The Andersonville Trial

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The Andersonville Trial was a television adaptation of a 1959 hit Broadway play by Saul Levitt, presented as an episode of PBS's 1970-71 season of Hollywood Television Theatre.

The play was based on the actual 1865 trial of Henry Wirz, played by Richard Basehart, commander of the infamous Confederate Andersonville prison, where thousands of Union prisoners died of exposure, malnutrition, and disease. A notable cast included William Shatner as the Chief JAG Prosecutor Norton Parker Chipman, Jack Cassidy (who was nominated for an Emmy) as Wirz's defense counsel, Cameron Mitchell as Lew Wallace, a Union general and the future author of Ben-Hur, and Buddy Ebsen as a Georgia physician called in to testify about the fate of many of the Union prisoners.

The television adaptation was directed by actor George C. Scott, who had played Chipman in the original stage version.

In Leonard Probst's 1978 compilation of celebrity interviews, Off Camera, Scott explained that what he found most difficult about playing Chipman onstage was that Henry Wirz, the defendant, came across as a tragic, sympathetic victim, although his negligence, according to the verdict, had a great deal to do with the deplorable conditions at Andersonville, and Scott found it very difficult to deal with the fact that the audience was compelled to dislike Chipman, who was, essentially, the hero of the piece.[1]

The TV production of the play won 1971 Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Single Program," for "Technical Direction and Electronic Camerawork," and for Levitt's adaptation. It was also honored with a Peabody Award.

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