Review: ