This will probably be one of those times when we find out who can act and who can't.
Here we have Don Johnson putting aside his "Miami Vice" pastels to play gritty Ben Quick, the drifter portrayed by Paul Newman in the theatrical film version of "The Long Hot Summer."
And it's Jason Robards as the Varner family patriarch, played in the 1958 film by Orson Welles.
Cybill ("Moonlighting") Shepherd plays his flighty daughter-in-law, the Lee Remick role in the film.
And Judith Ivey plays daughter Noel, the cool southern woman who warms up to Quick, Joanne Woodward's part.
Can these folks do as well in a two-night NBC miniseries as their forerunners did on film? Doubtful, for sure, maybe and why not? In that order.
Johnson steps up in class to take on the part of the drifter who stirs thngs up in a sleepy Mississippi town. Robards is a pro. Shepherd seems to have bloomed a bit in "Yellow Rose" and "Moonlighting."
And there's Ivey. Who's Ivey? To Broadway-watchers, she's the woman who won Tony and Drama Desk awards in 1983 as best actress in a featured dramatic role for her part in "Steaming." And then won the same awards for her performance as a stripper in "HurlyBurly." Feature-film fans will recognize her from "The Woman in Red, "Harry and Son," "The Lonely Guy" and "Compromising Positions." And there've been TV roles, including a guest shot on "Cagney and Lacey."
"It was prophetic that I should do this part," said Ivey. "I have worked with Joanne Woodward. In a way she's a second mother to me."
Woodward and Ivey assumed the mother-daughter relationship in 1982 when they played those roles in "Hay Fever" at Kenyon College, Newman's alma mater.
That association produced an enduring friendship as well as the part in "Harry and Son," and fostered Ivey's obvious admiration for Woodward. "Getting this part (after Woodward performed it in the movies) tells me I'm heading in the direction I want to go," said Ivey.
Ivey seems to measure her direction with a two-or three-pointed compass. "For a while I was doing British theater, and people thought I was British," said Ivey, whose strong, slightly raspy voice still carries her native Texan accent.
Then she went through her comedic phase, and "now I'm doing different things," including the filming of "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
"You take roles as they mesh with who you are at that time," said Ivey. At one point there was the exploration of the British classics of theater, then the comedies "after my career exploded and I was happy. Now I'm doing more serious roles."
The four-hour production of "The Long Hot Summer" was shot in 44 days, a short time span for someone used to working in films and accustomed to the extensive rehearsal time of the theater.
"That's 11 days for each quarter of the show," she calculated. "That's not enough. It's a hardship for the crew and cast to have to work that quickly, and it usually means it's not a quality product. But having seen the rough cut of the show, we should be proud of what we did in just 44 days."