West Point: The Television Series
Call Number: DVD PN1992.8.M53 W47 2013
Publication Date: 1956-58
West Point likely had a higher profile in American popular culture during the 1950s than in any other decade before or since. The whole nation seemingly was in patriotic lockstep in those early Cold War years when America’s president, Dwight Eisenhower, after all, was a West Point graduate himself. Ziv Productions, which was noted for several well-produced anthology series, spared no effort in presenting West Point and its cadets with almost complete veracity. From the get-go the series was a total collaborative effort with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Military Academy. Before production started, TV editors in 15 cities around the nation interviewed cadets by telephone, and multiple liaisons were assigned by Ziv and West Point to work together to create realistic scripts based on actual events that transpired at the Academy. All the effort paid off, because except for some very minor details, the half-hour shows provided the public a realistic portal into the lives of West Point cadets. The first nine shows were scripted by the greatly talented Gene Roddenberry, later the creator of the original Star Trek series. Among the young actors who lent their talents to the series, and who would later become famous movie or television stars were Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Barbara Eden, Chuck Connors, Richard Jaeckel, Larry Hagman (uncredited), Martin Milner, Leonard Nimoy, and Robert Vaughn. The series has been consistently praised for its writing, acting, lighting, camera work, and exciting episodes featuring great location shots of West Point. The Corps of Cadets, the Army Band, and other post agencies lent manpower to act in, provide effects for, and control traffic during the filming on post. Actors in costume were sometimes mistaken for real cadets, and upbraided for any infractions of rules. The first season aired during 1956-1957 on CBS, presented by General Foods, and the second season aired during 1957-1958 on ABC, whose sponsors were Van Heusen Shirts and Carters Products. Some of the biggest fans were West Point alumni, and President Eisenhower was reportedly “miffed” when the show was eventually cancelled. During the broadcast of West Point there were four other military dramas being aired, including Harbor Command, Navy Log, The Silent Service, and Men of Annapolis. The series was under wraps for years due to copyright issues, only available on home-recorded VHS tapes. Now, thanks to Timeless Media, all 40 episodes are now available in a four-disc DVD box set released early in 2013.