SNARK WEEK RECAP: North & South (1985), Episodes 5 & 6

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Because I live to entertain, and because I make bad life choices, I have decided to recap 1985’s Civil War classic, North and South. Look for a new episode recap each day of Snark Week, and enjoy the frosted lipstick!

Time for the final TWO episodes of series 1… and before you ask, MAYBE I’ll do season 2. Give me a few years to recover.

Slutty Brunette continues to be bitchy to her sister, Sweet Blonde, and to hold a candle for Billy, Sweet Blonde’s fiancé. Sweet Blonde is mostly oblivious.

North and South 1985 ep 5

I do declare, Slutty Brunette is actually wearing a corset AND I like her undies!

David Carradine has gotten a doctor to prescribe laudanum for Tits. She’s totally drugged out, and when Swayze visits to ask what’s up, she’s just totally out of it. This may be the shittiest dress in a series of shitty dresses. I swear to god they took a 1980s Laura Ashley dress and hacked it apart for the solid blue part, then put that over a shower curtain.

North and South 1985 ep 5

So many things wrong for the era (puffed 1890s sleeves? CROP TOP?), it’s also fugly and fits her badly.

Also, while most of the dresses have been laced up til now, I’m suddenly spotting potential zipper plackets:

North and South 1985 ep 5

What do we think, hmmm?

Slutty Brunette marries her beau, Secessionist Husband. She is a veritable meringue with frizzy, frizzy hair and oodles of bangs:

North and South 1985 ep 5
North and South 1985 ep 5

Lacing in back — I checked.

I spend the wedding scene cackling over the dumpy extras:

North and South 1985 ep 5

Mom (TOP) is rocking the nylon lace, MIDDLE chicks busted out their best poly-double-knit and got their bangs trimmed for the occasion, BOTTOM repurposed a curtain.

North and South 1985 ep 5

TOP and both ladies in MIDDLE are thrilled to actually get to wear that bridesmaid dress twice; BOTTOM wouldn’t be that bad if she just hoiked her bodice up about 5 inches.

North and South 1985 ep 5

TOP left just came from Oktoberfest, yellow (red arrow) is rocking the short Princess Di do; BOTTOM has connect-a-stache-sideburns!

Sweet Blonde is a bridesmaid in her Leg Avenue mitts. Slutty Brunette goes off to fuck the rando from the last episode, who apparently is a regular thing for her, AT HER OWN WEDDING RECEPTION.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Sweet Blonde made sure her hair was EXTRA FLUFFY for the occasion! I feel like this is a bridal outfit from a 1980s heavy metal video.

Tits is there, totally drugged out; Swayze tries to talk to her and she’s all “huh?”

North and South 1985 ep 5

Zipper? Yay? Nay? Nice plastic pearls on the hat brim.

Slutty Brunette plays all virginal to her Secessionist Husband, who then leaves her at the family plantation while he goes off to New Orleans to be secessiony. She annoys Swayze, who orders her to go Charleston. I like her black and white stripes, even if her snood reminds me of something Liza Minelli would wear:

North and South 1985 ep 5

This would be a GREAT evening dress. Minus, ya know, Liza snood and bangs.

Secessionist Husband goes to the local whorehouse in New Orleans, and FINALLY LIZ TAYLOR SHOWS UP as a madame. I went through FIVE EPISODES to get my Liz Taylor fix! This scene was totally sponsored by Frederick’s of Hollywood:

North and South 1985 ep 5

TOP ARROW: pointy-boobed merry widow! BOTTOM ARROW: man in a dress corset.

North and South 1985 ep 5

TOP: randomly sparkly disco hair accessory! BOTTOM LEFT: clunky front lacing. BOTTOM RIGHT: did someone steal grandma’s stays?

North and South 1985 ep 5

LOVE the awkwardly posed ladies at the bottom!

Bent is hanging with Secessionist Husband at the whorehouse; they look at a photo of Slutty Brunette and Secessionist Husband’s wedding, and Bent is all mesmerized by Tits. He manages to figure out that she looks like a portrait that hangs in Liz’s office, then finagles a tete-a-tete with Liz to get another look. Bent asks Liz for the story of the portrait, and she tells him about the sad tale of the mixed-race prostitute who worked for her, then left to get married, and then died after having a daughter, helpfully supplying Bent with Low Rent Ricardo Montalban’s (Tits’s father) name.

North and South 1985 ep 5
North and South 1985 ep 5

Please refer to my post on Shitty Historical Movie Portraits.

Swayze and Sweet Blonde head north to visit George and Billy. Sweet Blonde is suddenly all pro-bonnets:

North and South 1985 ep 5

That bavolet (the lace drape at the back of the bonnet) doesn’t look like any I’ve ever seen.

