The Winds of War (miniseries)

  (Redirected from The Winds of War (TV miniseries))

The Winds of War is a 1983 miniseries, directed and produced by Dan Curtis, that follows the 1971 book of the same name written by Herman Wouk. Just as in the book, in addition to the lives of the Henry and Jastrow families, much time in the miniseries is devoted to the major global events of the early years of World War II. Adolf Hitler and the German General Staff, with the fictitious general Armin von Roon as a major character, is a prominent subplot of the miniseries. The Winds of War also includes segments of documentary footage, narrated by William Woodson, to explain major events and important characters.

The Winds of War
GenreHistorical novel-based
Created byDan Curtis
Written byHerman Wouk
Directed byDan Curtis
StarringRobert Mitchum
Ali MacGraw
Jan-Michael Vincent
John Houseman
Narrated byWilliam Woodson
Theme music composerRobert "Bob" Cobert
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes7
ProducerDan Curtis
Production locationsYugoslavia
United Kingdom
West Germany
United States
CinematographyCharles Correll
Stevan Larner, ASC
EditorsJohn F. Burnett
Bernard Gribble
Jack Tucker
Peter Zinner
Running time883 minutes
Production companiesDan Curtis Productions
Jadran Film
Paramount Television
DistributorParamount Domestic Television
Original networkABC
Audio formatMono
Original releaseFebruary 6 (1983-02-06) –
February 13, 1983 (1983-02-13)
Followed byWar and Remembrance

It was followed by a sequel, War and Remembrance, in 1988, also based on a novel written by Wouk and also directed and produced by Curtis.[1]

With 140 million viewers of part or all of Winds of War, it was the most-watched miniseries at that time.[2]


The film follows the plot of Wouk's novel closely, depicting events from March 1939 until the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941. It tells the story of Victor "Pug" Henry, and his family, and their relationships with a mixture of real people and fictional characters. Henry is a Naval Officer and friend of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Main castEdit


Production at the Hofburg in Vienna in 1981
Filming on board USS Peleliu, December 7, 1981


Author Herman Wouk was exceedingly pessimistic about a film adaptation of his beloved and scrupulously researched novel, because he had been extremely unhappy with earlier film adaptations of his novels Marjorie Morningstar, The Caine Mutiny and Youngblood Hawke. He was convinced by Paramount Pictures and the ABC television network that a miniseries would allow the full breadth of his epic story to be brought to life onscreen.[3] Wouk required unusual control over the production in his contract, including considerable influence on the production and veto power over what products could be advertised during the miniseries and how many, commercials would be allowed. Wouk also has a cameo as the archbishop of Siena.

I, Claudius screenwriter Jack Pulman was originally hired to adapt the novel. He and Wouk worked for months preparing an outline. After Pulman died suddenly in 1979, Wouk himself wrote the teleplay for the series.[4]


The casting of Lee Strasberg as Aaron Jastrow was publicly announced in February 1981.[5] Strasberg had to withdraw from the production before filming any scenes, due to ill health (he died in 1982). He was replaced by John Houseman.[6] Houseman later had to withdraw from the sequel miniseries, War and Remembrance, due to his own ill health (he died in 1988). Houseman was replaced by John Gielgud.


Paramount produced the miniseries for $40 million ($125 million in 2019 dollars). ABC paid $32 million for the broadcast rights, then charged advertisers $175,000 for 30-second commercials and $350,000 for one-minute commercials. ABC expected simply to break even on the original broadcast and make any profits from later reruns and syndication.[7]



The miniseries was shown by ABC in seven parts over seven evenings, between February 6 and February 13, 1983.[9] It had a runtime of 18 hours including commercials, or 14 hours 40 minutes excluding commercials. Parts One, Two, Six and Seven ran for three hours including commercials, while parts Three, Four and Five ran for two hours including commercials. It attracted an average of 80 million viewers per night.[10]

