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

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Biography | Drama


Not Rated




Release Date:

6 February 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La chasse aux sorcières  »

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Production Co:

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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?
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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

Very good history
13 April 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A terrific piece showing the insanity that even a democracy can fall victim too, when the public's imagination and fear are stoked by outright lies and liars.

'Tail Gunner Joe' covers the story of Joseph McCarthy (called by President Truman, "that most lamentable mistake of the Almighty") and his skyrocket to national prominence with claims that the State Dept harbored known Communists. This, of course, during a time when America lived in dread fear of Communism and the term 'Commsymp' had been created as a means of destroying a person who couldn't be accurately labelled a 'Communist' so they were 'communist sympathizers' or commsymp's.

The horror of McCarthy's lust for power was beautifully captured in an exchange between McCarthy (Peter Boyle) and Army lawyer Welch (Burgess Meridith, who was himself labelled an enemy of America by McCarthy's gang back in the day), where Welch had hit McCarthy right between the eyes legally, and instead of trying to counter Welch, McCarthy instead names a random member of Welch's team and smears him as a communist. Knowing that just a person's name coming from McCarthy's mouth was a career death sentence, Welch gave his famous remark, "At long last senator - have you no shame?" McCarthy had destroyed a career just because someone made him feel uncomfortable.

It's a matter of some significance that McCarthy went into a career spiral himself not long after being brought down by Welch. Had McCarthy's beliefs and accusations been real, they would have been picked up by another person and brought to fruition - the proof that McCarthy was a liar and a political gangster is in the fact that not one of his list of "207 known names of communists" was ever brought to light, McCarthy never proved the existence of a single communist in the State Department, and he himself died of alcoholism 3 years after his fall from fame.

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