November 3, 2020 is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the 1985 television miniseries North and South.
North and South aired as an ABC Novel for Television on Sunday, November 3, 1985. It featured an all star cast. Patrick Swayze and James Read played the two lead characters Orry Main and George Hazard.
It is the first novel in a trilogy by historical fiction author John Jakes. It tells the story of the friendship of a northern and southern who attend the military academy at West Point twenty years before the start of the War Between the States known as the Civil War. They build an enduring friendship despite the differences in their upbringings and the growing unrest in their regions leading to the Civil War. The two families become intertwined with Orry’s sister Brett (Genie Francis) marrying George’s brother Billy (John Stockwell). George’s sister Virgilia (Kirstie Alley), a fiery abolitionist butts heads with Orry many times while Orry sister Ashton (Terri Garber) schemes to break up Billy and Brett and aspires to rise in importance as the wife of rising politician James Huntoon (Jim Metzler). North and South has gallant heroes and crafty villains who highlight the story of the struggles of the north and south.
It’s appropriate the thirty-fifth anniversary of a miniseries depicting the coming together of two men on opposite sides of a nation’s conflict falls on Election Day during a time when our country is almost as divided as it was one hundred and seventy years ago.
Orry and George knew in order to maintain their friendship they had to acknowledge not only were their views a part of who they were, but change was needed for both the north and south if the nation would endure.
The message of love, family and friendship is the core of North and South and what makes the story so powerful. Brilliant casting, writing, music and production values gave the miniseries its heart.
I read all three of Jakes’ novels in the series and marvel at his writing and the epic scope of North and South. Great care went into adapting the story into a screenplay that stayed true to John Jakes book. As what often happens with television movies based on books, some information is dropped. The character of Orry’s older brother Cooper Main doesn’t appear until the third miniseries, North and South: Book 3 (Based on John Jakes’ Heaven and Hell). Making Orry the oldest brother in North and South gave him a patriarch feel and intensified his disapproval of youngest sister Brett’s marriage to Billy, even though his sister’s intendant was his best friend’s brother. It served to push Orry and George as far apart as the north and south was becoming. The best friends estrangement added to the brother against brother element of the Civil War.
I don’t discuss politics on social media, but I believe like Orry and George the country’s political parties need to come together if our nation is to survive and grow stronger. In recent years, the United States of America has been anything but united. I’m steadfast in the hope as a country we can get back on course.
North and South gave its characters the courage of their convictions. This is a trait humanity has that helps make us better people. In my opinion, it’s the best miniseries ever produced and for me holds a special place in my heart.
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