War and Peace
DVD cover
GenreHistorical drama
Created byDavid Conroy
Based onWar and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
Written byJack Pulman
Directed byJohn Davies
StarringAnthony Hopkins
Alan Dobie
Morag Hood
Angela Down
Theme music composerAlexei Lvov
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes20
ProducerDavid Conroy
Production locationsUK:


Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time44–45 minutes per episode
14 hours 50 minutes total
Production companiesBBC
Time-Life Television
Yugoslav Films Belgrade
Original networkBBC2
Picture format576i (4:3 PAL)
Audio formatMono
Original release30 September 1972 (1972-09-30) –
8 February 1973 (1973-02-08)
External links

War and Peace is a British television dramatisation of the 1869 Leo Tolstoy novel War and Peace. This 20 episode series began on 28 September 1972. The BBC dramatisation of Tolstoy's epic story of love and loss set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Anthony Hopkins heads the cast as Pierre Bezukhov, Morag Hood is Natasha Rostova, Alan Dobie is Andrei Bolkonsky and David Swift is Napoleon, whose decision to invade Russia in 1812 has far-reaching consequences for each of them and their families.

The twenty-part serial was produced by David Conroy and directed by John Davies. Conroy's aim was to transfer the characters and plot from Tolstoy's novel to television drama to run for a duration of 15 hours. Scripted by Jack Pulman, this version of War and Peace contained battle sequences, which were filmed in Yugoslavia. The theme tune is the Russian imperial anthem, played by the band of the Welsh Guards.[1]

Hopkins received the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his performance, and the production designer Don Homfray won a BAFTA for his work on the series.[2]


War and Peace followed the success of such literary adaptations as The Forsyte Saga (BBC2, 1967).[3]

Charlie Knode designed the costumes.[4]

The production took three years (1969–72) and involved location filming in SR Serbia and at English stately homes. Soldiers of the Yugoslav Territorial Defense appeared as extras in battle scenes.[5]


Further information: List of War and Peace characters


No.TitleOriginal air date
1"Name Day"30 September 1972 (1972-09-30)
1805. The Rostovs celebrate the name day of Natasha and Countess Rostova. The family of the dying Count Bezukhov fret over who will inherit.
2"Sounds of War"7 October 1972 (1972-10-07)
Pierre Bezukhov comes to terms with his large inheritance and life in high society. Andrei Bolkonsky leaves his pregnant wife and goes away to war
3"Skirmish at Schöngraben"14 October 1972 (1972-10-14)
Napoleon's armies make rapid progress across Europe, winning a victory at Schöngrabern.
4"A Letter and Two Proposals"21 October 1972 (1972-10-21)
The Rostov family receive news of war from Nikolai. Vasili Kuragin tries to marry his daughter to Pierre and his son to Maria Bolkonskaya.
5"Austerlitz"28 October 1972 (1972-10-28)
Preparations are take place for the Battle of Austerlitz.
6"Reunions"4 November 1972 (1972-11-04)
Nikolai Rostov returns home from war; Pierre struggles in his marriage.
7"New Beginnings"11 November 1972 (1972-11-11)
1807. Pierre suspects his wife of infidelity. France and Russia make peace at Tilsit.
8"A Beautiful Tale"18 November 1972 (1972-11-18)
Andrei visits the Rostovs. Tsar Alexander I attends a ball, and romance blossoms between Andrei and Natasha.
9"Leave of Absence"25 November 1972 (1972-11-25)
Andrei proposes to Natasha. Nikolai Rostov returns for extended leave.
10"Madness"2 December 1972 (1972-12-02)
Natasha Rostova pays a visit to the Bolkonskys.
11"Men of Destiny"9 December 1972 (1972-12-09)
1812: Napoleon invades Russia. Pierre cannot decide whether to join the army or not.
12"Fortunes of War"16 December 1972 (1972-12-16)
The French advance and the Russians retreat; Nikolai rescues Maria from a peasant uprising.
13"Borodino"23 December 1972 (1972-12-23)
The citizens of Moscow are forced to decide whether to abandon the city or not. At Borodino both sides take heavy losses.
14"Escape"30 December 1972 (1972-12-30)
The aftermath of Borodino. The Rostovs evacuate wounded soldiers from Moscow – Andrei among them.
15"Moscow!"6 January 1973 (1973-01-06)
Napoleon takes Moscow, but the war is not won yet. Pierre imagines that he is destined to kill the Emperor.
16"Two Meetings"13 January 1973 (1973-01-13)
Nikolai must decide between Maria and Sonya. Natasha nurses the dying Andrei.
17"Of Life and Death"20 January 1973 (1973-01-20)
Pierre is arrested; Sonya writes a letter releasing Nikolai.
18"The Retreat"27 January 1973 (1973-01-27)
Napoleon retreats from Moscow. Pierre is caught up in the trek with French soldiers and comes close to death.
19"The Road to Life"1 February 1973 (1973-02-01)
Maria tries to rouse Natasha out from her mourning. Pierre returns home.
20"An Epilogue"8 February 1973 (1973-02-08)
1820. Pierre and Natasha are married with children, while the Nikolai-Maria-Sonya triangle is resolved.


