Emmys: 'North and South' -- A Look Back

Clockwise from top: Patrick Swayze, Lesley-Anne Down, James Read and Wendy Kilbourne in 1985.
Clockwise from top: Patrick Swayze, Lesley-Anne Down, James Read and Wendy Kilbourne in 1985.
 Robert Phillips/Everett Collection

With the period drama North and South, television out-sprawled film in the love-blood-and-tears Civil War epic department. David O. Selznick might have had Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in 1939's Gone With the Wind, but producer David L. Wolper had 15 90-minute episodes and Patrick Swayze with his shirt off in about half of them.

The series was based on John Jakes' best-selling novel trilogy that revolved around the war's life-changing effect on two families, the iron-making Hazards of Pennsylvania and the slave-owning Mains of South Carolina. The first set of episodes ran in 1985, the second in 1986 and the third, considered the weakest of the three, in 1994.

When it first aired, The Hollywood Reporter's review said the saga offered "fans six addictive installments of slickly executed costume melodrama" but wondered if the same fans "satiated with miniseries the last couple of seasons are willing to make the kind of time commitment necessary to propel North and South into hit ratings."

It turned out they were.

The first five episodes all finished in the top 10 and put ABC in first place for the week. (An all-star cast that included Kirstie Alley, David Carradine, Johnny Cash and Elizabeth Taylor probably helped.)

Unfortunately, it didn't do as well at the Emmys: Over the course of all three installments, North and South was nominated for 10 awards but won only once, for costuming for a miniseries or a special.

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