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The Andersonville Trial

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Andersonville Trial is a 1959 hit Broadway play by Saul Levitt. It was later adapted into a television production and presented as part of the PBS anthology series Hollywood Television Theatre.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Art Director Jan Scott on working with George C. Scott on "The Andersonville Trial"
  • Great Grandson of Capt Henry Wirz, at Andersonville Georgia, Nov 10th 2019l
  • Andersonville: 26 Acres of Hell | History Traveler Episode 87


Development as Climax! episode

Interest in the subject - the actual 1865 court-martial of Henry Wirz, commander of the infamous Confederate Andersonville prison, where thousands of Union prisoners died - had been stimulated by MacKinlay Kantor's historical novel Andersonville, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1956. Shifting from a novel about the camp to a courtroom drama, Levitt first wrote the story into an episode of the CBS series Climax!, which aired as The Trial of Captain Wirz on June 27, 1957. The episode featured Everett Sloane as Wirz and Charlton Heston as Norton P. Chipman, the War Department's prosecutor.[1]

Broadway production

Levitt next turned to treatment as a play, called The Andersonville Trial, which opened at Henry Miller's Theatre on December 29, 1959, and ran for 179 performances.[2] The production was directed by José Ferrer and opened with George C. Scott as Chipman, Herbert Berghof as Wirz, Albert Dekker as Wirz's defense counsel, and Russell Hardie as Union general Lew Wallace, who presided over the court-martial. Ian Keith, who played Dr. John C. Bates, an Andersonville camp surgeon and key witness for the prosecution regarding the fate of Union prisoners, died during the show's run and was replaced by Douglas Herrick.[3]

Scott later recalled that what he found most difficult about playing Chipman onstage was that the defendant Wirz came across as a tragic, sympathetic victim, although his negligence, according to the verdict, had a great deal to do with the deplorable conditions at Andersonville. Meanwhile, he felt the audience was compelled to dislike Chipman, despite being essentially the hero of the story due to his efforts to obtain justice for all the men who suffered and died at the camp.[4]

Television adaptation

The Andersonville Trial
Written bySaul Levitt
Directed byGeorge C. Scott
StarringWilliam Shatner
Richard Basehart
Jack Cassidy
Buddy Ebsen
Martin Sheen
Cameron Mitchell
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducersLewis Freedman
Morris Chapnick (associate producer)
Edith Hamlin (supervising producer)
Running time150 minutes
Production companyCommunity Television of Southern California/PBS
Original release
ReleaseMay 17, 1970 (1970-05-17)

Instead of acting, Scott returned as a director when Levitt created an adaptation of the play for television. The production aired May 17, 1970 on NET, now featuring William Shatner as Chipman, Richard Basehart as Wirz, Jack Cassidy as Wirz's defense counsel, Cameron Mitchell as Wallace, and Buddy Ebsen as Dr. Bates.

In the course of filming Shatner, recently divorced, met for the first time his second wife, Marcy Lafferty. While this may seem surprising considering the all-male cast, Scott had wanted a woman to run lines for the actors and recruited Lafferty, the daughter of a television producer and then a struggling young actress. Shatner took greater interest in practicing than his fellow cast members, and the two would eventually marry in 1973.[5]

The television adaptation did well at the 1971 Emmy Awards, winning the award for Outstanding Single Program - Drama or Comedy, as well as for "Technical Direction and Electronic Camerawork". Levitt took home the award for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama (Adaptation). The program was also honored with a Peabody Award. Cassidy was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, but lost to his director, as Scott won for starring in an adaptation of Arthur Miller's play, The Price.

PBS cast and characters


  1. ^ Kabatchnik, Amnon (2011). Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection. Scarecrow Press. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-8108-7784-9. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Andersonville Trial". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  3. ^ "Actor Ian Keith, 61, Dies in New York". The Tennessean. Tennessee, Nashville. March 27, 1960. p. 67. Retrieved June 20, 2020 – via
  4. ^ Probst, Leonard (1 January 1976). Off Camera: Leveling about Themselves. Madison Books. ISBN 0812824733.
  5. ^ Kempler, Rita (December 6, 1991). "Star Trek VI: Energized". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2023.. Recalling their meeting 20 years later, Lafferty misremembered which actors played which parts.


External links

This page was last edited on 5 March 2024, at 01:11
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