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Freedom Road

jackson lait howard james

(NBC, 10/29/1979 and 10/30/1979, 2 Parts, 120 mins each, 4 hours). In this two part dramatization of Howard Fast’s 1944 novel about an ex slave who is elected to the U.S. Senate while battling other former slaves and white sharecroppers to keep the land they tended all their lives, Muhammad Ali and Kris Kristofferson, as former slave and soldier Gideon Jackson and sharecropper Abner Lait, made their TV acting debuts. Director Jan Kadar (whose “The Shop on Main Street” won the 1965 Oscar as Best Foreign Film) died just after completing filming. (Ironically, director Tom Gries died while wrapping up Muhammad Ali’s theatrical movie, “The Greatest,” two years earlier.)

Production Companies Zev Braun Pictures, Freedom Road Films. Director Jan Kadar. Executive Producer Zev Braun. Producers Chet Walker, Leland Nolan. Teleplay David Z. Goodman. Based on the Novel by Howard Fast. Photography Charles Correll. Music Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, Terrence James. Choreographer Bill Mackey. Editor George Folsey Jr. Production Designer Daniel A. Lomino.

Cast Muhammad Ali (Gideon Jackson), Kris Kristofferson (Abner Lait), Ron O’Neal (Francis Cardozo), Edward Herrmann (Stephen Holms), John McLiam (President Grant), Ossie Davis (Narrator), Barbara O Jones (Rachel Jackson), Sonny Jim Gaines (Brother Peter), Joel Fluellen (James Allenby), Jean Renee Foster (Ellen Allenby), Grace Zabriskie (Ruth Lait), Bill Mackey (Trooper), Earl Smith (Hannibal), Alfre Woodard (Katie), Fred Covington (Sheriff Bentley), Sonny Shroyer (Jason Hugar), Ernest Dixon (Marion Jefferson), Sylvia ‘Kumba’ Williams (Louise Jefferson), Tom Delaney (Will Boone), Ron Gural (Frank Carson), William Allen Young (Older Jeff Jackson), Tony Ross (Young Jeff Jackson), Erik Washington (Older Marcus Jackson), Rodney King Adams (Young Marcus Jackson), Howard Brunner (Lawyer Greene), Howland Chamberlin (Isaac Went), Georgia Allen (Mrs. Carter), Robert Bloodworth (Major at convention), Barbara Chaney (Mrs. Ganfret), Stuart Culpepper (Major Walsh), Lionel Ferbis Jr. (Uncle Baddy), Ian Graham (Jimmy Lait), Jerome Green (Black delegate), Bill Holliday (Yankee boss), Don Hood (General Ganfret), Maurice Hunt (Dudley Carwell), Don Lutenbacher (Convention speaker), Danny Nelson (Auctioneer), Afemo Omilami (Young black man with scars), Courtney Pledger (Mrs. Dupre), Jeremiah Shabaze (Well-dressed black delegate), Gregg White (Clair Willis), Bob Zay (Roger Dupre), Margaret Fairchild, Michael Ensign, James Bowman, Donald Vincent Brady, Peter J. Gabb, Ritchie Montgomery.

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