Point of Order is compiled from TV footage of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the Army accused Senator McCarthy of improperly pressuring the Army for special privileges for ... See full summary »
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Documentary of the U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, who rose to prominence in the early 1950s by trumpeting allegations of a vast conspiracy by alleged Communist agents whom he claimed had ... See full summary »
Emile de Antonio
Roy M. Cohn,
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Point of Order is compiled from TV footage of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the Army accused Senator McCarthy of improperly pressuring the Army for special privileges for Private David Schine, formerly of McCarthy's investigative staff. McCarthy accused the Army of holding Schine hostage to keep him from searching for Communists in the Army. These hearings resulted in McCarthy's eventual censure for conduct unbecoming a senator. Written by
Apparently the DVD's as of 2012 are expensive to obtain. My used one ran 50 bucks. Anyway, this is a slice of history that riveted the nation in those early days of coast-to-coast TV. Reviewer Mike Rice does a good job of filling in the background, so there's no need to repeat it here.
The documentary is an edited version of the 1954 senate hearings. On the whole, editing is to film footage what the eraser is to penciled composition. In short, astute editing can be used to create many, sometimes incompatible, effects. Now, I have no reason to believe editing was used here to skew any particular effect, but its potential for mischief is well to keep in mind.
Maybe it's my seven decades of breathing, but I did have some trouble following the narrative, and could have used some helpful bridges (a voice-over or graphics) to flesh out better continuity, especially when the topic of the Hearings changes. But whatever the difficulty, the legal fencing between experts is fascinating to watch. Note, for example, how no one on either side responds with a simple yes or no.
Naturally, most viewers approach the material with their own political pre-conceptions. I have mine, still I want to venture several observations not rooted, I believe, in my politics. Firstly, I don't recall seeing clips of McCarthy smiling before; here he at times appears almost affable, contrary to his usual sour image. Secondly, Welch is one eloquent attorney who really knows how to think on his feet. The usual brief clips of "Have you no sense of decency" only hint at those abilities. Then too, he's so unprepossessing looking you don't expect him to dominate the way he sometimes does. Lastly, I'd really like to know who concocted that phony letter from Hoover, along with the cropped photo. I may have missed something, but I don't believe those questions are resolved in the footage.
Be that as it may, Point of Order is real life dramatics at its most fascinating and remains an important slice of post-war history, from which the junior senator from Wisconsin never really recovered.
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