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Eisenhower-era noir


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  • 3 months later...

I don't know.  His administration seemed focus on getting servicemen back to work and he attacked the "military industrial complex" in both of his inauguration speeches.  For a lad raised in the Pentagon, home of Military Industrialism, I think it 's probably a case of "familiarity breeds contempt."  And we all know there are tons of movies about people trying to disempower others!


There are three curiosity films for me.  THE BEST MAN (1960 with Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson, illustrating one of the most ugly political campaigns imaginable)...


THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, with the book publishing in 1959, film first released in 1962...


But my favorite curiosity-film is Frank Sinatra's SUDDENLY (1954; Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates...)


Which president was the author's thought-of target? 


Was the film's story written pre-1951?  That would mean "Truman" and the paymasters were probably the Hearst-like cuddlers of soon-to-be-disgraced General MacArthur. 


But Ike was already a known candidate in 1950.  ("Yeah?  But for which side?!!"  Fair question!  He ends up with the GOP paymasters, but his administration passed a lot of democratic budgets for even more civilian projects while he was slicing and dicing the Pentagon's favorite rebate-scams.)


If the story was authored in 1952, then "Ike" could have easily been considered The Target On The Train.  And if the story was authored after his election, then this could have been a warning about the money-men losing out from their Military Industrial Complex holdings.  It didn't take Ike long before those cuts started occurring, after all. 


The film was released in Sept 1954.  Since it was low-budget, I assume the filming was done in Spring, 1954 and rushed off to recover its budget ASAP - I don't think it would have sat on a shelf too long.  BUT... if this was filmed earlier - say, in the Truman Administration - then "sitting on the shelf" might have been some producer's notion to not cause a stir with Trumanites.


For me, time of the filming and any delay in release day makes this a spine-tingling prospect.  And if it was an immediate film-and-release movie?  Then was there an ax-grinding for Ike?  Or was the author trying to warn Ike that maybe he'd heard this discussion in some truckstop? 


Rod Serling, by the way, formally authored SEVEN DAYS IN MAY in 1962 but there's a good chance this was an Eisenhower Administration tale of his, only finally put to paper a few years later.  It's hard to envision Pentagon Brass accusing an Ike-like president of being "naive" about war or enemies, but I also see no resemblance that Fredric March has for any real president.  He was clearly a fictional face but I've wondered who Rod Serling considered as he fleshed this tale out.

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One other point... TV took a LOT of noir tales and turned them in to weekly episodes instead of letting them wallow in B-Movie productions. 


For better or worse...

That's a valid point, Ollie. Studios tended to transfer their B-movie production model on to television. 

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I'm plying thru more Old Radio Shows of late, and always marveled at some of their crispness.  However, these were written by folks with 20 years of episodic experience so late '40s and '50s crime thrillers' 'good quality' shouldn't be surprising to me.


And when I see crisply written and acted '50s TV crime dramas, I am reminded that it's likely those writers too had many years, maybe decades of writing, production rquirements, etc.  Or at least they were teaching the younger crews 'all the ropes' (albeit at a newbie's much lower budget level).


If this is true, perhaps we ended up with films that were effectively "the cherry-picked best of available stories or scripts". 


The original TWILIGHT ZONE reminds me of this, because there seem to be so many now-clichéd plots delivered in that series - in just the first 3 seasons alone - with an efficient excellence that hasn't been matched - not in quality, not in quantity. 


Most of those writers had plenty of radio sci-fi and mystery writing before those episodes were delivered - men on alien worlds, men struggling against each other as the Ultimate Enemy... man discovers he's alone on this or some other planet... a man getting his favorite wish, only to discover it comes with a far greater cost than just his dreams.

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