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RICH MAN, POOR MAN: THE COMPLETE MINISERIES

William Smith is the ultimate heavy
title: Rich Man, Poor Man
years: 1976/1978
cast: Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte, William Smith
book I: **** book II: ***1/2

The first couple hours are somewhat corny. Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte, both in their thirties, portraying teenagers... just doesn't work. Either does a hammy Ed Asner as their tough German father, a poor baker that only likes capable Strauss, a climber who eventually makes it big while Nolte, burning bridges at every turn, is a low-rent boxer and eventually captains a small yacht in France: this playing out while the brothers, older and terrifically acting their age, live separate lives that eventually connect. In-between, ingenue Susan Blakely, as Strauss's girl, puts in the most genuine performance, seeming just a real at a young or her real age and playing a progressive woman without it seeming forced, contrived. And after a tragedy ends BOOK I, the tale continues as Nolte's troubled but kind-hearted son, Gregg Henry, and Strauss's stepson, a conniving con-man played by James Carol Jordan, become co-leads under Peter Strauss. Other new characters come and go, adding to the gloriously addictive nighttime soap proceedings; not as much a prolonged movie like the original, but somehow, it's just as intriguing. And William Smith as the vile thug "Falconetti," makes (in both parts) for an intoxicating heavy, outshining Peter Haskell as the political-manipulating billionaire that Strauss, while seeking true love and keeping his family in line, must eventually destroy.
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