Part Title Original air date
1"The Winds Rise"February 6, 1983 (February 6, 1983)
2"The Storm Breaks"February 7, 1983 (February 7, 1983)
3"Cataclysm"February 8, 1983 (February 8, 1983)
4"Defiance"February 9, 1983 (February 9, 1983)
5"Of Love and War"February 10, 1983 (February 10, 1983)
6"Changing of the Guard"February 11, 1983 (February 11, 1983)
7"Into the Maelstrom"February 13, 1983 (February 13, 1983)


A premiere screening of the first episode was held in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center on Thursday, February 3, 1983, three nights before airing on ABC. The screening was attended by members of the cast including Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw, John Houseman, Polly Bergen and Peter Graves. Producer/director Dan Curtis and writer and Washington resident Herman Wouk also attended, though Wouk refused all requests for interviews, saying "I'm a very private person." Also attending were Paramount owner Charles Bludhorn, who hosted the event, as well as ABC Motion Pictures President Brandon Stoddard, Jack Valenti, Ted Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Art Buchwald, two senators, and numerous other Washington luminaries.[11]

After running a massive year-long advertising campaign, which cost an additional $23 million,[12] ABC reported that the miniseries had 140 million viewers for all or part of its eighteen hours, making it the most-watched miniseries up to that time.[2]

New York Times TV critic John O'Connor said that the "hoopla on 'The Winds of War' has been nearly as massive as the project itself. The result, while not as artistically impressive as 'Brideshead Revisited,' is less manipulative than 'Holocaust' and at least as emotionally compelling as 'Roots.'" Mitchum, he said, "manages to carry the art of acting to the extremes of minimalism. He moves like an imposing battleship." Most of the actors, he said, are "at least 10 years older than the characters they are playing." Overall, O'Connor said, "the story does hold. It rumbles along, creating its own momentum, until it eventually becomes the television equivalent of a good read that can't be put down."[13]

Washington Post columnist Tom Shales called the miniseries "bulbous and bloated" and said "a first-year film-school student could edit three or four hours out of the thing without hurting the flow at all." Watching Winds of War, he said, "ecstatic superlatives like 'competent' and 'acceptable' come to mind." He ridiculed the performances, and described the actors as too old for their roles.[14]

The show was a success throughout the United States and received many accolades, including Golden Globe nominations and various Emmy wins and nominations.[15]

Emmy AwardsEdit


  • Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or a Special
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement - Costumers
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement - Special Visual Effects


  • Outstanding Art Direction for a Limited Series or a Special
  • Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special
  • Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special
  • Outstanding Film Sound Editing for a Limited Series or a Special
  • Outstanding Film Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or a Special (three individual episodes nominated)
  • Outstanding Limited Series (Dan Curtis, producer)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special (Ralph Bellamy, for playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special (Polly Bergen, for playing Rhoda Henry)


  1. ^ The Winds of War, DVD-featurette.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Dan (1983-02-16). "'Winds of War' Takes Ratings By Storm". The Record. p. 53. Retrieved 2019-12-26 – via
  3. ^ Wouk, Herman (June 14, 1981). "Herman Wouk: 'A Faithful Adaptation'". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d "ABC-TV, Paramount Studio go with 'Winds of War'". The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana. February 5, 1983. p. 30.
  5. ^ AP (26 February 1981). "DISNEY SHOWS TO APPEAR ON CBS-TV NEXT SEASON". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Observer-Reporter - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ Clarke, Gerald (February 7, 1983). "The $40 Million Gamble: ABC goes all out on its epic The Winds of War". Time.
  8. ^ The Winds of War, DVD-featurette.
  9. ^ IMDb: The Winds of War - episode list Linked 2013-08-27
  10. ^ DVD Talk: Winds of War Linked 2013-08-27
  11. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (February 4, 1983). "Hollywood at 'War'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  12. ^ Bedell, Sally (April 24, 1983). "For the TV Networks, the Key to Success is a Long Story". The New York Times.
  13. ^ O'Connor, John (1983-02-06). "Tv View; 'the Winds of War'-Open to Question, but Often Impressive". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-12-26.
  14. ^ Shales, Tom (6 February 1983). "The Winds of War". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  15. ^ The Winds of War, 1983-02-06, retrieved 2016-01-17

External linksEdit