Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seven Days in May (1964) Monologue

I think this monologue really captures the fear and uncertainty that was so much a part of the Cold War in America. It's delivered by Frederic March who plays the fictional American President Jordan Lyman in Seven Days in May (1964). This film has a great cast of stars but it's March's incredible performance that carries the film.

The enemy's an age. A nuclear age. It happened to kill man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, a sickness of frustration, a feeling of impotence, helpessness, weakness. And from this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white and blue. Every now and then, a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration.


  1. 1964 was the year LBJ and Goldwater squared off and America had major reaction to Goldwater's comment that he would consider using nuclear weapons. Goldwater was considered an extremist and was severely trounced in the election.

    Vietnam was ramping up, China tested it's first atomic bomb, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, From Russia With Love was a smash hit with Goldfinger soon to follow and Hello Dolly was starting up.

    In 1964 the US had less Cold War fears than in the 1950s and the baby boomer generation was beginning to grow their hair and was beginning to listen to alternative views of life, war and politics.

    Seven Days In May offered an alternate view of US military and politics rarely seen - and it was an acceptable movie to the growing legions of youthful activists.

  2. Racquelle, it's an eloquent speech, but I wonder whether we're better off now when so many people aren't even looking for a champion, but distrust each other so much that they're only out to save themselves.

    Seven Days in May, of couse, is a terrific film with Burt Lancaster in one of his best villain roles as a would-be champion and John Frankenheimer directing in top form.

  3. ah one of my fave films of the 60's... well written, brilliantly acted and directed and with great production design. I agree with you, Fredric March gave a most incredible performance. His final confrontation with Burt Lancaster is a living intensity! I've seen this film at least 5 or 6 times and that scene always gets me on the edge of my seat! and Burt is simply chilling! I think major kudos has to go to Kirk Douglas as well for his realistic and restrained portrayal. For someone primarily known for in your face gut wrenching intensity, his work in that film shows he was fully capable of hanging back and letting others chew the scenery if that's what was best for the film. To me this is a good example of a story drawing you right in from the start and just building from there. Frankenheimer made a handful of really great films and this si certainly on of them.
    i think i'm gonna have to break this one out over the weekend, it's been a while now!

    btw, if you havent seen Birdman of Alcatraz or the Train i highly recommend them as essential Burt/Frankenheimer viewing!

  4. Hi Raquelle,

    I'm delighted you had the chance to see this and enjoyed it as much as I did. It was an exellent movie with a great cast, and March was a real standout. He is an amazing actor.

    Best wishes,

  5. You know I absolutely adore Fredric March, but I haven't had the chance to see this film yet! I'm dying to, though-- didn't Rod Serling write it?

  6. Well spoken! I think that speech also say something about our times. As a European I think the US is driven very much by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of different views.
    In 1964 when this film was made the US had just lost one of its most prolific presidents. I believe the US lost its virginity with those shots in Dallas that bright November day. Things would never go back to normal again.

  7. I've always loved this film. It's one of a number of frightening thrillers that came out in the early to mid-Sixties, including The Manchurian Candidate, Fail-Safe, Dr. Strangelove (okay, it's a comedy, but still frightening), and several others). It was part of an environment of fear that had existed in the United States since the end of World War II. Fear of nuclear annihilation was very real at the time, and it did manifest itself in the pop culture of that time.

    I have to agree with Jonas. I think to a degree the United States is driven by fear, and I think it was truer in the Sixties than it is now. I do have to disagree with Jonas on one thing though. I think we lost our innocence when we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 22 November, 1963 was simply the awful morning after, when we realised we had lost that innocence!

  8. heheh, i didnt bother to wait until the weekend.
    thanks for inspiring me to re-watch a truly great picture Quelle!
    as i said before, it had been a while ;)

    to answer Kate's question, Rod Serling did indeed write the screenplay but not the original novel.

  9. Thank you everyone for your comments. I think the depiction of the Cold War is very interesting in classic films. I would love to do a series on it but I feel I would need more information on how the Cold War affected American culture. Anyone have a book recommendation for my research?

  10. "Radical Hollywood"
    Paul Buhle/Dave Wagner
    NY: The New Press, 2002

    "Hide in Plain Sight: The Hollywood Blacklistees in Film and Television, 1950-2002"
    Paul Buhle/Dave Wagner
    NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003

    "The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties"
    J. Hoberman
    NY: The New Press 2003

    "Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War" by Larry May
    Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1989

    "Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten"
    by Edward Dmytryk
    Carbondale, IL: SIU Press, 1995

    "Naming Names: The Social Costs of McCarthyism" by Victor Navansky
    NY: The Viking Press, 1980

  11. To Tom's list I might add:

    Dr. Strangelove's America: society and culture in the atomic age by Margot A. Henriksen

    Atomic Bomb Cinema by Jerome F. Shapiro

    Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety About the Atom

    I do think it would be a great series, especially as there are a lot of us who remember the Cold War all too well!

  12. This has been a great discussion to your fine post. I'm sure we'll all look forward to your follow-up on this topic.

  13. Purchased this the other day from BN as Manchurian Candidate is a favorite of mine,as well as, Kirk Douglas. Fail Safe, The Best Man(1964) and State of The Union are also films I enjoy. Dr.Strangelove...of course is superb. If it has Slim Pickens and Sterling Hayden I'm watching.

    Anyway... thanks for the time and glad to see another classic blog. PS..found this via Mercurie's site.

  14. This was a great movie. I think that Kirk Douglas was outstanding so was March.Burt Lancaster was great too and don't forget my favorite Ava.


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