The story of the fierce and corrosive competition that exists in the executive branch of Ramsey & Co., a New York industrial colossus headed by Walter Ramsey, its cold, designing and ruthless chief. It is the saga, too, of Bill Briggs, his longtime second in command, who is swayed by human as well as technological values. And, it is the case of Fred Staples, a comparatively youthful industrial engineer brought in by Ramsey to succeed Briggs. The younger man's views and sensitivities are essentially the same as Briggs'. People are not merely units, they feel. But it is Ramsey's calculated pattern not to fire his aging aide but to create such untenable positions that he will be forced to resign. Written by
Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling that ran on "Kraft Television Theatre" (1947) in January 1955. It featured several of the same actors that would appear in the movie, including Everett Sloane and Ed Begley. However the part of Fred Staples, the lead, was originated by Richard Kiley. Begley's character, Bill Briggs, was called Andy Sloane in the original version. Serling's teleplay won him the first of his six Emmy Awards. See more »
Staples' secretary calls him 'Mr. Briggs' at the end of one scene. It is just possible that she was meant to be flustered. See more »
Name your terms. All terms are negotiable.
I don't think so. Not mine.
All right. I'd just as soon not waste any time doing trading. As of now, your salary is doubled. Your stock option is doubled right down the line. Your expense account is whatever you make it. Add to that a new title, vice president.
I want a lot more than that. You're not going to take me on as just another vice president you can push around. You take me as someone who hates you down to the bare nerve. Nothing in the world ...
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"I didn't hire you to like me!" shouts Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane) at Fred Staples (Van Heflin) at the climax of Rod Serling's "Patterns." Those seven words pretty much sum up the whole film.
Ramsey knows no one likes him, but he couldn't care less. He'd rather play to win than play nice. He knows that it's time for nice old boy Bill Briggs (Ed Begley) to go and he's found just the man to take his place in Staples, who'd been managing his plant in Ohio. The only problem is that Staples genuinely likes Briggs and detests Ramsey.
You'll hate Walter Ramsey too, but you'll see that he built his company not merely through intimidation but by being an excellent judge of character. He recognizes that Staples, who seems clueless when it comes to office politics, is immensely talented and actually very ambitious. Ramsey sees that the fact Staples will never like him is really an asset. He doesn't want a groveling yes-man, he needs someone who will fight him.
Of course Briggs also fights with Ramsey, but his punches never land. His arguments are easily brushed aside and only serve to make Ramsey even angrier. Briggs refuses to accept that he's washed up, which reflects either his stubborn nature or his lack of professional vision. In any case, it's a fatal flaw and Ramsey mercilessly carves him up.
This is painful to watch and all your sympathy is with Briggs, but from a business perspective you have to accept that Ramsey is right. Gradually, Staples sees this as well and that Ramsey understands him better than he understands himself. At the end, Fred Staples hates Walter Ramsey more than ever but he can't resist his boss' challenge. And Ramsey knows that though the price was high, he finally has the man he wants as his vice president.
"Patterns" offers many solid performances, especially Sloane's and Heflin's. Ed Begley is hardly my image of a corporate executive (he was much more credible as the cop turned crook in "Odds Against Tomorrow"), but he certainly looks the part of a sick man. Watching Beatrice Straight I couldn't help but recall her role in "Network" and wonder if her Nancy Staples would suffer the same fate in the 1970s. Straight had a rare combination of intelligence and beauty, and it's a shame she made so few films.
"Patterns" is quick (about 85 minutes) because it has to be. Were it any longer Ramsey's bullying of Briggs would be unbearable and the film's real point would be lost.
Today we flatter ourselves when we think that characters like Ramsey went out with the Edsel. It's a different world, but it's still a cruel one. Working women are no longer called "girls" and some may have moved into executive suites, but the corporation imperatives are the same as they were in 1956: know your people, know your product, make money, cut your losses.
None of this was lost on Walter Ramsey. We may hate him, but as much as we hate to admit it, we still need him. That's not the way we like it but that's the way it is.
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