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Henry S. Kesler
The tranquility of a small town is marred only by sheriff Tod Shaw's unsuccessful courtship of widow Ellen Benson, a pacifist who can't abide guns and those who use them. But violence descends on Ellen's household willy-nilly when the U.S. President passes through town... and slightly psycho hired assassin John Baron finds the Benson home ideal for an ambush. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
in fact some rather too well with unnecessary plot descriptions. My reactions were mixed, but SUDDENLY is worth seeing for three reasons:
1) Early Sinatra, of course. This is the kind of role he would not, to the best of my knowledge,repeat. My mother has long had a crush on him, an infatuation undimmed when she saw the film with me on P.B.S.
2) This movie is a study of the ideals and point of view of mid-1950s America. SUDDENLY was made after the Hollywood investigations of the later 1940s and whilst the McCarthy Paranoia was still going on. None of the other commentators have noted that item, but one should take note that the studio big-wigs had had the bejaysus scared out of them. American film was not only to refrain from social criticism, but was going to be a cheerleader for the essential rightness of the American Way of Life and character. SUDDENLY oozes this point of view, and I note with amused contempt the very last scene and what the two protagonists say to one another.
3) The film is a foreshadowing of what is to come in a country so sure of its social and political stability, quite accidental to be sure. Yes, the head bad guy is a nutter, but he is not the comfortable one-lone-nutter. This plot is highly organised and obviously well-financed. The unspoken They have turned to a pool of violence that is highly American -- organised crime -- to do the deed. Baron and his plotters are not ill-shaven Marxists or slanty-eyed types. They are as American as the Colt 45, and they are willing to do the unthinkable for enough money, and in the leader's case, the simple thrill of bagging someone.
I do not know whether SUDDENLY "rises" to the level of Film Noir, but it had some disturbing things for postWar Americans. Perhaps that is why it is not well known in the Sinatra gallery, and indeed I had never heard of it until about six years ago.
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