The Awakening Land
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|The Awakening Land|
|Directed by||Boris Sagal|
|Produced by||Harry Bernsen
Robert E. Relyea
|Written by||Conrad Richter (Novels)
James Lee Barrett
|Music by||Fred Karlin|
|Editing by||Bernard J. Small|
|Original run||February 19, 1978 – February 21, 1978|
|Running time||420 mins.|
|No. of episodes||3|
- For the trilogy of novels of the same name by Conrad Richter on which this miniseries was based, see The Awakening Land trilogy.
The Awakening Land is a 1978 television miniseries based on Conrad Richter's trilogy of novels: The Trees; The Fields; and The Town, published from 1940 to 1950. The series originally aired on NBC in three installments from February 19 to February 21, 1978; directed by Boris Sagal, it starred Elizabeth Montgomery and Hal Holbrook.
The storyline follows the struggle of Sayward Luckett (Montgomery) after she travels to the unsettled Ohio Valley frontier from post-revolutionary Pennsylvania. She and her family carve out a homestead in the forest, and a community with other settlers. The series follows Sayward from a young single woman, left with three sisters to raise after their mother dies and their father abandons the family, to a married woman who has her own family of seven. Her faithful devotion to her family is recounted against the day-to-day struggle for survival.
- Elizabeth Montgomery ... Sayward Luckett Wheeler
- Hal Holbrook ... Portius Wheeler
- Jane Seymour Genny Luckett
- Steven Keats ... Jake Tench
- Louise Latham ... Jary Luckett
- William H. Macy ... Will Beagle
- Jeanette Nolan ... Granny McWhirter
- Bert Remsen ... Isaac Barker
- Charles Gowan ... Alan Hamilton
- Sean Frye ... Resolve Wheeler, as youth
- Tracy Kleronomos ... Dezia Wheeler
- Katy Kurtzman ... Rosa Tench
- Byrne Piven ... Dr. Pearsall
- Julie Gibson ... Lady Peddler
The series was shot in historic New Salem, Illinois. Interiors were filmed in a set constructed in a gymnasium in Springfield, the state capital. The gym was also used to house the prop and wardrobe departments. Filming took 2-½ months. As an incentive for the production company to choose the area, the Springfield, Illinois city council agreed to fill a nearby lake so it would resemble the Ohio River. The city arranged for animals from the Elgin Zoo to be transported to the set.
Coaching of cast
The production was faithful to Richter's use of language characteristic of the Ohio Valley in those years. Actress/choreographer Marge Champion instructed the actors in both speech and body language of the region to add to the authenticity of the historical drama.
- Directed by: Boris Sagal
- ”The Trees” and “The Fields” script: James Lee Barrett
- ”The Town” script: Liam O'Brien
- Novels written by: Conrad Richter
- Executive Producer: Harry Bernstein
- Associate Producer: Robin S. Clark
- Executive Producer: Tom Kuhn
- Producer: Robert E. Relyea
- Original Music by: Fred Karlin
- Cinematography by: Michel Hugo
- Film Editing by: Bernard J. Small
- Production Design by: Jack DeShields
- Set Decoration by: Fred Price
- Costume Design by: Frank Tauss
- Key Costumer: Bill Blackburn
- Hair Stylist: Sugar Blymyer
- Assistant Director: Alan R. Green
- First Assistant Director: Dennis E. Jones
- Property Master: Matt Springman
- Sound Mixer: Glenn E. Anderson
- ADR Editor: Jerry Jacobson
- Assistant Cameraman: Jim Mazzula
- Choreographer: Marge Champion
- Dialogue Supervisor: Marge Champion
- Extras Brian Halcomb, Allen Tomlin, Dan Yeager
|1978||Emmy Award||Nominated||Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Series||Jeanette Nolan
For part one
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series||Elizabeth Montgomery|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series||Hal Holbrook|
|Outstanding Individual Achievement in Any Area of Creative Technical Crafts||Sugar Blymyer
For part three
|Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series||Michel Hugo|
|Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)||Fred Karlin|
Differences between books and TV adaptation
- As usually occurs in adaptations to accommodate a different medium, changes were made in characters and plot. Several characters who appear in the books were dropped from the TV miniseries because of the constraints of time and budget. The Luckett family is reduced to four daughters; Wyitt, Sayward’s brother, is omitted.
- In the miniseries, the father Worth Luckett returns after the search for the youngest daughter Sulie, and does not leave until both daughters Sayward and Genny are married. In the book, Worth abandons the family right after Sulie disappears. In both versions, Worth eventually returns to visit years later.
- In the book, Worth before his death tells his surviving daughters that he found their sister Sulie living with a Lenape (Delaware Indian) man; she was fully assimilated to the tribe. In the miniseries, Sulie conveniently disappears altogether; Worth survives to see Sayward and her family move into their new town mansion.
- In the miniseries, Sayward’s husband Portius Wheeler says that he left Massachusetts and cut ties with his family because he was ashamed that his father had gained his wealth through secretly dealing in African slaves. In the book trilogy, Portius never reveals his past, and Sayward does not ask him about it.
- In the miniseries, Sayward cuts off conjugal relations with Portius because she is supposedly having obstetrical problems. She refuses his offer to go to a doctor. In the book, Sayward simply tells Portius she does not want any more children - ending sex is the only reliable form of birth control available to them.
- In the miniseries, Portius offers to send his mistress Miss Bartram to another town when their affair results in her becoming pregnant, a scandal in those times. She refuses and asks him to leave Sayward and marry her. None of this occurs in the book.
- In the miniseries, Sayward discovers her husband’s affair when she accidentally sees the couple kissing. In the book, she learns about it through town gossip.
- In the miniseries, Sayward sends Portius away on a long business trip after her discovery of his affair. She sleeps apart from him even after his return. She returns to his bed only after he almost dies from a fever. In the book, the couple never separate, and Sayward returns sooner to sleeping with Portius. She feels partially responsible for his affair as she had denied him sex.
- In the book, the plot line related to Chancey and his half-sister Rosa Tench concludes when they are young adults. Rosa commits suicide when she realizes Chancey will never run away to be with her. In the miniseries, Chancey and Rosa are still children when she dies by drowning in the river. Chancey had told her they were forbidden to play together anymore; it is not clear whether her death was deliberate or accidental.
- In the miniseries, Portius tries to make amends for his treatment of Rosa by writing an apology to her family and having her buried in his family burial ground instead of a pauper’s grave. None of this occurs in the book.
- The book trilogy follows Sayward’s life until her death. The miniseries ends her story earlier, concluding with her family’s move into their town mansion.
- Hal Erickson, Overview: The Awakening Land, The New York Times