IMDb > "Great Performances" Life on the Mississippi (1980)

"Great Performances" Life on the Mississippi (1980)

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Great Performances: :  -- Based on Mark Twain's novel about his own experiences during the glorious days of riverboats. A veteran riverboat pilot takes on a young apprentice.


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Mark Twain (book)
Philip H. Reisman Jr. (screenplay)
View company contact information for Life on the Mississippi on IMDbPro.
Original Air Date:
24 November 1980
Most mid-19th-century Mississippi River boys dreamed of occupying that pinnacle of power and glamour... See more » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Captures the essence of Mark Twain See more (2 total) »


 (Episode Cast) (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Robert Lansing ... Horace Bixby
David Knell ... Sam Clemens

James Keane ... Mr. Ealer

Donald Madden ... Mr. Brown

John Pankow ... George Richie
Bill Holliday ... Mr. Thornburg
Luke Reilly ... Tom
Marcy Walker ... Emmeline
Don Brady ... Mr. Leathers
Jack Lawrence ... 'Paul Jones' Captain
John Kirk ... Mate on 'Paul Jones'
Bill Atwood ... Watchman on 'Paul Jones'
Thom Thomas ... Clerk on 'Paul Jones'
Jim Babrowski ... Preacher
Douglas Wells ... Mr. Grogan
Barbara Chaney ... Mrs. Thurlow
Collins Bell ... Mr. Thurlow
Lyla Owen ... Mrs. Pelligrew
Don Lutenbacher ... Mr. Pelligrew
Harry Gorsuch ... Ben
Robert Borwick ... Henry
Wayne Dickson ... Mate on 'Aleck Scott'
Norma Schwied ... Actress
Thomas Kent ... Actor
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Stanley J. Reyes ... Captain Kleinfelter (as Stanley Reyes)
Tim Gamble ... Horse Trader (uncredited)

Episode Crew
Directed by
Peter H. Hunt 
Writing credits
Mark Twain (book)

Philip H. Reisman Jr. (screenplay)

Produced by
Peter H. Hunt .... producer
Marshall Jamison .... executive producer
William P. Perry .... producer
Original Music by
William P. Perry  (as William Perry)
Cinematography by
Walter Lassally (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Cynthia Scheider 
Casting by
Jane Iredale 
Art Direction by
Bill Groom 
Set Decoration by
Richard Lordi 
Linda Mazur 
Costume Design by
Vel Riberto 
Makeup Department
David Forrest .... makeup artist (as David Craig Forrest)
Ted Long .... hair stylist
Production Management
David R. Kappes .... production manager (as David Kappes)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Ellis Toney .... second assistant director
Jerry Ziesmer .... first assistant director
Art Department
Peter K. Dunbar .... second props
Matthew C. Jacobs .... assistant art director (as Matthew Jacobs)
Christian Kelly .... property master
Sound Department
Jack Cooley .... sound re-recording mixer
Samantha Heilwell .... sound recordist
Larry Hoff .... sound recordist (as Lawrence Hoff)
Ron Kalish .... sound editor
Al Nahmias .... sound editor
Tom Nelson .... sound recordist (as Thomas Nelson)
Bitty O'Sullivan-Smith .... assistant sound editor
Hubie Kerns Jr. .... stunt coordinator (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
John D. Burkley .... gaffer
Don Cerrone .... key grip (as Donald Cerrone)
Phil Clark .... second grip
Thomas C. Dischert .... best boy
Tom Paul Hoppe .... first assistant camera
Briggs Palmer .... camera loader (as Briggs S. Palmer)
Robert Schulman .... electrician
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Roberta Favant .... wardrobe assistant
Laurel Hargarten .... wardrobe assistant
Robert M. Hines .... wardrobe supervisor
Wendy Hubschman .... wardrobe assistant
Editorial Department
Jonathan Cohen .... associate film editor
Dow McKeever .... apprentice film editor
Music Department
John Hartford .... music arranger: river songs
Richard Hayman .... orchestrator
Dan Pinsky .... music editor
Leonard Slatkin .... conductor
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra .... music performers
Other crew
Frederick Anderson .... scholarly advisor
Brenda Bareika .... assistant to executive producer
Walter Blair .... scholarly advisor
William M. Gibson .... scholarly advisor
Justin Kaplan .... scholarly advisor
Harrold Kappes .... location manager (as Harold Kappes)
Janet Merwin .... script supervisor
Kimberly Myers .... production office coordinator
Henry Nash Smith .... scholarly advisor
Dennis Trone .... consultant: riverboat (as Captain Dennis Trone)
Laurie Zwicky .... director of research
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
115 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The pleasure steamboat Julia Belle Swain of Peoria, Illinois was refitted to look like an 1850s riverboat to appear in the film.See more »
George Ritchie:Bixby and Ealer now, midnight's as good as daylight for them. If they ain't got a moon to steer by, they use lightnin' bugs.See more »


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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful.
Captures the essence of Mark Twain, 2 April 2003
Author: Filmclipper from Indiana

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) loved steamboating. He said that the ambition of every boy in Hannibal, Missouri, was to become the pilot of a grand and mighty steamboat. He realized his dream. He became a cub pilot under master pilot Horace Bixby. This movie accurately represents the trials, dangers, and adventures of steamboating in America in the middle of the 19th century. Robert Lansing deserved an Academy Award for his portrayal of Horace Bixby. His gruff manner, tender heart, and deep-down love of the steamboat life comes through. If you have never read a book by Mark Twain, and don't intend to, the best thing you can do is watch this movie. It will tell you what Twain was all about.

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