There’s an overly involved scene in which Perfect Blonde shows off her new ballgown to her husband and Swayze. Virgilia bursts in on everyone, ranting at Swayze about slavery. Swayze tells her to go back to her n-word husband. Everyone is aghast at both parties.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Is the neckline so she can catch any crumbs while eating?

North and South 1985 ep 5

Hey, I would totally wear Plastic Cameo’s dress!

North and South 1985 ep 5

Those are some shiny, shiny stripes on Sweet Blonde.

Of course, we here at Frock Flicks know what was REALLY going on in this scene:

North and South 1985 ep 5

Swayze leaves in a huff, dragging Sweet Blonde with him. Virgilia ominously boards the same train.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Suddenly rocking the bonnet, what the hell? Otherwise, fine! Sleeves are a little narrow.

En route home, the train is stopped by John Brown, who tried to begin an armed slave revolt in 1856 (you know, Harper’s Ferry); he’s played by Johnny Cash. Virgilia turns out to be part of the John Brown gang, who are planning to hold the train passengers (including Swayze and Sweet Blonde) hostage; husband Grady shows up; the militia shows up; the train passengers are let go; Virgilia grabs a gun and joins in the fray; Grady gets shot and dies; Virgilia is distraught.

North and South 1985 ep 5

I’m glad we’re going to hit Every Major Touchstone of the Civil War.

Virgilia has been left in prison for some time. She wants her day in court in order to speak her mind publicly. Instead, she is released by a senator (Bent’s dad, I think?) who tried to hit on her in a previous episode. He basically tells her that someday she may need his help, and when she does, he’s into it if she shags him.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Her abolition brings all the boys to the yard!

Swayze and Sweet Blonde end up back home; Perfect Blonde tells George (who is now rocking the PornStache) that she’s pregnant; Virgilia is still rantingly anti-slavery and working for some candidate’s election; there’s lots of discussion of secession and the coming election of Lincoln.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Tits is all drugged up, David Carradine is all rubby-hands evil.

North and South 1985 ep 5

After the whole Virgilia/Northern Clan blow-up, Swayze hits the bottle. He and Sweet Blonde have a huge fight — she’s waiting for his approval so she can marry Billy. He ends up slapping her, and she heads to Charleston to stay with Slutty Brunette. Slutty Brunette is apparently psycho; she’s still into Billy, but now basically wants him killed since he didn’t go for her.

North and South 1985 ep 5

Okay, so if you tweaked all of Slutty Brunette’s wardrobe to have bustle skirts, it would be 1. not half bad, historically, except for all the cleavage, and 2. something I would wear.

Slutty Brunette continues to fume over Sweet Blonde’s engagement, so much so that she gets together with the guy she’s been shagging (David Carradine’s… son? nephew? Some kind of relative) and gets him to hire a hitman to kill Billy. RIGHT. BECAUSE THAT’S THE LOGICAL OPTION.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Sweet Blonde meets up with Billy to show off her peach poly-baroque satin while all of Charleston is freaking out about today’s presidential election.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Shiny shiny!

They are trailed and then attacked by the MOST OBVIOUS HITMAN IN EXISTENCE.

North and South 1985 ep 6

“Just hangin’ out, having’ tea, with this here eyepatch…”

Secessionist Husband is excited that secession is on its way! So is Slutty Brunette!

North and South 1985 ep 6

Cute! Great ribbons on the shoulders!

Except that she has to pay off the Obvious Hitman, and she’s pissed that he failed to kill Billy.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Swayze finally relents! George visits to talk him into letting Billy and Sweet Blonde get married! Except Billy is recalled to the fort because of unrest.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Lincoln is elected president; South Carolina secedes; Swayze, George, and Sweet Blonde are very “what have you all done/war is hell.”

North and South 1985 ep 6

Yay, more plastic cameos!

Slutty Brunette arrives, PUMPED about secession. Swayze tells her about Billy and Sweet Blonde getting married. Slutty Brunette throws a hissy fit, storms off, runs into her lover/relative of David Carradine, and the two plot yet again to kill Billy.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Yeah, I’d wear it! EPIC skirt hiking.

Sweet Blonde and Billy are going to get married! But Tits overhears David Carradine and Slutty Brunette’s lover discuss how they are going to attack Billy and kill him after the wedding. Tits fights with Carradine, ending up slashing his face with his own saber (satisfying) and rushing over to Swayze’s house to warn him.

North and South 1985 ep 6

The wedding happens! Sweet Blonde mentions she’s wearing mom’s wedding dress; at first I scoff, but then, okay, I guess this could be 1830s…

North and South 1985 ep 6

The orange blossoms in the hair is a nice touch; that was a huge wedding trend in the 19th century.

