Heidi (1968 film)

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Promotional poster
Distributed by NBC
Directed by Delbert Mann
Produced by Frederick H. Brogger
James Franciscus
Gyula Trebitsch
Written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (teleplay)
Based on Heidi 
by Johanna Spyri
Starring Maximilian Schell
Jean Simmons
Michael Redgrave
Jennifer Edwards
Walter Slezak
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Klaus von Rautenfeld
Editing by Walter Boos
Donald J. Cohen
Country United States
Language English
Original channel NBC
Release date November 17, 1968
Running time 105 minutes

Heidi is a 1968 NBC made-for-TV film version of the original 1880 novel of the same name which debuted on November 17, 1968. It starred actress Jennifer Edwards, stepdaughter of Julie Andrews and daughter of Blake Edwards, in the title role, alongside Maximilian Schell, Jean Simmons, and Michael Redgrave. The score was composed by John Williams. The film was sponsored by Timex.


The film altered the plot of the novel considerably, primarily by redefining the relationships of characters to one another. Heidi, instead of being the orphan of Grandfather's late son, becomes the orphan of the Grandfather's late daughter and her late husband; Dete becomes Heidi's aunt as the living but estranged daughter of the Grandfather. In addition, Heidi is further recast as Herr Sessemann's niece because of his late brother's marriage to Grandfather's late daughter. As Sessemann's niece, Heidi becomes cousin rather than simply companion to Clara, who early in the film is negatively portrayed as a hateful and spoiled child. By casting Simmons as Fräulein Rottenmeier, governess for both Heidi and Clara, the film remakes Rottenmeier as an extremely sympathetic character; she becomes almost a surrogate mother to Heidi. This drastic character transformation removes the antagonism between the two, thus removing the tension which dominates and enlivens the novel. So changed is Rottenmeier's personality that she falls in love with Sessemann, and he with her, a situation impossible in the novel.

The film also added a subplot in which Heidi's grandfather, a church organist in this version, has long been unable to play because of a family tragedy, which is shown to be his daughter's marriage to Sessemann's brother and her subsequent death. At the very end of the film, he regains his confidence, mounts the steps to the organ, and begins to play.

Another difference between the book and the film occurs during Clara's attempts at walking after Sessemann has accepted the Grandfather's invitation for Clara to visit Heidi in his home. In the novel, Sessemann's kindly and strong-willed mother teaches Heidi to read and to pray; she visits the girls on the Alp. Her character is cut completely from the film. In the novel, Peter becomes jealous of Heidi's attentions to Clara and deliberately destroys Clara's wheelchair so that the crippled girl will have to return home; the chain of events resulting from that destruction ends in Clara's taking her first successful steps on the Alp while leaning on Peter and Heidi. In the film, Fräulein Rottenmeier and Herr Sessemann visit the girls, and Grandfather deliberately leaves Clara alone on the mountains, knowing that she actually can walk but has been afraid to try. Clara struggles to get out of her wheelchair, knocking it over and falling down in the process. As she tries to get up, she sees her father, Herr Sessemann, looking at her encouragingly, and haltingly walks towards him. The film ends with a significant glance between Fraulein Rottenmeier and Herr Sessemann, a glance which promises a future for them together.[1]

Heidi 1968 Super Bowl Game controversy[edit]

Main article: Heidi Game

The film acquired notoriety since its airing in the United States cut off the final minute of a 1968 American Football League regular-season game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets, which became known as "The Heidi Bowl." During these last few moments, Oakland suddenly scored two touchdowns and won the game 43–32, causing a tremendous upset that television viewers were denied seeing. Since then, sports leagues require all televised broadcasts of their games to be aired to completion, regardless of score. NBC installed a special red phone, known as the "Heidi Phone", to prevent an incident like this from happening again.[2]

Current airings[edit]

In recent years, the film has been periodically shown on Trinity Broadcasting Network's digital children's channel Smile of a Child.[3]


  1. ^ "Smile of a Child TV // Television Program Schedule". Smileofachildtv.org. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Site Admin". Smile of a Child TV. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 

External links[edit]