in 1981. Hamner wanted to create a family drama involving the wine industry, but CBS requested he make the show more along the lines of Dallas which was the network's biggest hit at that time.[1] CBS then scheduled Falcon Crest at 10 p.m. on Friday nights, right after Dallas. The Dallas-Falcon Crest one-two punch proved lucrative for the network and Falcon Crest was a Top 20 show in the Nielsen Ratings for several years. Both shows (like The Waltons) were produced for CBS by the same company, Lorimar Productions.

Cast and characters[edit]

Further information: List of Falcon Crest characters
Original cast

At the center of the action is Angela Channing (Jane Wyman), a corrupt, tyrannical matriarch who rules the Falcon Crest vineyards with an iron fist. When her brother Jason Gioberti dies from a fall in the winery, his son Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth) arrives to claim his inherited portion of Falcon Crest. The rivalry between Angela and Chase — whom Angela sees as an interloper — sets the tone for much of the series.

Surrounding Angela are her daughters, Julia (Abby Dalton) and Emma (Margaret Ladd), and her lazy playboy grandson, Lance Cumson (Lorenzo Lamas), who aids her in her battles against Chase. Julia is chief winemaker, though often feels oppressed by her domineering mother. Kind natured Emma does not work in the family business but is emotionally troubled. Julia's son Lance loves money and yearns for power, but lacks Angela's discipline and determination. Her ever-tightening grip on him eventually sends him to work for his grandfather's newspaper, The San Francisco Globe. Aiding Angela in her quest for more power is her crooked lawyer Phillip Erikson (Mel Ferrer), who would later become her second husband.

Chase's wife Maggie (Susan Sullivan) is a freelance writer who later works at The New Globe newspaper; their grown son Cole (William R. Moses) works at the winery with Chase, and daughter Vickie (Jamie Rose, later Dana Sparks) is just finishing school. Eventually realizing that she would not gain control over Chase's land anytime soon, Angela hopes to enlarge her empire by forcing Lance into an arranged marriage with Melissa Agretti (briefly played by Delores Cantú, later by Ana Alicia), heiress to the much-coveted Agretti Vineyards. Scheming Melissa becomes embroiled in a love triangle with Lance and Cole, even marrying Lance while pregnant with Cole's child.

In the second season, a true rival for Angela arrives in the form of conniving Richard Channing (David Selby), the illegitimate son of Angela's ex-husband Douglas Channing and Chase's mother. He inherits most of his father's shares in the family newspaper after Douglas dies, and uses his new wealth and power to seek retribution against both Angela and Chase for always treating him like an outcast. Richard crosses them at every turn and makes several attempts to wrest control of Falcon Crest.

Plot[edit]

Early seasons[edit]

Despite its reputation as merely being "Dallas with grapes”, Falcon Crest soon found its own niche amongst the prime-time dramas of the 1980s, occupying the middle ground between the two extremes of the genre — being more glamorous than Dallas yet not quite as outrageous and campy as Dynasty. The distinctive location filming in the Napa Valley and the dry, wryly humorous tone of the scripts gave the series a personality of its own.

The rivalry among Angela, Chase and Richard stayed at the core of the show for several years, as more romantic entanglements spun around them. Lance and Cole found themselves not only caught up in their family battles for control of Falcon Crest, but were also competing for Melissa's affections.

Like Dallas and Dynasty, Falcon Crest employed the use of memorable end-of-season cliffhangers to boost ratings. The 1982–83 season climaxed with the culmination of a murder mystery "whodunit" plot (surrounding the death of Melissa's father, Carlo Agretti) that had spanned most of the season. The killer was confronted in front of the entire cast, only to produce a handgun. Shots were fired (and heard from outside as the camera panned away from the mansion), which then faded into the final scene of a coffin being lowered into the ground, leaving the audience to wonder who had been killed.

The third season cliffhanger in 1984 involved a plane crash carrying most of the major characters, resulting in the deaths of three of them. A bomb explosion which ended the fourth season left Richard and Maggie in peril, and an earthquake that rippled through the valley ended the fifth season. The cliffhanger of the sixth season put Chase, Melissa, Richard, newcomer Dan Fixx and Maggie's baby in danger of drowning in the San Francisco bay area. At the end of the seventh season, Melissa had finally wrested complete control of Falcon Crest away from Angela, while Richard was apparently murdered by "The Thirteen", a powerful group of shady businessmen whom he had turned against.

