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Beulah Land

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Beulah Land (1980)

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An explosive epic of the south.

Beulah Land is an edited, movie-length version of the three-part TV miniseries adaptation of Lonnie Coleman's multi-part novels. The film is set in the Old South, with a time span ranging from 1827 to the postwar Reconstruction Era. Lesley Ann Warren stars as Sarah Kendrick, young belle of the Beulah Land plantation, who finds herself in love with a "damn Yankee." Sarah must also contend with a weakling brother (Paul Rudd) and a former slave (Dorian Harewood) who demands freedom as a right rather than a privilege. Beulah Land took forever to get before the cameras due to protests from black historical organizations; when it was finally telecast on October 7-9, 1980, NBC conducted a low-pressure ad campaign, as though the network was still fearful of stepping on toes despite the testimonial of a black Yale history professor, who commended the production for its "special sensitivity".

This florid amalgam of a pair of novels by Lonnie Coleman about the Old South had ambitions to be the TV equivalent of "Gone With the Wind" in its telling of a young southern belle who becomes mistress of a magnificent plantation. Trouble-plagued throughout its production (the original director, Virgil Vogel, had a heart attack and was replaced by Harry Falk, and JP Miller, author of "Days of Wine and Roses" and many other distinguished television plays, asked to have his name replaced by a pseudonym after too many changes were made in his original script), "Beulah Land" then went on to face a hostile reception from many black factions because of its harsh depiction of slaves and its miscegenation subplot. It did, however, win an Emmy Award nomination for costume design.

Airdate: October 6 & 7, 1980 on NBC.


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