From Friday April 15, 2008
Directed by Lewis Allen, starring Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, Nancy Gates and James Gleason.
Sinatra is John Baron, a World War 2 veteran and hit man hired to assassinate the President during a train stop in the sleepy desert town of Suddenly, CA. In choosing a vantage point to shoot from, Baron and his goon-squad take Ellen Benson (Gates) and her son hostage in their home. Can Sheriff Tod Shaw (Hayden) contain the violence that Baron threatens to bring to his town?
The elusiveness of the American Dream, even to veterans who fought for it, is a theme that elevates SUDDENLY above many Film Noirs of the era. That said, there’s still plenty of tough guys in hats threatening people, as in Sinatra sneering “The thing about killing you or her or him is that I wouldn’t be getting paid for it and I don’t like giving anything away for free.” Rumor has it Lee Harvey Oswald watched SUDDENLY a few weeks before assassinating President Kennedy. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but Sinatra had SUDDENLY pulled from distribution along with THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE for many many years after November 1963.
It’ll finish Tuesday,
AFTER THOUGHT from 4.23.10
Frank Sinatra’s involvement in SUDDENLY is an example of what is missing from current star-driven movies. Fresh from his Supporting Actor Oscar for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, he might have sought out a vanity project allowing him to play a cool hero, enhancing his already cool public image. Instead, like Kirk Douglas in DETECTIVE STORY or Lancaster and Curtis in SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, Sinatra plays a man who is at best an anti-hero, and at worst an outright villain. In the days before actors were “brands,” these guys looked for roles that were as different from their public persona as they were from their previous roles. Frank sought out what should have been merely a B-movie because it offered him a chance to show range. Well done, Chairman.