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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Suddenly (1954) - Star of the month... Frank Sinatra

John Baron (played by Sinatra) berates one of his hostages
'Suddenly' is a 1954 dramatic film noir thriller directed by Lewis Allen and starring Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. The film's screenplay was written by Richard Sale.

The film is set in the tranquil town of Suddenly. When the American President is scheduled to make a visit to the town while passing through on a train, three gangsters, led by John Baron (Sinatra) hold a family hostage in their home as part of an assassination attempt on the president.

Ironically at the start of a film, a police officer says: "Things happen so slow now, the town councillor is thinking of changing the name to Gradually". Little do they know what is about to happen in this small town.

Use of guns

Sterling Hayden as Todd
A key theme in the film is the use of guns. At the start of the film, Ellen (played the Gates) does not like guns as her husband was recently shot in the war. When Todd (played by Hayden) buys Ellen's son a cap gun, Ellen is not happy. Todd tells Ellen, "The boys gotta learn sometime that guns aren't necessarily bad... It depends on who uses them." It is ironic later in the film Ellen must make consider this statement when making a choice as to whether or not to pick up a gun in order to save her family.

Home invasion

Another key theme in the film is home invasion. The home is the one place where we expect to feel and be safe.  Being held captive removes the barrier between personal and public space, and bring the dangerous realities of the outside world inside our front door. The claustrophobia you would feel when being held hostage in your home I imagine would be one of the most terrifying ordeals a person could experience.

Did you know...

  • This film was shot in 4 weeks
  • Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly watched this film a few days before assassinating President Kennedy - one could consider if this film was a catalyst for the assassination, or whether the event may not have taken place had Oswald not seen this film
  • When 'Suddenly' was colorised for home video in 1986 by Hal Roach Studio, they coloured Frank Sinatra's famous blue eyes brown, causing much controversy. A second colourised version from 2009 by Legend Films, restores his eyes to it's natural blue color.
  • The film's copyright was not renewed and the film is now in the public domain - hence the myriad of budget home video releases and availability online

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