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The Thorn Birds is an American television miniseries broadcast on ABC from March 27 to 30, 1983. It starred Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward, Barbara Stanwyck, Christopher Plummer, Piper Laurie, Jean Simmons, Richard Kiley, Bryan Brown, Mare Winningham and Philip Anglim. It was directed by Daryl Duke and based on a novel of the same name by Colleen McCullough. The series was enormously successful and became the United States' second highest-rated miniseries of all time behind Roots; both series were produced by television veteran David L. Wolper.

The Thorn Birds
The Thorn Birds (miniseries).jpg
DVD cover
Written byCarmen Culver
Lee Stanley
Colleen McCullough (novel)
Directed byDaryl Duke
StarringRichard Chamberlain
Rachel Ward
Barbara Stanwyck
Christopher Plummer
Jean Simmons
Bryan Brown
Philip Anglim
Richard Kiley
Piper Laurie
Theme music composerHenry Mancini
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes4
Production
Producer(s)Edward Lewis
CinematographyBill Butler
Editor(s)Robert F. Shugrue
David Saxon
Carroll Timothy O'Meara
Running time467 minutes
Production company(s)David Wolper-Stan Margulies Productions
Edward Lewis Productions
Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseMarch 27 (1983-03-27) –
March 30, 1983 (1983-03-30)
Chronology
Followed byThe Thorn Birds: The Missing Years (1996)

PlotEdit

CastEdit

Actor Role
Richard Chamberlain Ralph de Bricassart
Rachel Ward Meggie Cleary (as an adult)
Sydney Penny Meggie Cleary (as a child)
Barbara Stanwyck Mary Carson
Richard Kiley Paddy Cleary
Jean Simmons Fee Cleary
Bryan Brown Luke O'Neill
Mare Winningham Justine O'Neill
Philip Anglim Dane O'Neill
Ken Howard Rainer Hartheim
John Friedrich Frank Cleary
Dwier Brown Stuart Cleary (as an adult)
Vidal Peterson Stuart Cleary (as a child)
Piper Laurie Anne Mueller
Earl Holliman Luddie Mueller
Christopher Plummer Archbishop Vittorio di Contini-Verchese
Brett Cullen Bob Cleary
Stephen W. Burns Jack Cleary
Barry Corbin Pete
Holly Palance Miss Carmichael
John de Lancie Alastair MacQueen
Allyn Ann McLerie Mrs. Smith
Richard Venture Harry Gough
Stephanie Faracy Judy
Antoinette Bower Sarah MacQueen

DevelopmentEdit

The novel was originally developed as a feature film with Ed Lewis attached to produce. Ivan Moffat wrote an early draft of the script. Herbert Ross was the first director, and he saw Christopher Reeve about playing the lead. Then Peter Weir became attached to direct; Robert Redford was the favourite to play the lead. Eventually Weir dropped out Arthur Hiller was going to direct; Ryan O'Neal was mooted as a star. Eventually it was decided to turn it into a mini series.[1][2]

The role of Maggie Cleary became the most sought after role of the production, and was considered the role of a lifetime. Many actresses campaigned and auditioned for the role over a long period of pre-production. British actress, Lynne Frederick, was one of many actresses who heavily campaigned for the role. Frederick even dyed her hair red to showcase herself. Other actresses who auditioned for the part included Michelle Pfeiffer, Jane Seymour, Olivia Newton-John, and Kim Basinger.

FilmingEdit

  • Although the mini-series is set in Australia it was filmed in the United States. The outback scenes were filmed in southern California and the Queensland scenes were filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The Drogheda main house was a set built on the Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California.
  • The mountainous terrain of the southern California "outback" filming location does not resemble western New South Wales, which is predominantly level to gently rolling.
  • The mini-series included "the most dangerous bus in Australia". Since filming took place in the US an American bus was used. In Australia, where there is right-hand drive, it would set down its passengers in the middle of the road.
  • In the miniseries, Drogheda, Mary Carson's sheep station, is said to have been named after the Irish town of Drogheda, by a former resident of that town. However, its name is mispronounced by all characters as "Drog-ee-da". In fact, the g should be silent and the e short. A former resident would pronounce it as Draw-hed-ah or Dro-hed-ah (with a soft o as in "drop"), or draw-da.
  • New York Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson was named after the character Ralph de Bricassart.
  • Rachel Ward, who was born in 1957, plays the mother of a daughter played by 1959-born actress Mare Winningham, and a son played by 1952-born actor Philip Anglim.
  • Rachel Ward met her husband Bryan Brown on the set while filming the series. Brown plays Luke O'Neill, who marries Ward's character, Meggie Cleary.
  • Actor Bryan Brown was the only Australian-born cast member hired in a major role. This is not too unusual since although the series takes place in Australia, Luke O'Neill and Meggie's children were the only major characters who were Australian-born. Father Ralph, Mary Carson, and Paddy Cleary were all Irish-born. Fee and most of the Cleary children were born in New Zealand.
  • During casting, actress Jane Seymour was considered for the role of Meggie Cleary and the role of Mary Carson was originally offered to Audrey Hepburn.
  • Father Terrance Sweeney, an Emmy Award-winning Jesuit priest, was a technical advisor on the mini-series. He left the priesthood in 1986 and married Pamela Susan Shoop, an actress and daughter of actress Julie Bishop, in 1987.[3] They co-authored the book "What God Hath Joined" that discussed their relationship.
  • Charles Swaim of Drakesville, Iowa, who wast the world champion sheep shearer at the time, was the consultant for the sheep shearing scenes in the series.
  • The serial has had great success in France. The French title is "Les oiseaux se cachent pour mourir" (The birds hide to die). The series is still regularly repeated on TV channels.
  • The series was also very successful in Brazil, where it was broadcast by SBT. During its first broadcast, in 1985, the miniseries beat Globo TV network in the ratings, which had always been the leader in ratings in Brazil. The series last aired in Brazil from January 5 through March 9, 2019, at 6:30 PM (local time).

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Achievement in Makeup Del Acevedo Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or a Movie Robert MacKichan, Jerry Adams Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Film Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie Carroll Timothy O'Meara Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Richard Chamberlain Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Barbara Stanwyck Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Miniseries or Movie The Thorn Birds Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Bryan Brown Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Richard Kiley Won
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Christopher Plummer Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Piper Laurie Nominated
1983 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Jean Simmons Won
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film Richard Chamberlain Won
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Rachel Ward Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film The Thorn Birds Won
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Bryan Brown Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Richard Kiley Won
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Piper Laurie Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Jean Simmons Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Barbara Stanwyck Won
1984 People's Choice Awards Best TV Miniseries The Thorn Birds Won
1984 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actress in a Miniseries or Television Movie Sydney Penny Won

VHS and DVD releases and ratingsEdit

The Thorn Birds was released on VHS in 1991 in the US and Canada; it was re-released on DVD in the US and Canada on February 3, 2004. Both editions were given a "Not Rated" certification. It is rated PG in New Zealand for violence, sexual references, coarse language and nudity.

SequelEdit

A followup titled The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years was broadcast by CBS in 1996. It tells the story of the 19 years unaccounted for in the original miniseries.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Mann, Roderick (8 July 1980). "RYAN O'NEAL: HOOKED ON 'THORN BIRDS' AND FARRAH". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
  2. ^ Mann, Roderick (14 Feb 1980). "REDFORD IS READING 'THORN BIRDS' SCRIPT". Los Angeles Times. p. i1.
  3. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1987-11-16/local/me-14246_1_catholic-priests

External linksEdit