Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Forgotten Movies: Rich Man, Poor Man

RICH MAN, POOR MAN was one of the great miniseries from the mid 70s. A great villain, Falconetti (William Smith), is seen here and it launched the career of Nick Nolte, bad boy with a heart of gold.
This is the saga of the Jordache family, from the end of the war through the 1960s.
Peter Strauss is Rudy Jordache and Nick Nolte, his brother, Tom. Susan Blakely played the girl they both loved.

Based on the book by Irwin Shaw this was water cooler TV in 1976 for a couple of months.
I am not sure if I would have chosen Nolte as the actor from RMPM to parlay his role into a great acting career, but women loved him. Peter Strauss and Blakely seem to have largely disappeared except for occasional guest appearances on network TV. For more forgotten movies, see Todd Mason.

24 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I remember this one! Thank you for the reminder. And yes, this one did catch fire during the mid 1970's...

George said...

I loved Irwin Shaw's book, and I enjoyed this classly mini-series. No one does mini-series like this anymore.

James Reasoner said...

I read Shaw's novel first and loved it, and I liked the mini-series a lot, too. I still remember watching the first episode at Livia's house while we were dating and how eager we were for the next episode. We were big fans of most of those 70s mini-series. I see quite a bit of stuff on TV these days that I think would be better in mini-series form rather than being stretched out into a regular on-going series.

Anonymous said...

I thought of this while watching Nolte, who has aged more than most of us, in LUCK on HBO. We were fans of the series (and watched the sequel as well, even though Nolte was not in it, for reasons I won't go into for those who might never have seen it and want to).

It's hard to beat Big Bill Smith as a villain and Falconetti was one of the best/worst.

Jeff M.

Gerard said...

William Smith is expert at playing the villain.

James Reasoner said...

We watched the sequel as well and liked it, although it wasn't nearly as good as the original. William Smith was one of the all-time great villains, but he was pretty good in his rare hero roles, too, like the stalwart Texas Ranger in LAREDO.

Gerard said...

I just looked Smith up and was reminded that he played the cop in RUMBLE FISH. That, too, was a good flick. RUMBLE FISH has a cameo by S.E. Hinton as a streetwalker.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You know until I looked this one up, I always thought his name was Falcon Eddie. We had less resources then.
Yes, many shows should only be eight episodes. They seem to run out of steam doing 20.
We also watched the sequel but it wasn't the same...
Nolte is 70. That surprised me although I don't know why. He is a bit of a loon, I guess, traveling around LA in his pajamas.

iluvcinema said...

This used to be on the telly all the time but as I was just a youngin' it never really got into it. I should see if it is on Netflix :)

Anonymous said...

Funny, Patti - Jackie always thought it was Falcon Eddie too.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Smith (who is 78) apparently had uncredited roles as a child actor in such films as Going My Way, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Song of Bernadette.

He is also supposedly fluent in Russian, which he taught at UCLA (or so says Wikipedia)!

Of course he was also in classics like Invasion of the Bee Girls.

Jeff M.

Kent Morgan said...

I remember watching Rich Man, Poor Man and enjoying it very much. At the time you might have figured in Strauss rather than Nolte for stardom. I watched the pilot of the new show, Luck, with Nolte and Dustin Hoffman and was left confused. Despite the strong cast, I'm not sure if the horse racing story will attract steady viewers. I'll PVR it, but may never get around to watching it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The reviews of LUCK were all over the place. Some said you had to wait several episodes before it came together.
I never understood why Strauss didn't come out of it swinging. I mean he still does some acting but not compared to Nolte.

Yvette said...

I remember this one too, Patti. Must see TV, for sure. I always wished that Peter Strauss had become a bigger star.

Deb said...

Oh, that font just screams 1970s.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It sure does. Every paperback I have from that era uses it.

Cap'n Bob said...

Strauss was pretty good in Soldier Blue.

You mean it wasn't Falcon Eddie?

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I read the book a long time ago but didn't know anything about a miniseries based on Shaw's novel. This is news to me.

Ron Scheer said...

Watched this one and remember it as kicking off a whole bunch of mini-series on TV (in the way the Brits had been doing for a long time), but low-budget and enjoyably middle-brow, not "masterpiece"-style treatment. I never see Nick Nolte (incl. LUCK) without thinking of this as his breakthrough. I thought he walked away with the RMPM, and I never cared much for the other performers, especially Strauss.

Todd Mason said...

B&N had this on sale, as of last night (the dvd package of the series).

Todd Mason said...

The other miniseries which got them going in the US the same year was the unusually popular syndicated version of a John Jakes historical novel, THE BASTARD. And then something called ROOTS came on, and the game was afoot for some years.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't remember THE BASTARD, but I do remember ROOTS. The networks were bolder in those days. Now only PBS or HBO would do a series like ROOTS.

James Reasoner said...

THE BASTARD was pretty good. I remember devouring the entire series by John Jakes on which it was based. I learned a lot about writing historical sagas from reading them, which came in handy a few years later when I was working for the same book packager.

Todd Mason said...

Well, THE BASTARD would've been on network if they were all that bold, and you'll note it was perennial #3 ABC that took a gamble on RM, PM and ROOTS (back when being #3 still made them ridiculous money rather than the simply huge money of today, and thus they felt they could afford a gamble from time to time). As it was, THE BASTARD anchored OPERATION PRIME TIME, one of the syndie projects over the years that eventually led to Fox, UPN, the WB and all the other littler networks that have sprung up, as well as the resurgence of original syndie drama and such in the '80s and '90s.