Mom busts out something vaguely historically accurate for the occasion:

North and South 1985 ep 6

Whaaaat? High neckline? Full sleeves with undersleeves? CRAZYTOWN! (sarcasm)

David Carradine’s son/nephew and friend attack Billy en route to the train station. Poor Cousin Charles has left the army in Texas; there were random scenes with boys fighting about honor, but I won’t test your patience by telling you about it. He was at the wedding, and warned by Tits, arrives in time to help Billy fight them off. Carradine’s son/nephew is killed.

Somehow Swayze knows that Slutty Brunette is behind everything. He tells her off and kicks her out of the family. She wears another dress that I would totally wear, although I’d wear it for a ball and lose the stupid hat and shitty parasol.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Okay, I think we’ve got hooks and eyes back there! What do you think?

North and South 1985 ep 6

SO cute!

President Lincoln shows up and pontificates, but the actor playing him is wearing so much makeup he can hardly move his face. Billy and Sweet Blonde, who are now living? in DC, go see Lincoln and Mary Todd. Lurking there is Bent, who is now hanging with MORGAN FUCKING FAIRCHILD.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Mary Todd Lincoln: dumpy.

Bent and Morgan Fairchild plot about how they’re going to use the coming war to their own advantage. Fairchild’s hair is FEATHERED and HAIRSPRAYED within an inch of its life.

George has to go somewhere, can’t remember. Perfect Blonde is about to pop. Just after he leaves, she spots Virgilia, who is down and out, and takes her in.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Plastic Cameo is stoked that the war will mean Number 1 will be able to take back control of the company. They’re NOT into Virgilia being there. Northern Mom has a sad about Virgilia.

North and South 1985 ep 6

Shots are fired at Ft. Sumter; the war begins. Swayze wants to go to Pennsylvania to repay George’s investment, so that George’s money doesn’t go to the southern war effort. Tits thinks Swayze is noble ‘n stuff.

North and South 1985 ep 6

I guess they felt they needed their own version of the GWTW barbecue dress?

Swayze shows up with the money to repay George and meets the new baby. Virgilia alerts the neighborhood mob that a southerner is there; the mob shows up with guns and pitchforks; George and Swayze scare them off with their own guns; George gets Swayze onto a train, before which they almost consummate their bromance and discuss how both are being recruited for their respective armies. Virgilia sneaks out with the family silver.

North and South 1985 ep 6

EXEUNT. Do I win a major award?

 

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31 Responses

  1. Kaye Dacus

    The costumes (and history) may be shitty, but this was a defining moment for me when it first aired in my early teens and cemented my love for all-things-costume-drama as well as enough of an interest in the (real events of the) Civil War that I minored in it in college several years later. I think the casting in Book II is better—especially Parker Stevenson as Billy Hazard.

    Reply
      • Kaye Dacus

        Parker and Kirstie been married for a year or two before that–I’m pretty sure he was brought in because they were married.

        Speaking of married couples . . . Perfect Blonde and George (Wendy Kilbourne and James Read) did fall in love IRL through these miniseries and eventually married in 1988. They’re still married!

        Tits McGee (Lesley-Anne Down) met and married her third (and still) husband, a camera operator, on set, as well.

        Oh, and Number 1 and Sweet Blonde (Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis) also fell in love and married in 1988 and are still married!

        So while the costumes haven’t aged well (!), at least three romances that started on set have!

        Reply
        • Donnalee

          You are a treasure trove of info on this. It’s nice that a lot of good came out of it, and I hope the relationships last at least as long as the polyester fabrics!

          Reply
  2. picasso Manu

    Well, you battled North AND South for our entertainment, and you won, so I think you deserve a medal. I’ll try to make something fitting the occasion, with fake pearls and rhinestone border around plastic cameo, with nice (if scratchy) nylon lavender lace. Of course, finding the “Ave Frockflicks, Morituri te Salutant” cameo may be a little hard…Anyway, I seem to recall that Slutty was evil, but on the whole, quite nicely dressed… And is that a quite nice dress in peach and white lace I spy behind sweet blonde in that wedding photo?

    Reply
  3. Gosia

    “Sweet Blonde meets up with Billy to show off her peach poly-baroque satin while all of Charleston is freaking out about today’s presidential election.” To my amateurish eye the ensemble that Sweet Blonde wears in that scene looks more or less historically correct and not bad too … In comparison with most dresses in that series this is a big improvement.

    Reply
  4. Andrew Schroeder

    There really is no excuse for such god-awful costumes and hair, albeit their budget was probably stretched to the breaking point. But when you have Piero Tosi doing “The Leopard” twenty whole years, there’s really no excuse. “The Blue and the Gray” aired two years before this and managed to have better costumes (albeit not by much). Even the GWTW costumes were much more accurate and more tasteful. This is like every Harlequin cover was vomited onto a roll of film.

