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The true story behind THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE


FredCDobbs
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In the news in 1954 was a lot of information about 22 American soldiers who had been captured by the Communists during the Korean War. In 1954, they were then in China and they said they decided to defect and remain living among the Communists in China.

 

That information, and the Communist newsreels of those US soldiers telling their story, caused the American media, and a lot of US doctors and military people, to think that the Chinese had invented some kind of new brainwashing technique that might have involved both drugs and hypnotism.

 

This is the basic story behind THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, except that in the movie the brainwashed guy doesn't know that he has a secret assignment or that he is still being controlled by the Communists after returning back home in the USA. This part is fiction. The novel was published in 1959 and the movie released in 1962.

 

The bizarre scene early in the movie at the ladies garden club, with the Chinese Communists giving the lectures, along with the ladies, was supposed to represent some mysterious and unknown technique the Chinese had used to do the brainwashing.

 

Here are some propaganda newsreels about the 22 American soldiers:

 

 

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Those "garden club" dream sequences are STILL the most compelling scenes in the movie. The remake didn't feature this, and that was a shame.

 

 

I didn't know of the backstory, but it was easy to see why someone thought it would be a good foundation for what turned out to be a great movie.

 

 

I didn't know of the BOOK either. Something ELSE for me to hunt down. Thanks for that. I ENJOY that hunting!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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When they re-released it some years ago I saw Frank Sinatra talking about it before the movie. Apparently he owned a good piece of it and was able to give the go-ahead on letting it out once more. The story was that he had kept it off the screen because of the Kennedy assassination.

 

I'm convinced it's the best cold war movie ever made. It was amazingly good. I watched it all through again yesterday, though I can't tell you how many times I've seen it. It grabs you in the beginning and never lets go.

 

Pretty realistic, too; Frank's finger was broken in that fight with Henry Silva. He smacked it on a table and it cracked.

 

 

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>I still say that for John Frankenheimer political films, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE doesn't hold a candle to SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.

 

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY was inspired by the Edwin A. Walker story. He was a high US General that JFK and others were afraid might try to pull off a coup in the early 1960s, so Kennedy demoted him in 1961, and Walker resigned and began traveling the country giving speeches condemning Kennedy.

 

The SEVEN DAYS IN MAY book was published in 1962, while Kennedy was still alive. Walker wound up living in Dallas in 1963, where Kennedy was killed and where Walker was a member of the John Birch Society, and suspected by many to have been involved in a plot to kill Kennedy on Nov. 22. But he wasn't involved.

 

 

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The Garden Club scene I think is exceptionally well done, It seems many people don't think about it much except for the bizarre-ness of it. But it really is the crux to the control of the subjects.

 

Consider any night you've had a nightmare or strange dream, and you can see how bizarre elements play out in your head.

 

The term, Brainwashing, is a pretty lousy description, imho; it must have been a popular term in the press. It doesn't describe the ordeal that psychologists surmised. A combination of mental cruelty and physical torture to raise helplessness, futility, and paranoia, and psycho drugs that can bring about hallucinations. Then the captors can convince the subjects the pain will alleviate with certain repeated behaviors in reaction to certain triggers on the psyche. The subjects can manifest their will (or what they think is their will) on others, at the direction of the captors.

 

Raymond Shaw is portrayed to me almost as an automatic evil, however; maybe Lawrence Harvey wasn't a good choice..

 

I thought Liev Schreiber does a great job in the retelling of Raymond Shaw in the 2004 version,

 

Edited by: casablancalover2 on Jul 20, 2013 9:24 AM

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>When they re-released it some years ago I saw Frank Sinatra talking about it before the movie. Apparently he owned a good piece of it and was able to give the go-ahead on letting it out once more. The story was that he had kept it off the screen because of the Kennedy assassination.

 

 

Actually Dothery, or at least as far has most reliable sources to date have stated anyway, this idea that Sinatra had sometime to do with "The Manchurian Candidate" being pulled from distribution is a common misconception, as the film Sinatra WAS able to pull from distribution was the 1954 film "Suddenly", in which he plays an attempted assassin of the President, and a film which supposedly he held enough of the rights to make sure it wasn't shown for many years after the JFK assassination.