According to Dr. Lez Cooke in British Television Drama: A History (2003), War and Peace consolidated BBC2 as the channel responsible for 'quality' literary drama.[6]

In The New Yorker in 2016, Louis Menand wrote "It drags in parts today, but in 1972 no one had seen television that grand or ambitious before. The length—almost fifteen hours—meant the series could include scenes, like the wolf hunt, or Denisov dancing the mazurka, that are dramatically superfluous but thematically vital. The acting is inspired, in part because the casting was inspired, from Anthony Hopkins, as Pierre, to David Swift, as a pint-sized, swaggering Napoleon. Everyone looks just the way he or she’s supposed to look."[7]

Clive James criticised some performances: "I was cruel to Morag Hood when I said that her performance made me want to throw a tarpauline over her and peg down the corners. I should have blamed the director, who had obviously told her to bounce up and down at all times in order to convey exuberance. [...] In that same production, Alan Dobie as Andrei was grim enough to send you to sleep, but Anthony Hopkins was a perfect Pierre: a real tribute to his acting, because his default mode is to be in command."[8]

Paul Mavis (DVD Talk) awarded it 4 stars, saying "it positively luxuriates in its expansive format, giving the viewer a remarkable chance to fully experience the various nuances of character and the myriad permutations of shifting relationships (as well as Tolstoy's numerous plot coincidences) that mark this mammoth work." He praised Alan Dobie as "uniformed in Byronic splendor [...] spot-on as the dour, heroic, closed-off Andrei Bolkonsky.", also praising Angela Down (Maria) and Sylvester Morand (Nikolai). However, he criticised Hood's performance, saying "the casting of Morag Hood (which, according to the production history included in this DVD set, was a desperate, last-minute decision) is a distressing misfire. [...] poor Hood can't begin to approach the character with even a modicum of believability. Natasha begins the story as a wild, impetuous girl of thirteen - an age and a temperament that Hood evidently felt needed to be delineated by having Natasha laugh insanely at everything while leaping about like a mad thing (Hood is also far too old to be a believable 13-year-old). As for later maturing into this bewitching, erotic little beauty whom all men adore, either an actress has that innate, inexplicable quality or they don't - you can't "act" that powerful allure onto the screen. It has to come from within, and simply put, Hood doesn't have it."[9]

Andrew D. Kaufman, in his book Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times said that this version had "much to recommend", although he preferred the 1966–67 Soviet film.[10] James Monaco called it "easily the best adaptation [...] in any medium" in How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia: Language, History, Theory (1977).[11]

DVD release

The series was released in a Region 2 4-DVD boxset by DD Home Entertainment in 2005. The set is accompanied by an illustrated booklet, written by Andy Priestner, which provides a detailed account of how the series was made. In 2009 Simply Home Entertainment released a 5-disc edition with 200 production stills.

See also


  1. ^ "War and Peace 28 September 1972, History of the BBC". BBC.
  2. ^ Gill Ducker Other Lives: Don Homfray, The Guardian, 23 March 2012
  3. ^ Leggott, James; Taddeo, Julie (11 December 2014). Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama Television from The Forsyte Saga to Downton Abbey. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442244832.
  4. ^ Larsen, Darl (6 March 2015). A Book about the Film Monty Python and the Holy Grail: All the References from African Swallows to Zoot. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442245549.
  5. ^ Giddings, Robert; Selby, Keith (14 February 2001). The Classic Serial on Television and Radio. Springer. ISBN 9780230596290.
  6. ^ Cooke, Lez (9 April 2015). British Television Drama: A History. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781844578962.
  7. ^ Menand, Louis (19 January 2016). "What Do We Love About "War and Peace"?" – via www.newyorker.com.
  8. ^ James, Clive (13 February 2016). "Clive James: how did the BBC's War And Peace measure up?" – via www.theguardian.com.
  9. ^ "War & Peace (1972)". DVD Talk.
  10. ^ Kaufman, Andrew D. (10 February 2015). Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781451644715.
  11. ^ Monaco, James (13 November 2017). How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, and Multimedia : Language, History, Theory. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195038699.