The series also frequently cast former Hollywood royalty in guest roles; Lana Turner, Gina Lollobrigida, Cesar Romero, Robert Stack, Cliff Robertson, Celeste Holm, and Kim Novak all appeared in Falcon Crest. This aspect to the series seemed to be well embraced by the producers, who at one stage instituted a rotating guest star policy. Leslie Caron, Lauren Hutton, Eddie Albert, Eve Arden, Roscoe Lee Browne and Ursula Andress all made appearances during the 1987–1988 season as did Rod Taylor who would remain with the series until its final season. After producer Jeff Freilich left the series at the end of the 1988 season, fewer special guest stars came aboard to boost ratings, one of them being Susan Blakely in the final year.

Later seasons[edit]

With the departures of many of the core cast, coupled with the shifting tastes of the public in the mid 1980s, ratings began to drop (as had ratings for all of the primetime soaps of that era). In the late 1980s as sitcoms and more realistic dramas like Thirtysomething, and LA Law became popular, Soap Opera Digest named eighth season on Falcon Crest as "Most Ruined Show". In the spring of 1988, the series placed 52nd in the ratings. The series attempted to revitalize itself, much in the way that rival soap Knots Landing had successfully done, but by the beginning of the ninth (and final) season in 1989, Angela, Lance, and Emma were the only three characters from the original first season cast remaining on the series. During the 1989–90 Jane Wyman was absent for most of that season due to her health problems.[2] The final season then revolved around a battle between Richard and newcomer Michael Sharpe for control of Falcon Crest.

CBS executives made the decision to end Falcon Crest when ratings during the ninth season dropped to 81st place, and Jane Wyman defied doctors' orders to return to the show for the last three episodes.[2] After the many traumatic events over the course of nine seasons of the wine country saga, Falcon Crest ended happily with a family wedding taking place on the grounds of the mansion. Taking a walk outside, Angela delivered a monologue (written by Wyman herself) that brought the series to a conclusion, mentioning past characters and events but looking forward to the future. The final scene of the series shows her toasting the land, "A toast to you Falcon Crest, and long may you live."

The Vintage Years[edit]

A pilot episode for the series entitled The Vintage Years was filmed in the spring of 1981 but never aired, and featured a number of significant differences from the series that would air in December. The character of Richard Channing was present in the original pilot, played by Michael Swan; this alternate Richard was Angela's biological son fighting for his domineering mother's favor. Abby Dalton's character, Julia, was called Dorcas, Jane Wyman wore a grey wig as Angela, and Chase and Maggie were played by Clu Gulager and Samantha Eggar respectively. Emma was not seen but there was a subplot concerning a mysterious woman crying for her mother while locked away in one of the upstairs rooms.

Though never broadcast or released on DVD, The Vintage Years pilot was made available for download on the AOL video-on-demand service In2TV.

Behind the scenes[edit]

Lorimar producers searching for a location to use as the principal backdrop for the show decided upon Spring Mountain Vineyard, a winery located in St. Helena, in California's Napa Valley. This site contained the 1884 Victorian mansion "Villa Miravalle", the exterior for which was used as the Falcon Crest mansion where Angela lived with her daughters Julia, Emma and her grandson, Lance, as well as the winery building which had just been constructed in the mid-1970s.[3] As a tie-in, the Spring Mountain Winery also produced a "Falcon Crest" wine during the show's run.

Barbara Stanwyck had been considered for the role of Angela Channing but turned it down. The role then went to Stanwyck's friend Jane Wyman.

According to rumor, Jane Wyman had a running feud with Robert Foxworth, to the point where they measured each other's dressing room trailers just to make sure they were equal in size. When Foxworth became a director for the show, Wyman demanded CBS add a clause to her contract also allowing her to be a director. Although she ultimately never directed any episodes, Wyman was pleased that she had the same designation as Foxworth.[citation needed]

It was reported that Wyman had had a long-running feud with fellow movie star legend Lana Turner which dated back to their Hollywood years.[4] Reportedly, the two actresses quickly refused to speak to each other and the producers had to film their confrontational scenes separately and then splice them together; Turner was written out of the show soon after. Reportedly, a few years after she appeared on the program, Turner noted that she believed Wyman was negative in demeanor due to the fact that her ex-husband, Ronald Reagan, was elected President during the 1980s, something that Turner believed Wyman could not reconcile within herself. Lana Turner appeared on The Phil Donahue Show in 1982 and emphatically denied the rumors of the reported feud. "It's a bunch of bull. It's all publicity trying to drum up a feud between us. I adore Ms. Wyman. I respect her as a lady and an artist, and there is no feud."[5]

Sophia Loren was set to star in the role of Francesca Gioberti, Angela's secret half-sister who comes to the valley to threaten Angela's control of Falcon Crest. Loren was to play thirteen episodes, and producers promised a fabulous wardrobe and a dynamic character that would rival Dynasty's Alexis Carrington. At the last minute, negotiations with Loren fell through and Gina Lollobrigida was then cast in the role, but only signed on for four episodes. Interestingly, Loren was also Aaron Spelling's first choice for the role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, but was passed over as she was requesting too much money, thus allowing the role to go to Joan Collins.