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Actually Dothery, or at least as far has most reliable sources to date have stated anyway, this idea that Sinatra had sometime to do with "The Manchurian Candidate" being pulled from distribution is a common misconception, as the film Sinatra WAS able to pull from distribution was the 1954 film "Suddenly", in which he plays an attempted assassin of the President, and a film which supposedly he held enough of the rights to make sure it wasn't shown for many years after the JFK assassination.

 

 

 

I don't know anything about "Suddenly" ... I saw it, but it didn't make much impression on me ... but there was definitely belief that the Manchurian Candidate had been pulled, and by Sinatra.

 

This Washington Post article sheds some light on what happened, but doesn't conclusively state the cause. George Axelrod says Sinatra pulled Manchurian Candidate off the screen, as one of the producers, along with Axelrod and John Frankenheimer.

 

"As for whose idea it was to withdraw the film, Axelrod says, 'We practically all picked up the phone at the same time.' But, he adds, 'The decision was Sinatra's with our agreement -- we were the tail of the kite, really.'"

 

There is disagreement from Richard Condon, although it appears to me it's not supported by facts. He seems to be speculating about why Sinatra kept it off the screen.

 

Then there's the money thing.

 

Sinatra wouldn't comment at the time on why it was pulled. He was the one who gave the go-ahead on re-releasing it, we know that at least.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/manchuriancandidatehinson.htm

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I place both "Manchurian" and "Seven days" on an equal footing in that they both convey the POSSIBILTY, albeit not the PROBABILITY of these things actually happening.

 

 

Both served as a "wake-up" call to American complatency and the willingness to defer to authority.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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The term, Brainwashing, is a pretty lousy description, imho; it must have been a popular term in the press. It doesn't describe the ordeal that psychologists surmised. A combination of mental cruelty and physical torture to raise helplessness, futility, and paranoia, and psycho drugs that can bring about hallucinations.

 

I remember seeing a newsreel (that's how long ago it was) of two priests being returned to the US after years of imprisoment in China, having been tortured physically and mentally. One was quite young, the other elderly. The young priest was babbling on, "confessing" about being guilty of counterfeiting and heaven knows what other strange economic crimes. He didn't even remember the Our Father any more. While he was going on, the older priest said "Oh, don't pay any attention to him. He doesn't know what he's talking about. They got to him with the torture." He himself had kept his sanity, God knows how. He was old. Maybe that was why he could withstand it. He'd seen a lot and lived through a lot in his life and maybe could hold out, knowing it wasn't going to be forever. Who knows. It's a horrible thing to lose your real self through systematic breaking down.

 

"Brainwashing" was a popular term at the time. It was used to describe anything like what happened to these men.

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The assassination of Jack Kennedy took on a whole new aspect after I heard Gore Vidal telling stories about himself and Jack on a nighttime talk show; probably Johnny Carson. It was a long time ago, but I remember it clearly.

 

He talked about having discussed the possibility with Jack that somebody would shoot him some day. He said, "If I'm sitting next to you they could miss you and hit me." Jack said, "No great loss," and they laughed. Jack also said, talking in general about assassination, "If they want to get you, they'll get you."

 

One day they were out on a boat and were talking about death. Vidal asked Jack if he had his choice, how he'd choose to die. He said Jack looked down in the water for a minute or so, and then said, "Gunshot. No question. You'd never know what hit you."

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And, according to Snopes anyway, pretty much what I said earlier to ya, eh Dothery?! ;)

 

Ya see, if Fred didn't have me on his ignore function for rather dubious reasons, then he'd have known he didn't need bother with that posting to ya here!

 

LOL

 

(...btw Dothery, if you've never watched "Suddenly", it's a very well done and suspenseful tale in which Sinatra leads a couple of would-be assassins of the President...I believe TCM has shown it a few times in the past)

 

Edited by: Dargo2 on Jul 20, 2013 4:57 PM

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>The Garden Club scene I think is exceptionally well done, It seems many people don't think about it much except for the bizarre-ness of it. But it really is the crux to the control of the subjects.

