New Television Workshop Collection

New Television Workshop Collection Program MaterialsVisions

Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree

Copyright Date:

Copyright Holder:

Program Number:

Johnson, Charles (writer)

1 videoreel of 1 (105 min.) : sd., col. ; 2 in.
2 videocassettes of 2 (105 min.) : sd., col. ; 3/4 in.
1 videocassette of 2 (VHS) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
10 reels of 10 : sd., col. ; 16 mm.

Includes a 2" master and 3/4" screening copies, along with a VHS screening copy of the first half of the work. The first three minutes of the first 3/4" tape are slightly damaged. The second of the 3/4" tapes contains a 1 minute, 45 second Music Image piece by Ron Hayes, consisting of video-synthesizer-produced images. Ten reels of 16 mm. film footage containing mix elements also exist.

This is the story of Charlie Smith, a 134-year-old black man, who tells his life story, via flashbacks, to an orderly at his nursing home. The story moves from his childhood days when he was bought as a slave by a Texas farmer, Charlie Smith. Charlie treats the boy as a member of his family. When slaves are free, he decides to stay with Charlie until he dies. After Charlie's death, he assumes his name, as Charlie asked him to do. The story becomes picaresque, as Charlie moves throughout the Old West, being a ranch hand, gambler, train robber, bounty hunter, family man, honkytonk owner, and, finally, circus sideshow attraction. Through his life the viewer sees the changes in the history of the Old West, including attitudes towards blacks and racism.

After the dramatized account is finished, video footage of the real Charles Smith's134th birthday party, filmed at his nursing home, is shown. The credits say that "his life has been the inspiration for this television fantasy."

Barzyk, Fred
Loxton, David

Barzyk, Fred
Loxton, David
Schultz, Barbara (Executive Producer)
Tappan, Olivia (Associate Producer)

New Television Workshop, WGBH
Television Laboratory, WNET

Bartlett, Dick

Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Ford Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Esther Simon Charitable Trust
Rockefeller Foundation

Cooper, Donny (Mitchell Watkins)
Turman, Glynn (Young Charlie Smith)
Ward, Richard (Old Charlie Smith)
Powell, Clifton (Orderly)
Dysart, Richard (Rancher Smith)
Freeman, Morgan (Railroad Bill)


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