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Centennial (NBC, 10/1/1978, 3 hours)

robert lame chapter david

(NBC, 10/1/1978, 3 hours). This is an epic miniseries about the making of America the most ambitious project filmed for television to its time. This photographing of James A. Michener’s 1,100-page saga spanned the decades of the late 18th century to the mid to late 20th century ended up as a 26 hour movie (actually just under 21 hours when later shown on HBO minus commercials). It was irregularly scheduled in two- or three hour segments over five months and molded into nine self contained TV movies, each of which could be shown later independently of the others. Heralded in network publicity as “a story of reckless and daring love, of struggle and pain, of laughter and triumph; it’s the story of the land, and the people who turned it into a nation,” the epic not only was the most expensive movie made for television to its time its $25-million budget was four times that of “Roots” but had the biggest “name” cast ever assembled for a dramatic presentation (67 “stars” of one illumination or another). David Janssen tied the whole thing together as the overall narrator and star of the final “chapter” (many of the nine written, directed and photographed by a different person) as the current day descendant of those who founded the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado. Unaccountably, “Centennial” received only two Emmy nominations: for film editing (Chapter 1) and art direction/ set decoration (Chapter 7).

In Chapter 1, entitled “Only the Rocks Live Forever,” set in the 1750s and running three hours, a French-Canadian trapper named Pasquinel strikes an unlikely partnership with Alexander McKeag, a fugitive Scotsman, and befriends an honorable Arapaho leader while forging an uneasy alliance with warlike Pawnees on the frontier.

Production Company Universal Television. Director Virgil W. Vogel (replacing Sam O’Steen). Executive Producer John Wilder. Producer Howard Alston. Supervising Producers Alex Beaton, Richard Caffey. Teleplay John Wilder. Based on the Novel by James A. Michener. Photography Duke Callaghan. Music John Addison. Editor Robert Watts. Production Designer Jack Senter. Associate Producers George E. Crosby, Susan Lichtwardt.

Cast Robert Conrad (Pasquinel), Richard Chamberlain (Alexander McKeag), Raymond Burr (Herman Bockweiss), Sally Kellerman (Lise Bockweiss), Barbara Carrera (Clay Basket), Clint Walker (Joe Bean), Michael Ansara (Lame Beaver), Maria Potts (Blue Leaf), Robert Walden (Dr. Richard Butler), Henry Darrow (Senor Alvarez), Annette Charles (Senora Alvarez), Ivan Naranjo (Gray Wolf), Ray Tracey (Lame Beaver [age 17]), Robert Tessier (Rude Water), David Yanez (Young Lame Beaver), Maria Yolanda Aguaya (Young Blue Leaf), Steve Shemayme (Pawnee chief), Ken Yellow Moon (2nd Arapaho), Monika Ramirez (Teenage Blue Leaf), David Janssen (Narrator).

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