According to Dallas creator David Jacobs, before auditioning for Falcon Crest, Robert Foxworth turned down the role of J. R. Ewing on Dallas because he did not want to play such an unsympathetic character. The role ultimately went to Larry Hagman.[6]

Possible reboot[edit]

With the success of the relaunch of Dallas, stars of the CBS primetime soap have been approached about appearing in a reboot of the show. It has been proposed that the series would focus on William Moses' character, Cole Gioberti and David Selby's Richard Channing.[7]

Nielsen ratings[edit]

  • Season 1 (1981–1982): #13 (21.4)
  • Season 2 (1982–1983): #8 (20.7)
  • Season 3 (1983–1984): #7 (22.0)
  • Season 4 (1984–1985): #10 (19.9)
  • Season 5 (1985–1986): #24 (18.1)
  • Season 6 (1986–1987): #23 (17.3)
  • Season 7 (1987–1988): #42 (N/A)
  • Season 8 (1988–1989): #52 (N/A)
  • Season 9 (1989–1990): #81 (N/A)

Music[edit]

Falcon Crest's theme tune was composed by Bill Conti, who also composed the themes to Dynasty, The Colbys and Cagney & Lacey. Several variations of the main theme were commissioned throughout the series' run, though the most different of these was the theme for season 9 which was done in a heavily synthetic, new-age style by musician Patrick O'Hearn.

There were also stylistic changes to the incidental music. During seasons 1 to 5, the music was performed by an orchestra; composed mainly by Dana Kaproff and Peter Myers. In seasons 6 and 7, the background music became electronic-based and was performed by single artists using a synclavier, one of the early high-tech synthesizers. Mark Snow, who later composed the theme of The X-Files was the main composer and performing musician from 1986-88. During season 8, the music returned to a more classical style, before the composers returned to the electronic style for the final season with the score provided by new-age composer Patrick O'Hearn.

Opening credits[edit]

Coat of arms of Falcon Crest as seen at the first seasons' main title card

Like Knots Landing, Falcon Crest ran different styles of opening credits. The opening scenes of the introduction show Angela Channing being driven from San Francisco to the Falcon Crest vineyard as the Bill Conti composed theme music begins to play. After she arrives at the Falcon Crest mansion the Falcon Crest coat of arm and title cards appear. In season 1 and in the first half of season 2, each actor's title card was followed by a multi-picture combo. In the second half of season 2 and in seasons 3 and 4, the multi-picture combos were replaced by location footage transitions.

In season 5, the scenes of the limousine driving Angela from San Francisco to Falcon Crest were eliminated and the title cards appeared directly over the location footages, in a similar style to the opening credits of Dynasty. The previous logo for the first four seasons was updated.

In seasons 6 and 7, rippling elliptical transitions between the title card and cast credit screens were added. The logo was also redesigned with new colors and typeface. In season 7, the falcon graphic was animated to fly across the screen before freezing in the centre and becoming the coat of arms. Season 8 had a more basic variation of this style.

The final season utilized a completely different style. Each actor's title card was immediately followed by footage depicting sex or violence in order to cultivate the atmosphere of a crime drama.

DVD releases[edit]

The rights to the series are held by Warner Bros. (successor-in-interest to the original production company Lorimar). The first season was released on DVD in various European countries in April and May 2009 and the second season was released from October 2009 onwards, again in various European countries.

Warner Bros. has released the first three seasons on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 2 & 3 were released via the Warner Archive Collection as Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) releases. Season 3 was released on May 28, 2013.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Findings:@Everything2.com". Everything2.com. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  2. ^ a b "Jane Wyman biography". Archived from the original on March 1, 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  3. ^ "Spring Mountain Vineyard: Winery History". Springmtn.com. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  4. ^ "Jane Wyman". The Times (London). September 11, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Lana Turner Interview 1982 (Falcon Crest)". YouTube. 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  6. ^ Simon Hoggart, "Simon Hoggart's week: High-class rolling stones in Boulder", The Guardian April 15, 2006
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ 'The Complete 3rd Season' DVD's Release Date is...Today!

External links[edit]