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Centennial: A Novel
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445 of 456 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
The story of the American West doesn't get any better than this!
As a middle school social studies instructor, I can say that Americana is on display in its most enticing format here! The acting is as superb as the actors are familiar! Star after star makes us forget whatever role they played on televison, and remember them for their characterization in Centennial! This is the highest compliment to a film-maker's casting director and producer!
The cast IS exceptional--especially Conrad, Chamberlain, and that old Detroit Lion lineman Alex 'Brumbaugh' Karas! Honestly, having seen this epic four times, I have often wanted to just sit right through all 20+ hours consecutively; it really does grow on you! I can never forget the 'Wendells' every time I hear 'Whispering Hope', and just watching that last half hour's flashback sequence accompanied by 'Guess He'd Rather be in Colorado' still gives me goose bumps!
I enjoyed this epic so much in fact, that while in Colorado in 1993, I tried to locate the town of Centennial. I noticed many familiar landmarks, crossed the Platte River, but of course, found no Centennial town--only the cafe.
I can only say that if one loves the history and drama of the American West and has not seen this chronicle--from Robert Conrad's trip downstream at the beginning, to David Janson's reflective retrospection by the lonely railroad tracks at the consclusion, one has NOT fully seized upon all that Hollywood can contribute to learning about our great country.
Thank you Clay Basket, Levi Zendt, Hans Brumbaugh, R.J. Poteet, Lame Beaver...though fictitious, you made learning come alive for us! And a special thanks to the production company of 'Centennial'!
"...only the rocks live forever".
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171 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
As a longtime fan of James Michener I have enjoyed many of his works but none of them has been so well represented on film as Centennial. The book was super but was erratically paced and jumped back and forth in history. The miniseries, however, is wonderful. The casting of the characters was right on in both the main and supporting roles. Robert Conrad gave his best performance as the complicated French trapper Pasquinel. Richard Chamberlain was the perfect Alexander McKeag and Gregory Harrison did a terrific job in his ability to cope with his character's aging from a inexperienced farm boy to a likable everyman to an aging hero. Michener's story explores the discovery of the west and shows us heroism and cowardice, greatness and pettiness and is a superb history lesson which everyone will enjoy. The series presents this story in the form of characters you will grow to like, admire, love, hate and remember. People I've watched the series with have shown deep emotion and cried through the depiction of the Indian massacre (actually the Sand Creek Massacre but renamed for the story). They came to admire Dennis Weaver as the cattle drive boss R.J. Poteet and the young cowboys he helped turn into men. You will see characters grow and change. You will identify with many and feel sad as they age and die. Throughout, however, you will be entertained and you will have a greater appreciation of the people who framed the American West.
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133 of 140 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2008
Format: DVD
I read Michner's 'Centennial' in 1975. I lived in Nebraska at the time.
In 1978 I was living in Boulder, CO, attending CU. I read in the paper that a casting company in Denver was looking for extras for a production of CENTENNIAL. My wife (now ex-wife) and I went down to the casting company. We met Chris who signed us on to the project. Chris was looking for Native American extras. We were both of Native American descent, my wife being full-blooded Lakota. We showed up early each morning east of Greely, CO., on location near the Platte River. We were in the story line that tells the story of Lame Beaver, an Arapaho, stealing horses from the Comanches. These were the first horses for Lame Beaver's band. One day we followed Lame Beaver, Navajo actor Ray Tracey, as we snuck up on foot on the Comanche camp, to steal horses. Lame Beaver (Ray) rides off on a pony, stampeding the Comanches horse herd, while the rest of us ran after Lame Beaver and the captured horses.
The production didn't have all the Native American extras it needed, so the next day we dressed up as Comanches and chased ourselves (yesterday we were Arapahos) away. It was great fun! Robert Conrad was great. He hung out with the extras and even did his famous battery commercial. I met Barbara Carrera...what a fox! The tipi's on the set were used for the extras to crash in or to store equipment. In one scene where a group of Indians is running along a ridge line shot from a distance; my moccasin came off and I stepped on a cactus. If you look closely, you will see one Indian hopping along on one foot...that's me. The 'Hollywood' wranglers were very racist against the Indians and were usually high on coke. Several Indian cowboys from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota showed off their bareback riding skills. I remember one Lakota who's last name was Cross or Cross Dog was expert at riding bareback at full gallop. That guy could ride. We were paid $55 a day and were fed like royalty. Michner was on the set occassionally though I never met him. In one scene, I dressed like an Indian scout, wearing a coyote skin on my head, and rode before the band in a pouring rain. Me and another guy dressed similarly had to negoitiate a very slippery rocky terrain in the rain, riding Hollywood ponies. We got through the scene without going down on the slippery rock with our ponies.
