The Name of the Game

Season 1 Episode 11

The White Birch

Aired Friday 8:30 PM Nov 29, 1968 on NBC
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Episode Summary

The White Birch
The Soviet army has invaded Czechoslovakia and Glenn and Peggy travel to Prague in order to try and get a banned manuscript out of the country before rival journalists steal it or the communists destroy it.

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  • As the Russian tanks invade Czechoslovakia in August, 1968, Glenn Howard has the chance to smuggle out of the country an inflammatory manuscript by a famous writer.

    This was an atrocious episode, and coming only three months after the whole world had been horrified by the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, it seemed appallingly exploitative and tasteless. For a time, it looked as if World War III might be starting, and we got this dumb, cliched piece of simplistic Cold War propaganda. The episode actually has nothing whatever to do with Czechoslovakia - it's inspired by the story of how Italian publisher Feltrinelli smuggled the manuscript of "Doctor Zhivago" out of Russia - and the script was clearly subjected to a few, small last-minute alterations to adapt it to the Czech situation. The famous writer is called "Mikhail Orlov" - a Russian, not Czech, name. The other Czech characters are the usual "Russki" stereotypes. There is an excellent performance by Boris Karloff (very near the end of his life) as the novelist, but he is required to play a cliche. No-one British will be able to accept Roddy McDowall's dreadful performance as a Carnaby Street-clad swinging Londoner!moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • One of the few episodes in which guest stars are listed simply in alphabetical order, rather than in descending order of importance. However, Boris Karloff gets a separate "Special Guest Star" billing.

  • QUOTES (5)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Many nations in the West applauded the "Prague Spring" in early 1968, when the Czechs, led by the reforming Alexander Dubcek, seemed to be breaking away from the influence of Soviet Russia and offering what was termed "socialism with a human face". On August 22, 1968, Russian troops poured into Czechoslovakia, Dubcek's government was overthrown, and international tensions ran high. The Russians replaced Dubcek as Czech leader, and he was deprived of his Communist Party membership in 1970. He died in 1992.

    • This is Boris Karloff's last acting appearance. Although the principal players appear to be travelling abroad, this was actually filmed on Universal's backlot, as usual. Stock footage was used for back projection.