Seven Days In May is an odd movie to dub pulp fiction. The novel on which it was based was pretty darn pulpy but the film had an A-List cast, prestige director and first rate screenwriter. I’m trotting it out today because it’s a personal favorite of mine; every time I stumble into it on cable, I watch it as if it were the first time. In short, it’s a thrilling thriller.
This tale of an aborted military coup against a dovish nuke cutting President (Fredric March) was inspired by the massive falling out between JFK and his generals after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Kennedy read the book and told the author that General Scott reminded him of Gen. Curtis LeMay. Mercifully for the country, LeMay was no Burt Lancaster, and his foray into politics as George Wallace’s running mate in 1968 was an embarrassment for all concerned.
Here’s the trailer:
2 thoughts on “Pulp Fiction Thursday: Seven Days In May”
An excellent book and movie, and all too possible with clowns like LeMay around (and MacArthur before him and Ollie North after him).
Kennedy faced a real problem with the military, even before the Bay of Pigs. The joint chiefs loathed him as a Harvard liberal right from the start, and the enmity between the military and Kennedy was apparent to all.
Part of this certainly resulted from the fact that most of the top generals had been under Eisenhower’s command during WWII and Eisenhower, when President, simply let them go about their business without much interference. As a consequence, Kennedy walked into a right-wing, Bircher-influenced snake pit. This was never more apparent than during the October missile crisis, when every one of the joint chiefs (and virtually all of Kennedy’s staff) pressured Kennedy to authorize an invasion of Cuba or to create circumstances which would lead to war, which would have been disastrous, as the military’s intelligence was grossly inadequate. They’d picked up the intermediate range missiles, but had completely missed earlier shipments of tactical nukes (which the Soviets intended to use on the beaches if the U.S. invaded) and a few nuclear-powered drones built from MiG-17s, one of which was aimed at Guantanamo. (Michael Dobbs’ excellentOne Minute to Midnight details those bits and the extraordinary attempts by the military to start a war).
The DVD of the film has excellent commentary by Frankenheimer, about his favorite long-focus techniques, the initial protest scene (which was apparently real enough in appearance that it prompted some volunteers to join in, fists swinging) and the conundrum faced by the producers when they’d shot most of the film, only to realize that the seventh day fell on a Sunday, and the Preakness was always run on Saturday.
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