When The Winds of War mini-series premiered on the ABC television network in 1983, the small box in the living room could barely contain the gigantic tale of worldwide proportions that its author Herman Wouk had conceived.
It was the story of the coming of World War II in Europe and elsewhere, and its central character Pug Henry, a naval commander played by Robert Mitchem, could be found in the Oval Office chatting with President Roosevelt and then a few scenes later in Berlin in a darkened space where he, Adolph Hitler, and a few Nazi cohorts discussed the weaknesses of the enemies of the Reich. In between were vast battle panoramas and intimate exchanges of young people in love.
It was all believable and exciting, made so by the skill of Herman Wouk.
The drama played out over eight successive nights and drew more than 50 percent of the available television audience. Television had never seen anything like it.
Wouk not only wrote the novel on which the series was based, but he also ended up writing most of the screenplay. The 900-page script contained nearly 1,800 scenes and 4,000 camera setups. It was shot in 400 locations.
It was, in a word, epic.
The man who conceived all of that died at his home in Palm Springs, California, last week just 10 days short of his 104th birthday.
Wouk also wrote The Caine Mutiny (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction), Marjorie Morningstar, Youngblood Hawk, and War and Remembrance (the sequel to The Winds of War), and many other fiction and non-fiction titles. Critics often excoriated his work, but the public generally loved it.
Wouk was Jewish, and after a period of skepticism he returned to his faith and held it tightly. One of his daily habits was the study of the Talmud. Whatever he did, he kept writing. He published a comic novel when he was 100, and he was working on another novel when he died.
Here are links to obituary stories about him in the New York Times and by the Associated Press which appeared in the Washington Post:
The Post said of him:
He created at least one immortal fictional character, the unstable Captain Queeg of “The Caine Mutiny.” He was praised for the uncanniness of his historical detail in “The Winds of War” and other books. He was among the first modern Jewish writers who appealed to the general public and had an enviably large readership that stayed with him through several long novels, many of which dramatized the conflicts between faith and assimilation.
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