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THE BLUE AND THE GRAY

year: 1982 cast: John Hammond, Stacy Keach, Gregory Peck, Penny Peyser, Bruce Abbott rating: ****
In making a story about the Civil War, where “Brother fought Brother” on American soil, what better medium than an artist to tell the Civil War saga from both sides.

In this exceptional TV miniseries, we meet John Hammond’s passive John Geyser, who dreams of sketching illustrations in the big city. He lives on a farm in the South and his family’s bent on defending their land from the Northern Yankees. Although when THE BLUE AND THE GRAY begins and John (to the chagrin of his father and patriotic brothers) leaves home – traveling north to get a job from his cousin at a small town newspaper – there’s only the impending rumor of war… Which doesn’t last long.  
John Hammond's John Geyser sketching both sides
When the war begins, after his brothers and cousins have all signed up, Geyser has a meeting with Abe Lincoln – who saw him sketching he and wife Mary Todd. The 16th President gives John permission to sketch both sides of the war so he doesn’t have to eventually fight his own siblings. In a previous scene, John had turned against the South because of racism: his friend, a freed slave played by Paul Winfield, was lynched for harboring runaways. This was the last straw.

The big battle scenes are shot well, and best yet, they're up close and personal. Of John’s four Yankee cousins (including Bruce Abbott and David W. Harper), Brian Kerwin as Malachy, who’s afraid of battle and surreptitiously runs away when things get hairy, is mainly centered on as he goes from “coward” to hero in the course of several campaigns. 
Penny Peyser's Emma Geyser loses her cool
Stacy Keach plays an intrepid scout named Jonas Steele – he works for Lincoln personally and has the dangerous job of riding to the front lines to check on what the South is up to. The always dependable Keach makes a worthy maverick and takes John under his wing, but his constant dreams of the future are annoyingly farfetched. These scenes (and a few subplots, mostly involving top men discussing strategies) are the only slight drawback to an otherwise perfect tale that, despite a three-part run time, is hardly searing or tedious.

There are many locations and situations on and off the battlefield, like John’s romance with society girl turned front line nurse; Steele’s courtship with John’s pretty cousin; and John’s tough sister (Penny Peyser) slowly losing her sanity – yet the baseline remains at the rural Geyser home. The final stand takes place here, and as some exceptionally cutthroat Yankee soldiers attack his family, John must chose which side he’s really on.  
Brian Kerwin (right) faces battle
An excellent miniseries that... despite the presence of bigger stars including Gregory Peck as Lincoln and Lloyd Bridges as the Geyser patriarch... never loses place of the important "smaller" characters, providing not only historic battles but involving undercover missions and plenty of suspenseful one-on-one fights, including a good old fashion duel.

THE BLUE AND THE GRAY has everything for both historians and die hard fans of the war movie genre.
Stacy Keach as Jonas Steele
The lovely Kathleen Beller as Kathy Reynolds
John Haymond as buried lead character John Geyser
The lovely Penny Peyser rides a fast and furious stagecoach
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