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Seven Days in May (1964)

Approved | | Drama, Thriller | March 1964 (Austria)
3:43 | Trailer

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United States military leaders plot to overthrow the President because he supports a nuclear disarmament treaty and they fear a Soviet sneak attack.


John Frankenheimer


Fletcher Knebel (novel), Charles W. Bailey II (novel) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Burt Lancaster ... Gen. James Mattoon Scott
Kirk Douglas ... Col. Martin 'Jiggs' Casey
Fredric March ... President Jordan Lyman
Ava Gardner ... Eleanor Holbrook
Edmond O'Brien ... Sen. Raymond Clark
Martin Balsam ... Paul Girard
Andrew Duggan ... Col. William 'Mutt' Henderson
Hugh Marlowe ... Harold McPherson
Whit Bissell ... Sen. Frederick Prentice
Helen Kleeb ... Esther Townsend
George Macready ... Christopher Todd
Richard Anderson ... Col. Murdock
Bart Burns ... Secret Service White House Chief Art Corwin


An unpopular U.S. President manages to get a nuclear disarmament treaty through the Senate, but finds that the nation is turning against him. Jiggs Casey, a Marine Colonel, finds evidence that General Scott, the wildly popular head of the Joint Chiefs and certain Presidential Candidate in 2 years is not planning to wait. Casey goes to the president with the information and a web of intrigue begins with each side unsure of who can be trusted. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"I'm suggesting Mr President, there's a military plot to take over the Government of these United States, next Sunday..." See more »


Drama | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

March 1964 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Seven Days in May See more »

Filming Locations:

Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office


$2,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Fifth of seven films that Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made together. See more »


While briefing General Scott on the previous All Red alert exercise, Colonel Casey refers to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as "Wright Field." The latter name was used only until 1947, at which time the base was renamed W-PAFB. See more »


Senator Raymond Clark: Jordy Boy, right now, short of a Confederate miracle, you're going to be walking in a parade with both your legs cut off. But I'm not going to make matters worse by getting drunk on the job.
See more »


Version of The Enemy Within (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

Vintage Rod Serling
22 March 2005 | by dencar_1See all my reviews

After REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, the screenplay for SEVEN DAYS IN MAY might be Rod Serling's finest effort. The drama of an attempted military takeover of the United States government, SEVEN DAYS is one of Serling's most tautly written scripts and was one he himself favored. It was wisely filmed in black and white with virtually no obligatory special effects--all of which works terrifically as the drama is structured on character and plot, not military pyrotechnics, Serling's usual formula for success.

While working at the Pentagon, Kirk Douglas (Colonel Jiggs Casey) accidentally uncovers a plot to stage a coup of the government masterminded by Gen. Matoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). He dutifully reports his discovery to the President (Fredrich March) who receives the news with skepticism, though he investigates and later finds it to be true. He assigs his old workhorse pals Marty Balsam and Edmund O'Brien to dig in and get to the bottom of matters which they do uncovering the players in the plot, some military, some not.

Ellie (Ava Gardner) is excellent as Lancaster's current girlfriend and the former lover of Douglas for whom she still pines. But Douglas must "use" her to acquire personal letters in her possession written by Lancaster which Douglas gives to the President in case he were to need them against the generals' denial of involvement. Interestingly, the President never uses the letters against Lancaster because of their highly personal and sensitive nature. Undoubtedly, Serling is showing us the liberal President is an honorable and decent man whose ideals, quite obviously, mirror Serling's politics.

Steely Edmund O'Brien is his usual reliable self as the President's right-hand man who gets thrown into the tank on a remote military base while investigating the conspiracy. John Houseman makes a cameo appearance as a conspiring naval admiral who is confronted with the irrefutable evidence and signs a confession.

The poignant confrontation between March and Lancaster in the oval office is perhaps the movie's finest scene. The President discloses his knowledge of the plot and Generall Scott not only admits to it, he unleashes his complete disgust at the President's liberal policies which he believes to be sending the country down the drain. It is a superb exchange over the constitution, its' integrity, and how a republic must abide by its precepts in order to survive. In all, vintage Rod Serling. After the general leaves, March reflects that it wasn't "any single man," that caused the attempt to take control of the government, but rather "an age" meaning the anxiety of the "nuclear age." Those who watched the Twilight Zone will recall numerous episodes about the insanity of the atomic era and the ramifications of turning weapons of mass destruction over to machines and systems. It was a theme that Serling often repeated.

Not to be outdone is the brief, but pointed confrontation between Lancaster and Douglas after the plot has been dismissed by the President. Scott knows that it was Jiggs who informed the President of the coup. He orders him to answer the question: "Do you know who Judas was?" "Yes," answers Douglas. "He was a man I admired until he disgraced his uniform."

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is a drama that one should study if he has even a slight interest in the work of Rod Serling. It is also a minor masterpiece of terse, point-counterpoint dialogue and worth studying if one has even the least interest in writing.

Trivia: If ever there was a man who killed himself with a four-pack-a-day habit who worked himself to death, it was Serling. Serling once called success the "bitch goddess."...One quotable from Serling referring to his writing work life when he was turning out scripts like factory sausages: "My diet consisted of coffee and fingernails."...Serling also wrote the screenplay for PLANET OF THE APES...I saw Rod Serling speak at Chabot College in Hayward, Ca., in 1969. He made clear his disdain for the current cinema darling at that time: EASY RIDER. Also, he admitted his worst effort was ASSAULT ON A QUEEN, the sleeping tablet of a film starring Frank Sinatra....But when asked his favorite screenplay, he said, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.

--Dennis Caracciolo

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