Noble House (miniseries)

Noble House

North American DVD cover (2008)
Genre Action/Drama
Written by James Clavell (novel)
Eric Bercovici (screenplay)
Directed by Gary Nelson
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 4
Executive producer(s) James Clavell
Producer(s) Eric Bercovici
Frederick Muller
Location(s) Hong Kong
Editor(s) Peter Holt
Running time 376 minutes
Original network NBC
Picture format Technicolor
Audio format Monaural
Original release February 21, 1988

Noble House is an American television miniseries that was produced and broadcast by NBC in 1988. Based on the novel Noble House by James Clavell, it features a large cast headlined by Pierce Brosnan as business tycoon Ian Dunross and was directed by Gary Nelson. However, due to time restrictions, several of the many subplots from the book were removed.

This is NBC's second miniseries adaptation of a Clavell novel, the first being 1980's Shōgun. Both take place in the same fictional universe with Noble House featuring connections to Shōgun and another Clavell work, Tai-Pan.

For the miniseries, the timeframe of the novel was changed; Clavell's original novel takes place in the early 1960s, but the miniseries was updated to the 1980s. The building prominently displayed and used as Struan's is Jardine House.


Despite its impressive history and its reputation, the international trading company Struan's (the Noble House of the title) is in trouble. Overextended by the previous management, new Tai-Pan Ian Dunross (Pierce Brosnan) has had to issue public stock to improve the company's financial standing. Even this, however, has not given him the capital he needs. As a result, he is courting a private investor, American billionaire Linc Bartlett (Ben Masters). Bartlett decides secretly to back Dunross' arch enemy, Quillian Gornt (John Rhys-Davies), who will stop at nothing to destroy Struan's. When Dunross realises that Gornt is suddenly strong enough to ruin the Noble House, he must urgently forge new alliances or reshape ancient ones. He romances Bartlett's second-in-command, Casey Tcholok (Deborah Raffin).

A subplot involves the missing half of an ancient coin. Whoever possesses it may ask any favor of the Tai-Pan. Half the coin is acquired by crime lord Four Finger Wu (Khigh Dhiegh), who aims to ask the Tai-Pan to help him smuggle opium.

Wu and Bartlett are killed in a natural disaster. Wu's son redeems his father's stolen half-coin for a highly paid position in Noble House. Dunross gains access to the Bank of China, whose funding allows him to foil Gornt's scheme. Tcholok becomes head of Bartlett's company, allying the organization with Struan's.

Differences from the novel

Many of the subplots from the novel were left out of the miniseries to simplify the plot. A significant story arc involving KGB espionage in Hong Kong was deleted as the mini-series aired near the close of the Cold War. A further story line involving visiting UK Members of Parliament was removed, as was another involving a former prisoner of war, which provided a link to Clavell's novel King Rat. In the miniseries, Tip Tok-Toh was changed from a mysterious, unofficial contact of the Bank of China to a good friend of Dunross who often appeared at parties.

Several subplots involving Ian Dunross' family were removed. In the novel, Dunross is married and his wife, eldest daughter, sister, and two brothers-in-law (his wife's brother and his sister's husband) are involved in significant subplots while his youngest daughter, son and a cousin also appear in minor roles. In the mini-series, Dunross is a widower and no family members are mentioned.

The bank runs depicted in the mini-series are significantly smaller in scope and significance than those depicted in the novel. Finally, in the novel, Struan's is bailed out by the fictional First Central Bank of New York. Although First Central and its vice-president, Dave Murtagh, a significant character in the novel, are mentioned in the mini-series, they play no role in bailing out the Noble House. The Bank of China assumes this role in return for Dunross arranging the release of captured Chinese police mole, Brian Kwok.

The romance between Dunross and Tcholok is not present in the book as in the novel Dunross is a much older man than the one portrayed by Brosnan.


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