Monday, November 11, 2013

Seven Days in May (1964)


“I'm suggesting, Mr. President, there's a military plot to take over the government. This may occur sometime this coming Sunday.”

            I am not a fan of learning about The Cold War. To me it was a big pissing match against America and Soviet Union and it was just crazy. I was born in 1987 so I was not alive to be around for all the scary threats and events so I guess I am not a very good judge of The Cold War. Occasionally I do watch some films that deal with the Cold War be it from that era or ones today that have their plot set during that time. I like the whole spying and backstabbing aspect (most likely stemming from my deep obsession with Alias). It also creeps me out thinking that there were or might have been people that would sell secrets to the enemy and plan to destroy the country. The reason I wanted to watch the 1964 film Seven Days in May was because Ava Gardner is in it. I was not too thrilled to read that it was about how America would be destroyed in seven days by someone inside the US military who was working for the Russians. But once the film got going I was hooked and sitting in the edge of my seat.
            Picketers march outside the White House over nuclear weapons and their ban. The picketers from each side- they should be banned and they should not be- begin to fight each other.
            Senators want a treaty with the Russians for disarmament. General James Scott (Burt Lancaster) does not want the treaty. He does not think the treaty will be signed by the Russians and that a treaty will do nothing.
            Colonel Henderson goes to the office in the Pentagon. He talks to a young soldier named Jiggs (Kirk Douglas). Henderson tells Jiggs that it seems the new recruits spend less time training defensively and spend more time training to seize. He is worried about this no else seems to be thinking like he is.
            President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) know that the people are angry with him because he trusts the Russians while they do not.
            Jiggs is invited to a party at the home of a wealthy politician. There he sees Eleanor Holbrook (Gardner). It is obvious they have known each other for years. Someone at the party tells Jiggs that the nation needs to be on alert especially in a Sunday when everything is closed and everyone is not on such high alert.
            The following day Gen. Scott persuades the president to come without the press on a Sunday to observe the army drills. In the Pentagon Jiggs finds a piece of paper with the word Ecom-Con written on it. After he hears and sees Scott’s speech at a convention, Jiggs goes to the president. He realizes what is written on the paper is something Henderson mentioned. Lyman thinks Scott is doing something top secret. Jiggs thinks Scott is planning to take over the government on a Sunday. Paul Girard (Martin Balsam), the president’s aid, does not think anything of the idea. But President Lyman believes in Jiggs. The president takes great caution with this new information. He gathers only the men he feels he can trust. Lyman makes Jiggs an informer to keep an eye on General Scott. When Jiggs returns to his office the following day Scott has him placed on a few days leave.
            A senator helping out the president in this matter tells Jiggs that he heard Eleanor may know more about Scott than his Scott’s own wife and that it would be useful to go and speak to Eleanor. Jiggs goes to see her. She does not want to talk about Scott she like him as friend. He takes some of her letters Scott had sent to her. She thinks Scott sent him to get the letters to clear his name in case of a scandal.
            The senator is send down to El Paso, Texas to inspect a military base. He hears from a local woman that there has been a base built up in the mountains but none of the men have come down.
            There is an admiral in the navy that was in on Scott’s plan. Paul had been sent to get a signed confession from the admiral. Unfortunately Paul’s plane crashes and he dies. All the evidence against the admiral and Scott is thought to be destroyed. Eventually it is discovered that Paul kept the signed confession folded up in his metal cigarette case and it survived the crash.
            The senator in El Paso was kept there against his will. He was able to get away and return to Washington. He tells the president about the base and how he was kept there against his will.
            The president has Scott and his joint chiefs to come for a meeting. Lyman tells them all that he wants their resignations that night. Scott refuses he wants to bring this issue to the public.
            Then American ambassador who was given the confession from the plane crash comes to the White House with the confession. Lyman has copies of the confession made and gives one to General Scott.
            My description of the plot does not do this film any justice. I enjoyed it from beginning to end it truly was suspenseful. So many things happen in this film it was hard to write down every single detail or take coherent notes. I tried to keep up the plot as best as I could.
            The cast was really good. Fredric March as President Jordan Lyman was a bad ass. I adore March but I think seeing him as this powerful man made me adore him even more. I liked all his scenes. It was hard to believe that Burt Lancaster could be the bad guy. He always seems so laid back and quiet. But then again as the saying goes “it’s always the quiet ones.” It was interesting to see Ava Gardner and Lancaster in the same film because they both became famous when they made The Killers together in 1946. They did not have any scenes together though. Gardner’s character was really nothing. Eleanor was supposed to be a notorious madam in DC who had Scott and Jiggs as some of her clients. At forty-two Gardner stilled looked beautiful. Kirk Douglas’s performance was good it was nothing too great.

            Seven Days in May is was suspenseful and interesting and different. This is a story that could never be done today because, well, for one The Cold War is over, and two, Americans do not rest on Sundays like they did back then. I liked the idea of this one general in the United States army had so much pull and power all under the nose of the President. No one knew what he was up to. That is what, to me, makes this film so creepy and suspenseful that this man so high up in the military was doing secretive sneaky things that would have hurt the country. Seven Days in May is a film I highly recommend seeing.