Tail Gunner Joe (1977)

TV Movie  |  Not Rated  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  6 February 1977 (USA)
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A dramatization of the life of Joe McCarthy, the alcoholic senator from Wisconsin whose tactics of accusing prominent people of Communist sympathies were initially designed to give him a ... See full summary »



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Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Cunningham
Logan (as Heather Menzies)
Joseph Welch
Sen. Margaret Chase Smith
Mrs. DeCamp
Sen. Scott Lucas
Karen Carlson ...
Jean Kerr
Wisconsin Farmer
Charles Cioffi ...
Logan's Boss


A dramatization of the life of Joe McCarthy, the alcoholic senator from Wisconsin whose tactics of accusing prominent people of Communist sympathies were initially designed to give him a national power base when he later planned to run for President. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama


Not Rated




Release Date:

6 February 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La chasse aux sorcières  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Burgess Meredith, who plays the attorney Joseph Welch who finally stood up to Senator McCarthy, was himself named an unfriendly witness by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which nearly ruined his acting career. See more »


JOSEPH WELCH: Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream that you could be so reckless, and so cruel, as to do an injury to that lad. Have you no sense of decency, sir; at long last, have you left no sense of decency?
See more »

Crazy Credits

This program presents a dramatized interpretation of the life and times of Senator Joe McCarthy. Some of the names have been changed and the reporters and some of the persons interviewed have been created to serve as narrators of incidents based upon actual occurrences. See more »

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User Reviews

Good actors in a movie perpetuating political mythology
16 August 2009 | by (cramlington u.k.) – See all my reviews

A hard to find film which coasts on the still pervasive mythology of Senator Joe McCarthy as a political demon king. Boyle (as Joe) gives a compelling but historically inaccurate portrayal of the Wisconsin Senator, the caricature McCarthy many take as the real one. Meredith, as wily Army lawyer Joseph Welch, who outsmarted McCarthy at the Army hearings in 1954, is very good, as always.

In fact, McCarthy and Cohn were quite right in worrying about the appalling security situation in the Army, and the 1954 Army hearings became enmeshed in the smokescreen used by the Army to deflect the investigation away from their security failings, which the committee were investigating, by counter-charging that McCarthy and Cohn were trying to get favours for their staffer, David Schine, whilst in the service.

The film is self satisfied agenda driven polemic, based in the pervasive myths which have passed for the truth with many people for decades-that the "red scare" was essentially phony and McCarthy, HUAC etc were always blasting away at the wrong targets, being no more than lying, career ruining publicity hounds, who were trampling over the constitutional rights of startled innocent liberals, who were accused of being security risks/communists.

People who know little about the matter still feel confident in repeating misinformation on McCarthy and the "red scare" to this day-Clooney's Murrow hagiography is an example. The misinformation is pervasive, no wonder people have swallowed it. A recent obit of Budd Schulberg in the serious left wing UK newspaper "The Guardian" headlined that the Hollywood writer "named names" "to McCarthy"- perpetuating the lie that McCarthy "investigated" Hollywood as head of HUAC-the truth being that McCarthy was never even a member of HUAC and he had little interest in the politics of Hollywood types-his investigations were confined almost exclusively to arms of the US government.

The mythology about the "red scare" being baseless is now completely exploded by recently opened Soviet and US government documents, if anything McCarthy and co underestimated the sheer scale of Soviet and fellow traveller infiltration in the US, but decades of public misinformation about this period will be hard to correct.

One day maybe some really brave Hollywood soul will make a movie telling the truth about how many American men and women clandestinely aided the mass murderer Stalin, and worked to impose his vicious system of government on the western world, giving an accurate account maybe of Joe McCarthy's career-but I won't hold my breath. Till then, we have this mythical, drunken lying scoundrel of popular imagination so familiar in the media...."Tail gunner Joe".

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