    Reply
    • Gosia

      “This is like every Harlequin cover was vomited onto a roll of film”. 10/10! You’ve nailed it! The series has the looks of a romance cover novel from the 1980’s.

      Reply
  5. Nzie

    You get all the prizes! Geez. What a slog. Although weirdly there were more okay dresses in this one… like, maybe they were actually looking at the right era mostly? I also thought the first dress Virgilia shows up in looks pretty decent for a less wealthy day dress. I’m not really sold on the brunette’s multicolored striped dress myself.

    I also weirdly kind of love Johnny Cash as John Brown? Maybe it’s nostalgia from his guest spots on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.

    The plot continues to be super ridiculous. The motivations are passable but the reactions bizarre (and the bad sister’s reactions are wicked OTT). Also, surprising that this is the first baby. Haven’t they been married like 5 years now? The pregnancy rates are unbelievably low for the amount of sex they’re having and the lack of contraceptives, and that apparently this bothered no one, not even Tits’ husband.

    I look forward to your review of the next season.. whenever you can bring yourself to do it. :-)

    Reply
    • Gosia

      “The pregnancy rates are unbelievably low for the amount of sex they’re having and the lack of contraceptives” – I’m still wondering about that too … I mean, the plot takes place from 1840 to 1865 (I’m counting the second season in) and not from 1940 to 1965 …

      Reply
  6. Kayla Vickery

    Laughing at my desk so hard about the obvious hitman!! Snark Week for Frock Flicks means no work week for me.

    Reply
    • Saraquill

      I’m not surprised he failed, what with Evil Eyepatch killing depth perception and all.

      Reply
  7. Susan Pola Staples

    Gee, you actually finished it. You deserve a case of your favourite tipple. And you get to cast the next MQOS thirteen part miniseries.

    Reply
  8. Misty Smith

    You are amazing! I can’t believe you actually did it…. Thank you for the snark & Congrats on completing it x

    Reply
  9. Lindsey

    I understand not having the most amazing costuming budget, but is it really that difficult to get decent, era appropriate hairstyles and clothing? So much of that looks like they didn’t even try.

    Obvious hitman is obvious. XD

    Reply
  10. Brandy Loutherback

    I enjoyed this look back into historically accurate Civil War by way of mid-80’s .I was born in 1994 so its fascinating to see mid-80’s trends play out in a porno version of GWTW in the mid 1980’s!

    Reply
  11. Trystan L. Bass

    We finally made it to Liz Taylor and Morgan Fairchild! Whew! And, I guess, the actual Civil War. That part’s kind of anti-climactic after so much eye-searingly bad costumes & ridiculous re-writing of history. Go Kendra go!!!

    Reply
  12. Kaite

    That movie portrait/painting! Holy Tits!! Had to laugh at other post about bad movie paintings too.

    Reply
  13. Janette

    Noooo. The last post. I have enjoyed these so much, leaving these to last to read each day. I really hope that after a year’s recovery you can bring yourself to face series two for Snark Week next year. Something to look forward to next year and this from someone who never watched, or even heard of the series and has zero interest in it, other than to read these blogs about it.

    Reply
  14. Kathleen Norvell

    I am SO GLAD I never watched that atrocity. My eyes would have been bleeding. Thank you for your service in recapping all of that, as well as costume critiques. Brava!

    Reply
  15. Gosia

    Kendra, your hilarious reviews of “North and South” saved my whole week (during reading the fragment about “two blind guppies” in review of episode 2, I was laughing tears) :-D. However, as I have written before, I have still a soft spot for “North and South”, because it was the first period film I have ever seen in my life (I was 8 when I saw fragments of it) and it started my interest for period films, history of fashion and art.

    I have one more question: Will you girls write a review about “Gone with the Wind”?

    Reply
  16. minette

    I’ve never seen this thing, but your recaps are GLORIOUS. It has everything – Patrick Swayze, Forest Whitaker, Liz Tyler cameo, poly baroque satin, lots and lots of slut-shaming, screenplay obviously written by Bertrice Small (for those of you who don’t know, famous bodice ripper writer, her books are like mini-soap operas and I love them, mostly in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way)… And you gals are so damn funny!

    Reply
  17. James

    I own the peach satin bodice dress it’s actually more of a rose beigh colour and made of silk satin

    Reply
  18. sandra

    It’s been a long time since I saw North & South, but I remember the Kirstie Alley character being hanged for killing that creepy senator she had been shagging. Patrick Swayze visits her in the death cell and she says she’s looking forward to being reunited with Grady in Heaven. Am I wrong ?

    Reply

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