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Visions; Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree

Part of New Television Workshop.


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Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree
Program Description

This is the story of Charlie Smith, a 134-year-old black man, who tells his life story, via flashbacks, to an orderly at his nursing home. The story moves from his childhood days when he was bought as a slave by a Texas farmer, Charlie Smith. Charlie treats the boy as a member of his family. When slaves are free, he decides to stay with Charlie until he dies. After Charlie's death, he assumes his name, as Charlie asked him to do. The story becomes picaresque, as Charlie moves throughout the Old West, being a ranch hand, gambler, train robber, bounty hunter, family man, honkytonk owner, and, finally, circus sideshow attraction. Through his life the viewer sees the changes in the history of the Old West, including attitudes towards blacks and racism.

After the dramatized account is finished, video footage of the real Charles Smith's 134th birthday party, filmed at his nursing home, is shown. The credits say that "his life has been the inspiration for this television fantasy."



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


David Loxton (Producer)
Fred Barzyk (Producer)
Ward, Richard ()
Johnson, Charles ()
Powell, Clifton ()
Freeman, Morgan ()
Dysart, Richard ()
Cooper, Donny ()
Turman, Glynn ()
Chicago: “Visions; Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree,” 07/28/1978, GBH Archives, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “Visions; Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree.” 07/28/1978. GBH Archives. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Visions; Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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