The play was based on the actual 1865 trial of Henry Wirz, played by Richard Basehart, commander of the infamous Confederate Andersonville prison, where thousands of Union prisoners died of exposure, malnutrition, and disease. A notable cast included William Shatner as the Chief JAG Prosecutor Norton Parker Chipman, Jack Cassidy (who was nominated for an Emmy) as Wirz's defense counsel, Cameron Mitchell as Lew Wallace, a Union general and the future author of Ben-Hur, and Buddy Ebsen as a Georgia physician called in to testify about the fate of many of the Union prisoners.
The television adaptation was directed by actor George C. Scott, who had played Chipman in the original stage version.
In Leonard Probst's 1978 compilation of celebrity interviews, Off Camera, Scott explained that what he found most difficult about playing Chipman onstage was that Henry Wirz, the defendant, came across as a tragic victim, although his negligence, according to the verdict, had a great deal to do with the deplorable conditions at Andersonville, and Scott found it very difficult to deal with the fact that the audience was compelled to dislike Chipman, who was, essentially, the hero of the piece.
The TV production of the play won 1971 Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Single Program," for "Technical Direction and Electronic Camerawork," and for Levitt's adaptation. It was also honored with a Peabody Award.
Cast and characters[edit | edit source]
- William Shatner as Lt. Col. Norton P. Chipman
- Cameron Mitchell as Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace
- Richard Basehart as Capt. Henry Wirz
- Jack Cassidy as Otis Baker
- Martin Sheen as Capt. Williams
- Buddy Ebsen as Dr. John Bates
- Albert Salmi as James Gray
- John Anderson as Ambrose Spencer
- Michael Burns as James Davidson
- Woodrow Parfrey as Louis Schade
- Whit Bissell as Dr. Ford
- Lou Frizzell as Jasper Culver (Frizzell was the only member of the original Broadway cast to appear in the TV-movie)
External material[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Brooks, Tim and March, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows
[edit | edit source]
- The Andersonville Trial at the Internet Movie Database
- The Andersonville Trial (Broadway play) at Internet Broadway Database