Once an Eagle (miniseries)

Once An Eagle is a 1976 nine-hour American television miniseries directed by Richard Michaels and E.W. Swackhamer. The picture was written by Peter S. Fischer and based on the 1968 Anton Myrer novel of the same name.[1]

Once An Eagle
Promotional poster
Directed byRichard Michaels
E.W. Swackhamer
Produced byPeter S. Fischer
Screenplay byPeter S. Fischer
Story byAnton Myrer
StarringSam Elliott
Cliff Potts
Darleen Carr
Amy Irving
Glenn Ford
Music byDana Kaproff
CinematographyJ.J. Jones
Edited byHoward Deane
John Elias
Chuck McClelland
Distributed byMCA TV
Release date
  • December 2, 1976 (1976-12-02) (United States)
Running time
540 minutes
CountryUnited States

The first and last installments of the seven-part series were each two-hour broadcasts, while the interim episodes were 60 minutes.

The mini-series concerns the thirty year careers of two military men, from the outbreak of World War I to the aftermath of World War II.

Plot summary

Sam Damon (Sam Elliott) is a virile and praiseworthy warrior.

Courtney Massengale (Cliff Potts) is the opposite—an impotent, self-aggrandizing conniver.



Once An Eagle was the second of four story subseries of the NBC anthology series "Best Sellers"; it was preceded by Captains and the Kings, and followed by Seventh Avenue and The Rhineman Exchange.

Anton Myrer's book, on which the series is based, is a military novel written in the United States. The novel is noted for its stark descriptions of men in combat and in its analysis of human and technical challenges and the moral dilemmas of command. It is one of only two novels on the US Army's recommended reading list for Officer Professional Development; the other is The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. A coincidental element to both novels is that Sam Elliott had a starring role in the film adaptation of each one, playing a US Army general officer.[2]

Filming locations

Some of the scenes of the film were filmed in Napa Valley, California.

DVD release

Timeless Media Group released the complete television series on a two-disc DVD set on August 31, 2010.

Origin of title

The title is derived from a Persian poem:

And so in the Libyan fable it is told,
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
"With our own feathers, not by others' hands,
Are we now stricken".
Naser Khosrow


  • Emmy Awards: Emmy; Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Series, J.J. Jones; for part I; 1977.
  • Golden Globes: Golden Globe; Best Supporting Actress - Television, Darleen Carr; 1977.

See also

  • List of films based on war books


  1. Once an Eagle on IMDb.
  2. Military Times newsweekly web site. Last accessed: February 9, 2011.
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