The scene was edited out of the final production. Another scene that was filmed at night was when Clay Basket, now an old woman, goes out by the horse herd to voluntary give up her life by succumbing to the cold in a blizzard. The filming was done in the fall and there was no snow. The movie people brought out this machine that sprayed white soap flakes all over the place. In an hour the set looked like a blizzard had just occured. The problem with the soap flakes was the horses in the herd, near Clay Basket, ate the soap flakes and started farting noisely. They got through the shot but no one wanted to ride the Hollywood stock for a few days. In the scene where an older Lame Beaver played by Michael Ansara,'stakes himself out', to meet the enemy; we fought with dried raw hide sheids and rubber tomahawks and spears. The problem was none of us had been trained to simulate a fight scene without knocking the crap out of each other. I got whacked several time, busted my knuckles on the rawhid shield and unintentially just about took one guys head off in the fight scene. Look for it when Lame Beaver stakes himself out. Some of those blows going on in the background are real. After the fight we laughed about the beating we had all taken and limped off to our crash tipi to nurse our wounds. We were stars! The staff and actors; Conrad, Carrera, Tracey, Michael Ansara, Ivan Naranjo and Richard Chamberlane treated us kindly. The only incidents the marred our experience were the Hollywood wranglers. The local cowboys from the Greely area were repectful and got along great with the Native American extras. I've done other extra work on movies filmed in the Denver area but CENTENNIAL was the by far the most interesting and fun. I hope this trip down memory lane enhances your viewing experience of CENTENNIAL. Enjoy!
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've been fortunate enough to read several of James A. Michener's works, and CENTENNIAL is by far my favorite from this gifted author. In fact, I've read this book twice, which is no small task, given its 900-plus pages.
CENTENNIAL is about a fictitious town of the same name in Colorado. The town is not nestled in the majestic Rockies, as one might expect, but instead is located out on the vast, open, treeless, windswept plains that run down from the eastern slopes of the mountains. It is here, at the nexus of two radically diverse land masses, that Michener gives the reader a comprehensive history of the area, from the formation of the land and its rivers, to its prehistoric inhabitants, to its early settlers, to its subsequent clash of various cultures. The plains Indians, fur trappers, pioneer settlers, soldiers, ranchers, dry land and irrigation farmers, and the hearty descendents of these diverse groups--all are depicted vividly and weaved into an engrossing story by an author with a keen eye for detail.
CENTENNIAL furnishes an impressive assortment of powerful, unforgettable characters: Lame Beaver, an Arapaho chieftan; Pasquinel, a French fur trapper; pioneer Levi Zendt; trail boss R.J. Poteet; ranchers Jim and Charlotte Lloyd; and many more. Through these characters the reader is given an epic tale of the American West, a tale that is beautiful, compelling, profound, and often tragic. CENTENNIAL is higly recommended to any student of the American West, or to any lover of epic literature.
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116 of 123 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
I first saw this masterpiece way back in 1979 or 1980 and enjoyed it immensely but it has never been repeated here in the UK. I have had to wait for the invention of the web to order a copy, but the wait was worth while. I have been intersted in the history of the west for a number of years and found this informative, entertaining and extemely moving. The actors are fantastic, especially the early years with Robert Conrad and Richard Chamberlain et al - they play it so well. I also like the way the story unfolds as does the town of Centennial - the people who made the town and developed it and the moving stories of their history. Two aspects must not be missed out - the breathtaking scenery of the Rockies - I only hope to visit some time. Secondly the very moving and disturbing history of the decline and annilation of the Native Americans of the Plains. This is perhaps the single most moving and important underlying tone of the story, where some want to destroy, and some who respect and love them, want to save them. This is perhaps one of the greatest productions of cinema I have ever seen if not the greatest - the acting, the scenery but most of all the story of the west, the story of America. I would reccomend this to anyone - I will watch it over and over again.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
There is something captivating about this miniseries. I am not sure I can reduce it to words, but I've seen this mini-series several times and I still feel so caught up in the lives of these characters. I too, love Ellie and Levi and the scene where Ellie escapes from the orphanage. When her friend tells her "Ellie - you're running away for *all* of us" it brings tears to my eyes every time.
The little details in this movie - like the letters Ellie sends back to her friend in Lancaster, seem right on target - historically.
The movie has it all - history, romance, disappointment, discouragement, renewal, enduring hope, triumph and more.
This is quality television and very educational. And it is a decent movie for the family.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 5, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
James A. Michener's "Centennial" is arguably his best literary work. Released in 1976, at the bicentennial of our nation's history, Centennial was a the novel blockbuster of the year. Like all of Michener's historical fiction novels, Michener lived in the actual town of Centennial, Colorado, for a year or more to do the extensive research for his story. The story itself is one that spans the ages from the lying down of the bedrock of the earth to the first creatures, to the Native American Arapaho, to the coming of the white settlers, to modern times. Each chapter is a mini-novel in itself dealing with a specific time period. Some of the characters Michener has created will be remembered for the rest of the reader's life. He writes at length on the life of Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chief, a fascinating narrative of how the Native Americans lived and how their society was overcome by the tidal wave of European white immigrants. Then there is R. J. Poteet, the cowboy trailboss who moves a herd of cattle from Texas to Centennial in order to establish the first cattle ranch in that area. Michener writes about the "dry-farming" methods of the white farming settlers such as "Potato Brumbaugh and men like him, who were the first to turn the soil, and how these "sod-busters" conflicted with the open-range ranchers, and their conflict to who would control the water rights of the land. The chapter on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years is still vivid in my mind more than 30 years after reading it.

