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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Seven Days in May

Last night I watched "Seven Days in May". The film stands up very well. I was especially impressed with the acting and the script by Rod Serling.

The film is based on the novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II and published in 1962. The author, Knebel, got the idea for the book after interviewing the Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay. At the time LeMay had spoken to some of his staff about removing the President from power.

In the film the leader of the plot, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, is compared to General Edwin A. Walker.

It is believed that Knebel got the idea for the book after a conversation with President Kennedy. It was Knebel's first novel. According to John Frankenheimer, the director, Pierre Salinger conveyed to him that JFK wanted the film be made, "these were the days of General Walker" and, though the Pentagon did not want the film made, the President would conveniently arrange to visit Hyannis Port for a weekend when the film needed to shoot outside the White House.

The main figure behind the film was not John Frankenheimer but Kirk Douglas and his film company, Joel Productions. It was Douglas who broke the blacklist with producing Spartacus in 1960. Joe McCarthy along with General Walker gets a mention in the film.

In the book, the secret United States Army combat unit created and controlled by Scott's conspiracy is based in Texas near Fort Bliss. However, in the film the venue is changed to San Diego. I wonder why?

Rod Serling is an interesting choice to write the script. He had very left-wing views and was very frustrated by the amount of political censorship he suffered. In 1959, he began producing The Twilight Zone. He stated in an interview that the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike his earlier work on television. In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context.

Serling died of a heart-attack at the age of 50.

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