The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana on February 5, 1983 · Page 30
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The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana · Page 30

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Alexandria, Louisiana
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Saturday, February 5, 1983
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Page 30
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ABC-TV, Paramount Studio Go With 'Winds of War' Cover Story v By James E. V. Butler Herman Wouk didn't believe it could be done. Eleven years ago, when "The Winds of War" was a fresh, new novel, lust beginning its climb to the top of the Best Seller list and an eventual sale of three million copies In paperback he told a writer that "the scope is too great" to become a movie. "If any really good filmmaker can tell me how he'd encompass the fall of Poland, the Battle of Britain, the Invasion of the Soviet Union and Pearl Harbor," said Wouk, "I'll listen but skeptically." Now, skip ahead to 1981, to a screening room in Washington, D.C., where Herman Wouk (it's pronounced Woke) sits watching 90 minutes of film, film that will become part of the 18-hour movie version of Wouk's "The Winds of War," beginning Sunday evening. Wouk was seeing what he never expected to see his characters stepping off the page and onto film, in the persons of Robert Mitchum and All MacGraw as Capt. Victor (Pug) Henry and Natalie Jastrow, the two central figures in Wouk's drama of war and Its devastating effects on military and civilian alike. John Houseman Is also starred, as Aaron Jastrow, along with Polly Bergen as Pug Henry's wife, Rhoda; Jan-Michael Vincent as their son, Byron; David Dukes and Leslie Slote; Victoria Tennant as Pamela Tudsburv; and Peter Graves as Palmer Kirby. (In all, there are 285 speaking parts in the monumental production.) "This is one adaptation that is faithful to the novel," Wouk then wrote as quoted In the New York Times. "Discount my partiality, but my report is that so far "The Winds of War' Is looking good." How did this happen? How did the Pulitzer Prize-winning author go from skeptic to respectful audience of his own work? It happened through a series of surprises. Surprise No. 1: The "really good filmmakers" found him. They were TV filmmakers and they showed him how his powerhouse of a book could be translated to the screen without being drained of its life in the process. "The films of "The Caine Mutiny' and 'Marlorie Moringstar' always seemed to me mere skims of the story line," Wouk stated in his Times article. For "Winds," ABC and Paramount Pictures promised no "skim." Putting their faith In the professionalism of producer-director Dan Curtis, they offered a budget which would grow to some $38 million, a 14-month shooting schedule and whatever amount of air time the protect might require. (Originally planned as a 12-hour film, air time was upped again and again, and ABC programmers are bringing us a seven-episode, 18-hour production.) Surprise No. 2: Instead of Ignoring the novelist's feelings about the script, as has been known to happen in Hollywood, ABC and Paramount went to the man most eminently qualified to preserve the dramatic truth of the story ... they went to Herman Wouk. Originally, Wouk turned down the offer as he had refused all screenwriting offers in the past, and all parties agreed on Jack Pulman, who most recently had been lauded for his TV adaptation of "I, Clau-dis." Then, when Pulman died unexpectedly of a heart attack, the novelist surprised everyone by agreeing to undertake the screenplay himself. With the guidance and editing of Dan Curtis, the 898-page novel became a 962-page script, with 1,765 scenes. Production began in Los Angeles In December, 1980, and in January the company moved to Zagreb, Yugoslavia the first of a series of European locations that would include Vienna (twice), Florence, Milan, Berchtesgaden, Rome, Siena, Opatila, Riieka, Munich and London, (in 71, Wouk had wondered how a filmmaker would encompass the vast canvas presented by the story, and ABC and Paramount supplied the answer by moving wherever in the world the story took them.) Filming, to everyone's astonishment, went almost without hitch. In 14 months, only one day was lost because of weather. In London, the unit was to film at the prime minister's residence, 10 Downing Street the last film company to film there. In Berchtesgaden they became the first film company to film at Hitler's mountain retreat. In Yugoslavia they were the first company allowed inside a Yugoslavian submarine. In Vienna, special dispensation was granted to allow the hanging of illegal Nazi flags on the government building that stood in for the Reich chancellery. At Port Hueneme, Calif., exactly 40 years to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some 200 sailors from the USS Kitty Hawk ioined the company as extras for the re-creation of that attack, which is the movie's climactic scene. Finally, after 14 months, with more than 4,000 camera setups (and "enough film to reach Jupiter," Mitchum quipped), with thousands of extras working on 404 different locations in Europe, Washington and California, "The Winds of War" was completed. Herman Wouk, who had perhaps done the "impossible" himself by putting the whole scope of the onrush of war Into a novel, had seen the "really good filmmakers" of ABC and Paramount bring off their own "impossibility." Like all "Impossible" things, it took a little while more than a decade, in fact but on Feb. 6, Wouk's "Winds of War" blow anew. This time, on the home screen. PAGE A TOWN TALK, Alexandria-Pineville, la., Saturday, Februory 5, 1 983

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