Template:Infobox Film Suddenly (1954) is an American film noir directed by Lewis Allen with a screenplay written by Richard Sale. The drama features Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates, among others.
The tranquility of a small town is jarred when the U.S. President is scheduled to pass through and a hired assassin takes over the Benson home as a perfect location to ambush the president.
In post-war America the president of the United States of America is scheduled to journey through the fictional small town of Suddenly, California. Frank Sinatra plays ruthless, troubled assassin John Baron. He and his henchmen pretend to be FBI agents ordered to protect the president and talk their way into the Benson home. Sheriff Tod Shaw (Sterling Hayden) arrives with Dan Carney (Willis Bouchey), a Secret Service agent in charge of the president's security detail. When he does, Baron and his gangsters shoot Carney and a bullet fractures Shaw's arm.
Baron sends one of his two henchmen to double-check on the President's schedule but he is killed in a shootout with the police. Jud (James O'Hara), a television repairman, shows up at the house and also becomes a hostage. Pidge (Kim Charney) goes to his grandfather's (known as Pop) dresser to fetch some medication and notices a fully loaded revolver which he replaces with his toy cap gun.
Baron is confronted by the sheriff on the risks and meaning of killing the president and Baron's remaining henchman begins showing some reluctance.
The Gewehr 41 sniper rifle has been mounted on a metal table, which Jud hooks up to the 5000 volt plate output of the family television. Pop Benson (James Gleason) then "accidentally" spills a cup of water on the floor beneath the table. Although the hope is Baron will be shocked to death, his remaining henchman touches the table first and is electrocuted, firing the rifle repeatedly and attracting the attention of police at the train station as he struggles to free himself. Baron shoots Jud, disconnects the electrical hookup and aims the rifle as the president's train arrives at the station, but to his surprise, doesn't stop (having been alerted to the risk). Ellen Benson (Nancy Gates) shoots Baron in the chest and Shaw shoots him again. Baron's last words are, "Don't... please."
The film's copyright was not renewed and it fell into the public domain. Hence, prints became widely available from a number of discount/public domain distributors. The picture can also be downloaded and viewed or burned to DVD for free.
Film critic Carl Mazek makes the case that the "Machiavellian attitude" of John Baron (Frank Sinatra's character) links the picture with the brutal films noir of the 1950s like The Big Night (1951) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Moreover, the themes of violence, sense of claustrophobia and despair mark the film as completely amoral, and, as such, Suddenly is quite opposite of non-noir films like The Desperate Hours (1955).
- Frank Sinatra as John Baron
- Sterling Hayden as Sheriff Tod Shaw, Suddenly, California
- James Gleason as Peter "Pop" Benson
- Nancy Gates as Ellen Benson
- Kim Charney as Peter Benson III (Pidge)
- Paul Frees as Benny Conklin, Baron's Accomplice (also TV announcer voice)
- Christopher Dark as Bart Wheeler
- Willis Bouchey as Dan Carney, Chief Secret Service Agent
- Paul Wexler as Deputy Slim Adams, Suddenly Police Deptartment
- James O'Hara as Jud Kelly
- Kem Dibbs as Wilson
- Clark Howat as Haggerty
- Charles Smith as Bebop
New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther liked the direction of the film and the acting, writing, "Yet such is the role that Mr. Sinatra plays in Suddenly!, a taut little melodrama that... [it] shapes up as one of the slickest recent items in the minor movie league... we have several people to thank- particularly Richard Sale for a good script, which tells a straight story credibly, Mr. Allen for direction that makes both excitement and sense, Mr. Bassler for a production that gets the feel of a small town and the cast which includes Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates." Crowther especially liked Sinatra's performance. He wrote, "Mr. Sinatra deserves a special chunk of praise...In Suddenly! he proves it in a melodramatic tour de force."
The staff at Variety magazine also gave the film a good review and praised the acting. They wrote, "Thesp inserts plenty of menace into a psycho character, never too heavily done, and gets good backing from his costar, Sterling Hayden, as sheriff, in a less showy role but just as authoritatively handled. Lewis Allen's direction manages a smart piece where static treatment easily could have prevailed."
The Hollywood Reporter commented, "As an assassin in the piece, Sinatra superbly refutes the idea that the straight role potentialities in From Here to Eternity was one shot stuff. In Suddenly, the happy-go-lucky soldier of Eternity becomes one of the most repellent killers in American screen history."
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- Suddenly at DVD Beaver (includes images)
- Suddenly film download at the Internet Archive for free
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