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General Information
(revised 12/04/2019)
Nielsen Ratings: number 14 (of 85) on the TV series hit list.

The "Falcon Crest" predecessor entitled "The Vintage Years" — written by EARL HAMNER — was filmed as a one-hour pilot show in the spring of 1981, but was never aired. Further information is available here.

The major filming location of the series was Spring Mountain Vineyards in St. Helena, CA. Besides exterior footage on the winery grounds, the pilot's interior scenes had already been filmed on the first floor of its Victorian Mansion (Villa Miravalle). As MICHAEL and SUSAN ROBBINS, the winery's owners in those days, were shocked at their parquet floors being scratched by the production equipment, filming inside the house was out of the question for future episodes.
LORIMAR's original drawings and sketches of this filming location are available for DFCF members in the Show – Production Office – Filming Locations – Distant Locations section.
For the various promotional photos for the series première, LORIMAR used wine glasses by the Japanese Sasaki company. Their "Wing" glasses (6¾" tall) were a pattern made between 1975 and 2005 and have a frosted stylized dove at the base. They are best known from vineyard shots of JANE WYMAN near the Falcon Crest Guest House and promotional pics of her and ROBERT FOXWORTH at the gazebo and arbor, which were specifically built by LORIMAR behind Spring Mountain's Villa Miravalle. Interestingly enough, these glasses were used as props in one scene only (Angie and Cole in the gazebo in # 004).
As for the wine bottle in the promo photos, detailed information about this wine label and many others is available in the Show – Production Office – Wine Label Gallery section. Previews are available for the general public; for DFCF members, the wine labels are available in high resolution.
For the series, sets resembling the Victorian Mansion's interiors (and, during season 2, the front veranda) were built on sound stage 1 of THE BURBANK STUDIOS (nowadays WARNER BROS. STUDIOS) in Burbank, CA. The first floor of the Mansion is quite the same as the one of the real Villa. Slight differences are that there are three steps from the entrance into the foyer and that the foyer set is wider (in both directions); the small lavatory under the stairway is missing in the foyer set; the living room set is wider in north-south direction, but not as wide in the east-west direction as in the real Villa, and the small tower to the south was not replicated in the set. The windows to the south and west in the living room set are in different shape (a semi-circular arrangement) compared with the real ones. Exterior shots were filmed at Spring Mountain in July or August every year between 1981 and 1987. It is obvious that the episodes at the beginning of each season feature a lot more exterior scenes than later episodes.
The other sets at THE BURBANK STUDIOS were located on other sound stages, most of them on stages 19 (the Gioberti House, in particular) and 19 A, both of which were exclusively used for the series.
LORIMAR's original blueprints of many sets are available for DFCF members in the Show — Production Office – Filming Locations – Movie Studios – Interior Sets section.
Another important filming site was Stags' Leap Winery in the Napa Valley, CA. The key locations are its driveway on which a fiberglass / plastic prop gate — the Falcon Crest main gate — was installed, and the Manor House, which portrayed the Gioberti House. For location filming, a special prop door with the falcon coat of arms was installed; it opens to the right, whereas the real door of the house opens to the left. The interiors were also reconstructed at THE BURBANK STUDIOS; the floor plan of the interior set, however, was completely different from the real house. The veranda and the front door were replicated in 3/4-size to put more emphasis on the actors.
LORIMAR's original drawings and sketches of this filming location are available for DFCF members in the Show – Production Office – Filming Locations – Distant Locations section.
You can find more details about these and other filming locations in our Travel Guide.
Location filming in the Wine Country was done for # 001 through # 007.
Full family trees of the Giobertis and Agrettis including dates (birth, death, marriages, etc.) are available here.
During seasons 1 through 4, JANE WYMAN also serves as the announcer for the sneak previews of the following episode in every show — besides announcer ROY ROWAN.
CLU GULAGER and SAMANTHA EGGAR, who played Chase and Maggie Gioberti on the predecessor, were not rehired. ROBERT FOXWORTH and SUSAN SULLIVAN gained the rôles instead. MARIAN McCARGO BELL, BILLY R. MOSES' mother, also auditioned for the Maggie character, but was turned down because producers felt she was too old; she will appear as a guest, playing Harriet Roberts, in season 5.
Original plans included a second son to Gus and Alicia Nuñez, Lupe (age 10); this character, which was originated in "The Vintage Years", was erased from the series very shortly before shooting began.
Familiar Faces at LORIMAR: The production company preferred hiring "old friends", who had done good jobs for the company in the past. EARL HAMNER brought many crew members from his previous LORIMAR show, "The Waltons", over to "Falcon Crest", including ERNIE WALLENGREN, KATHLEEN HITE, KATHARYN POWERS (writers), HARRY HARRIS, LARRY ELIKANN, MICHAEL PREECE (directors) and SANDY COURAGE (music). Producer BARRY STEINBERG (joining in # 013) previously worked as a unit production manager on "Flamingo Road"; so did art director ARCH BACON.
Popular movie and TV composer BILL CONTI serves as the show's theme composer and as the composer of the score for # 001.
The first core element of the theme resembles a very short part during the beginning of the somber clarinet solo of "E lucevan le stelle" ("When the Stars Were Brightly Shining"), the aria (romanza) of the Mario Cavaradossi character, in the third act of "Tosca", the opera by GIACOMO PUCCINI.
The series was originally scheduled to première on Sept 25, 1981. A writers' strike prevented finishing the episodes in time so the première was moved to Dec 4, 1981, following the decision that the first seven episodes would be entirely staff written to avoid any further delay.
At first, CBS ordered the original pilot ("The Vintage Years") plus 12 episodes with an option for additional episodes.
LORIMAR developed more episodes for season 1 than originally sold to CBS in order to be prepared in case the network wanted to extend the season. Story outlines for the following episodes were written, but the further development of these episodes was dropped:

  • Promises: written by GARNER SIMMONS, assigned to director GWEN ARNER (cut off at outline)
  • And Not a Drop to Share: written by MICHAEL MICHAELIAN (brother to KATHARYN POWERS) & MICHAEL SEVAREID (cut off at outline)
  • (The) Siege: written by LARRY ALEXANDER (cut off at outline)
  • A Question of Years: assigned to writer SCOTT HAMNER (cut off at story)
  • Shadows: assigned to writer JOAN SCOTT (cut off at outline)
  • The Apprentice: assigned to writer RICHARD NELSON (cut off at outline)
  • Divide and Conquer (proposed story arc)
  • The Sorrow and the Passion (proposed story arc)
  • The Hireling (proposed story arc)
In Europe, Australia and many countries in South America, the speed of the episodes as aired on TV is a bit faster compared to the original U.S. version (NTSC TV system). This is caused by the telecine transfer (the conversion) from the film reel to PAL (the common TV system in most European and South American countries as well as in Australia).
Whereas transferring film to NTSC does not cause any acceleration, transferring film to PAL results in a 4 % acceleration, i.e. the 24 fps (frames per second on film) will be converted into 50 pictures per second. This results in the episodes running at film speed multiplied by 1.04 and, therefore, 4 % less screen time — before any re-editing in syndication. This, however, usually does not strike the human eye.

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