D-Day - June 6, 1944: It was the day the Allied powers crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to commence the liberation of western Europe from Nazi control during World War II. To mark its 40th anniversary, the series 'Falcon Crest' introduced the story on the hunt for Nazi treasures in the 1984-85 TV season. 

Similar to the movie 'The Boys from Brazil' about fugitive Nazis unwilling to accept the defeat of Hitler's Germany in World War II escaped to South America determined to create a Fourth Reich, the story on the hunt for Nazi treasures in 'Falcon Crest' began in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Johann Reibmann had outlived all his contemporaries in the Cartel - a complex organization that was built on Nazi wealth. 

Johann Reibmann was hell-bent on recovering jewels, artefacts, diamonds, gold and arts from museums, churches and temples all across Europe smuggled out and buried "somewhere in the Gioberti land" (or at Falcon Crest) some 40 years earlier. Jacqueline Perrault, who was married to Jason Gioberti at the time, had overthrown Johann Reibmann with the help of Henri Denault, a Nazi collaborator during World War II, to become chief of the Cartel. 

Using the resources of the Cartel, Jacqueline Perrault had hidden the treasures in a mineshaft. In the opening episode of the 1984-85 season, Gustav Reibmann, Johann's treacherous son, enthused, "There are diamonds growing in the roots of those vines and gold waiting to be dug like potatoes. I can feel them in my hands." The 1984-85 season premiere episode of 'Falcon Crest' attracted 40% of the viewers and a 23.4% rating (partly because 'Dallas' in an earlier time slot had attracted 44% share and a 26.4% rating). 

Since 1959, after their father Jasper died, Jason's strong-willed sister, Angela, a 3rd generation Giobertis, had been running Falcon Crest with an iron fist. 

Angela: Sometimes I worry about the future. 

Chase (her nephew): I can't believe you haven't made provision for including the future. 

Angela: I want an heir. 

1985 marked the 140th anniversary of the Irish potato famine – or as many Irish-Americans remembered, the 'Great Hunger'. Between 1845 and 1850, a fungus destroyed nearly all of Ireland's potato crop, causing about 1 million deaths and sent some 2 million hungry Irish emigrating to other countries, primarily the United States. On the 150th anniversary of Black '47, the worst year of the famine, a bill requiring the state education department to develop a curriculum on the Irish potato famine for teachers to present the topic in the classrooms was proposed before the education committee. 

The father of Senator Brian McDermott of Wallingford, an Irish immigrant, Michael McDermott maintained, "When you stop to think that over 40 million Americans claim to have Irish roots, it's no wonder we have legislation like this before us." Arguing it was important to "put the record straight", Michael McDermott continued, "We want our children to know that the Irish potato famine was not about potatoes. The rest of Europe had the same potato blight and they didn't starve. The Irish were forced to export all their crops, livestock and seafood to England, leaving the Irish with nothing more to eat than the blighted potato." 

English actor Paul Freeman played Gustav Reibmann on 'Falcon Crest' in the 1984-85 season recounted, "The producers started off wanting me to be this really evil son of a Nazi. But gradually, they – as we say in England – 'lost their bottle,' their nerve. I had a henchman in the show, and we used to play the scenes with a lot of humor. Then we got a message from the network: 'We’d like less comedy.' 

"We thought, 'OK, less comedy.' The next week's message was 'Don't play it so seriously. Try not to be so German.' We began to wonder, 'If there some Jewish pressure group that doesn't want Nazis on the program – or, is it a Nazi pressure group who'd like to improve the image of Nazis?' It's so off the wall; you’re left completely in the dark. It could’ve been anything. It could have been that somebody's had a bad holiday in Germany." 

'Falcon Crest' also paid homage to the 10th anniversary of Richard Nixon resignation as President of the United States in 1974 over the Watergate scandal by having Gustav Reibmann giving Angela a falcon statue with a listening device installed inside to eavesdrop on conversations in Angela's household. Susan Sullivan as Maggie revealed, "We get 12 scripts at the start of the season and then the rest of the shows are written as we go.

"The producer called me up and said, 'Now don't get hysterical, but in the 8th script you get a headache.' I thought, 'Oh no.' In the soaps that’s a bad sign. In the soaps you don’t want to get sick and you don’t want to go anywhere … When Maggie had a brain tumor I went to Earl (Hamner) and suggested using a hospice. A hospice loosens the hospital visiting restrictions. For instance, you can even bring pets. I was drawn to the hospice program and I’ve become a spokesman for the movement.

"But they felt that would make it look too grim. So I had a brain tumor, an operation and recovered in 4 shows. (On TV) you have 3-minute scenes. You don't stretch and expand yourself. You forget techniques. When you get a good scene, you play it for all it's worth. (In a play), each scene is given its proper value because you know you’ve got another one coming up in 2 minutes. But television works on a whole other group of disciplines.

"You must be able to repeat scenes 7 or 8 times if something goes wrong. Some stage actors can't jump in again and again like that ... The thing that makes some soaps successful while others fail is chemistry between characters and writers to support that chemistry, to home in on it and create stories to use it. That’s why you have to weed the characters out, because you have to bring in new people so you can have new combinations and keep the chemistry fresh. But you can’t diddle these characters around. Sure, the audience tunes in for escape and fantasy but they know if you are falsely manipulating the characters. When I was in the daytime soaps, the scripts seemed to parallel my life … I think if you leave yourself alone and don’t try to plan things, your life weaves its own tapestry."

Blog Archive