 

I remember seeing it for the first time in a theater in 1962, and it sure was bizarre! Of course, it makes a little more sense watching it half a dozen times over the next 50 years. :)

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(...btw Dothery, if you've never watched "Suddenly", it's a very well done and suspenseful tale in which Sinatra leads a couple of would-be assassins of the President...I believe TCM has shown it a few times in the past)

 

 

As I said, I did see "Suddenly," but wasn't greatly impressed by it. Perhaps because I always saw Frank Sinatra as a not-very-good actor. Mind you, I loved him; I was one of his original bobby-soxers and had 24 pictures of him on my bedroom wall. But I never saw him as a convincing dramatic actor, even in Manchurian Candidate. I thought he overacted most of the time. I'm a severe critic, particularly of my favorites in other areas. So sue me.

 

As far as the stories about the movie are concerned, I'm inclined to take quotes from the principals more seriously than theories by other people; they always abound in controversies of any kind. The stories will go on, and no one will ever be able to tell who was telling the truth or had it right.

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>As I said, I did see "Suddenly," but wasn't greatly impressed by it. Perhaps because I always saw Frank Sinatra as a not-very-good actor. Mind you, I loved him; I was one of his original bobby-soxers and had 24 pictures of him on my bedroom wall. But I never saw him as a convincing dramatic actor, even in Manchurian Candidate. I thought he overacted most of the time. I'm a severe critic, particularly of my favorites in other areas. So sue me.

 

 

Sorry Dothery. I thought you had stated earlier that you weren't familiar with the film "Suddenly".

 

Have to say though, that like yourself, for years I too was never..ahem.."bewitched" with his dramatic acting, as he never really..ahem.."got under my skin". However, the more I re-watch his movies, I seem have gained more of an appreciation for his work, though he'll certainly never be...ahem..."all the way" up there on my list of the greatest actors ever. ;)

 

(...and as you can most likely tell by my use of all the "ahems", all the puns used in the above were purely intended) LOL

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>The term, Brainwashing, is a pretty lousy description, imho; it must have been a popular term in the press. It doesn't describe the ordeal that psychologists surmised.

 

If I recall correctly, the term came about in the late 1940s or early 50s, and the term meant "washing" a brain free and clear of all "good" things someone learned while growing up in their own home country, and then having their brain re-programming with crazy foreign ideas. I remember this being described as the definition in some early newsreels and magazine articles.

 

It caught on in the press and was used for many years.

 

The same thing was probably done by Germany and Japan during WW II, but we won those wars and we got our men back, but in the early 1950s we had no way of going after China to get our men back.

 

Today, some people refer to "the Stockholm Syndrome". This term comes from a famous old bank robbery in Stockholm, during which the robbers held several bank employees captive in a vault for several days, and by the end of the ordeal, a couple of the young female employees had fallen in love with their captors, and some of the other captors also later spoke out on the side of the robbers.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome

 

Of course, the ancient Romans used the technique (and so did many other countries) to convince people to join their side of their attempts to conquer a country as a colony. The Roman technique often killed people who would not agree, and they allowed people who agreed to carry on their life as usual, while being subservient to Rome. This was similar to the British technique of allowing local kings, etc, to continue to be wealthy figure-head leaders in their own conquered countries, such as India. Such as the figure-head ruler of India, while a Colony of England, Such as played by Maria Ouspenskaya, The Maharani, in THE RAINS CAME.

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Have to say though, that like yourself, for years I too was never..ahem.."bewitched" with his dramatic acting, as he never really..ahem.."got under my skin". However, the more I re-watch his movies, I seem have gained more of an appreciation for his work, though he'll certainly never be...ahem..."all the way" up there on my list of the greatest actors ever. ;)

 

 

I think it's because I was besotted with him early on that I watched him so carefully in his later movies. I always felt he was out of his element in the ones where he wasn't playing himself. I never felt he had the range. Cary Grant, on the other hand, could play mean, sly, funny, cruel, anything he wanted and make you believe it. In fact, I was always a little afraid of him when he was playing a con man. He reminded me of Dirk Bogarde's charming menace in "Cast a Dark Shadow."

 

BTW, a godson of mine who was in the Marine Corps was stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms in the desert years ago, and was at Mass in Palm Springs on an Easter Sunday, when he turned at the sign of peace and found himself shaking hands with Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Dudley Moore.

 

The saddest moment in my professional music life was when I learned Sinatra had died and I would never see him come into a restaurant where I was playing and say, "'My Way,' key of F," and then sing it. All piano players had that dream.

 

Puns duly noted. They're pretty good, too.

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