Yes, this is a novel of epic proportions, over 1,000 pages in length, that will entrance you with every new chapter. It is a novel that you will not want to put down. It is also so well written that you will want to read it again to experience the lives and stories of the characters that Michener brings to life.

Michener's writing style is one that is unique to him. Readers seem to either love his vivid and pprolific prose, or they are overwhelmed by the great attention to detail that is Michener. I happen to be in the group that loves his writing and has read virtually all his novels. If you have never read a novel by Michener, this is the one to read first to see if you like his writing style. Like me, chances are you will become a life-long fan of the man who has become one of my favorite authors.

Jim "Konedog" Koenig
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2008
Format: DVD
Most of us agree that Centennial was an excellent mini-series and I'm not reviewing the show itself, just the product it's packaged within. So this review speaks to the just released Centennial on DVD.

I got my copy of Centennial on DVD yesterday and I was pretty disappointed in the transfer and picture quality. The audio is nothing to write home about, but not too bad.

In the very opening where James Michener introduces the story, they have several shots of the open plains and mountain ranges. The camera pauses momentarily on a sheer granite cliff and the pixilation is so bad that there appears to be a hypnotic disk swirling in the center of the mountainside. Later when the camera is panning across a field of amber grain, the picture is very grainy and more pixilation occurs.

I have a pretty decent DVD player and I've not had this problem with any other discs of good to very good quality, so I'm pretty sure it's the transfer. The image is fairly stable and watchable when the action is confined to the actors and the camera isn't panning quickly, so I will keep my copy and do suspect I'll still get satisfaction from seeing this fine mini-series again. I just wish the transfer had been done a little better.

Okay, make that a lot better.

In the final summation I will go ahead and award this release 3 stars. I certainly don't want to dissuade anyone from seeing this fine television program and since I doubt it will get any future treatment on DVD; I'll take into account the wonderful splendor that is "Centennial" and average that fact into the final grade, marginal video transfer notwithstanding.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
The story of the American West doesn't get any better than this! As a middle school social studies instructor, I can say that Americana is on display in its most enticing format here! The acting is as superb as the actors are familiar! Star after star makes us forget whatever role they played on televison, and remember them for their characterization in Centennial! This is the highest compliment to a film-maker's casting director and producer!
The cast IS exceptional--especially Conrad, Chamberlain, and that old Detroit lineman Alex 'Brumbaugh' Karas! Honestly, having seen this epic four times, I have often wanted to just sit right through all 20+ hours consecutively; it really does grow on you! I can never forget the 'Wendells' every time I hear 'Whispering Hope', and just watching that last half hour's flashback sequence accompanied by 'Guess He'd Rather be in Colorado' still gives me goose bumps! I enjoyed this epic so much in fact, that while in Colorado in 1993, I tried to locate the town of Centennial. I noticed many familiar landmarks, crossed the Platte River, but of course, found no Centennial town--only the cafe.
I can only say that if one loves the history and drama of the American West and has not seen this chronicle from Robert Conrad's trip downstream at the beginning, to David Janson's reflective retrospection by the lonely railroad tracks at the consclusion, one has NOT fully seized upon all that Hollywood can contribute to learning about our great country.
Thank you Clay Basket, Levi Zendt, Hans Brumbaugh, R.J. Poteet, Lame Beaver...though fictitious, you made learning come alive for us! And a special thanks to the production company of 'Centennial'!
"...only the rocks live forever".
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 1999
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
This is the second time I've seen Centennial. This time I bought the video.I believe is an excellent mini-serie.American and human history are shown in remarkable sceneries. Acting is formidable. My sincere thanks to producers that gave to this mini-serie the time needed for a well told story of American history. Centennial should be a must in any serious video collection.
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