There's a glimpse of pre-revolutionary France, before the viewer is swept into the class struggles of 18th century England held in a stagnant vassalage by the hidebound ways of the landed elite.
At the dawn of enlightenment there is not one Great Britain but two Englands: the England of the
staid landed aristocracy and the England of intellectual ferment
developing the doctrines of freedom.
Where does Philippe fit in?
According to Marie Charboneau, Philip belongs with the caste of his father. And
Marie Charboneau has every intention of seeing her son join the ranks of the privileged elite.
The problem is the father's wife and legitimate heirs do not wish the parvenue recognized.
Cast out by his father's family, young Phillipe and his mother take refuge in the city
of London where they are taken in by Solomon Sholto, a worthy printer (Donald Pleasant).
Donald Pleasant plays persuasively the 18th century printer Solomon Sholto, the beacon of the rising power of an informed, educated mass. Regretfully, while a skilled performer, Pleasant never rose above bit parts in cheap horror films to the true acclaim he deserved.
The Empire may be the captive of its traditionalist aristocracy with its roots in the outmoded chivalric equestrian order and its support from the church but the city of London is in the throes of intellectual ferment. The concepts of democracy which will reach around the world are taking form. Philippe comes into contact with America's elder statesman Ben Franklin (Tom Bosley) who is pleading the case of the colonies to crown and Parliament.
Tom Bosley best known for his longstanding role as the ineffectual father in the banal sit-com Happy Days rose to the challenge of sagaciousness, especially when re-enacting Dr Franklin's air baths.
America has long pretended to be the offspring of the England brewing
with the intellectual awakening of the Enlightenment, but how long has its elite,
particularly in the 20th century yearned with the same tenacity as Marie Charboneau to join
the betittled England. Even in adversity, Marie Charboneau clings to the dream
that His Lordship will live up to the promise of recognizing young Philippe.
But the shot heard round the world hasn't been fired yet. Hounded by his father's family,
Philippe and his mother flee aboard an America-bound ship
captained by the tight mouthed New Englander Captain Caleb
The voyage to the New World in flimsy wooden boats across turgid seas is a long arduous one. Though without experience at sea, Philippe takes up duties as a cabin boy to defray the costs of passage. When Marie Charboneau takes ill, she makes Philippe promise never to give up claim on his inheritance. Wisely after his mother's death Philippe takes Captain 's advice to change his name to one more American sounding and start afresh.
Best known as a leading man in such sit-coms as Pete and Gladys and Mash, Harry Morgan
as Captain Caleb projects the air of authority and command of an 18th century ship master
together with that signature American pragmatism: look for the most expeditious way out.
Philip Kent the American is born and faces an uncertain future in his adopted country. As the ship lands at Boston young Mr Kent learns that if London is in a state of intellectual ferment, the colonies are one step ahead seething with rebellion. The third stage of the bastard is set as Philip Kent falls under the spell of the radical Sam Adams (William Daniels).
Of fame in the musical 1776 and in the Adams family chronicles, William Daniels
returns to play his signature role as a member of the Adams family,
this time as Samuel Adams, John Adam's more radical cousin. Surely Mr Daniels has become a national treasure as the cinematic embodiment of America's leading family.
The Bastard was a best selling book, but the TV mini-series did not farewell. I don't think it aired a second time after its 1977 release. One critic said of the TV miniseries, "plenty of hoop skirts and hoopla, little of substance." I'm sure the critic didn't know how close he came to previous criticism of virtually every other Revolutionary War film.
Jakes presents an interesting hypothesis about the origins of modern America: the bastard offspring of Britain and France. Certainly it might be said America was the offshoot of British and French colonial wars, but not a byproduct of specific interbreeding. French immigration was not significant enough to have created a blended inheritance, neither British nor French but distinctively American instead. Jakes also offers the interesting observation that to be American one must turn one's back on the past however good or bad and look to the future. America as a state of mind was virtually a tenet of faith in this country until recent years.
One problem with Part III of the Bastard is that it tracks the ground already covered in
Esther Forbes classic Johnny Tremain. Both are set in Boston; Both Johnny Tremain and Philip
Kent are of French extraction; both gain access to the Revolutionary elite in almost the
same accidental manner. Part III fails the test of originality.
Each colony except Conneticut deposed the British by violence or threat of
violence. It would have been nice if the story of the Revolution in a province other
than Massachusetts had been told just for the purpose of distinguishing the tale from
the earlier work Johnny Tremaine. But the Revolution enjoys such little attention from the
silver and the small screen that
John Jakes work even with this major flaw is a good primer on the rift that erupted into
The Rebels, the sequel, carries Philip Kent into
the American Revolution. Wounded and returned to Boston as hero,
Kent marries his sweetheart and even effects a reconcilliation of a type
with his dysfunctional English father who expresses pride in his son's
accomplishments (in the anti-British rebel cause) despite all the obstacles the family puts in Kent's way.
additional cast (partial)
Jim Backus .... John Hancock
Richard Basehart .... Duke of Kentland
Joan Blondell .... Mrs. Brumple
Tom Bosley .... Benjamin Franklin
William Daniels .... Samuel Adams
Macdonald Carey .... Dr. Church
Kim Cattrall .... Anne Kent
Rory Calhoun .... Breen
John Chappell (I) .... Henry Knox
Anne Francis (I) .... Mrs. Harris
Peter Graves (I) .... George Washington
Jakes may have poetically described the love-hate relationship which would grow between Britain and her rambunctious
former colonies and blossom into the 20th century dysfunctionality we live with today.
If The Bastard enjoyed a limited audience on air; Rebels went without much fanfare. Reviewers said
of both plenty of hoop skirts and hooplas, little of substance. They were very wrong. Even with the limitations of
Part III of The Bastard, the revolutionary agitation in Massachusetts, the story of the origins
of the country is told with great insight into the character and conflicts of the time.
Both books, Rebel and Bastard, despite the poor following of the TV movies were best sellers.
Philip Kent will become the founder of a great line whose tale is told in the serial novel: The Kent Family Chronicles.
Born in 1932 into the Great Depression in the heart
of gangsterland USA, Chicago Illinois, John Jakes
was a versitle author of science fiction and historical romances.
The eight volumes of the Kent family chronicles released in the bicentenial year
tell a history of the United States from the beginning to the early industrial period.
All eight volumes made the bestseller list, three in the same year.
Many wondered what Jakes would do if he brought the Kent family which
found itself on both sides of most seminal events forward
to the peace marches and protests of the 1970s.
Rather than bringing the story forward, Jakes ended the Kent legend in
the early stages of the muckraking era.
Jakes may be better known for North and South,
his Civil War trilogy which made the small screen in a miniseries.
A lifelong admirer of Charles Dickens,
Jakes imparted a bit of the Dickenesque sweep into The Bastard's view of London
the blossoming capitol of both a world Empire and intellectual frement on the Eve of the American Revolution.
Jakes hails Charles Dickens as "the greatest novelist in the English language." Among the
cataologue of great historical fiction writers
Jakes would include Kenneth Roberts. Curiously
Esther Forbes did not make Jakes' list.
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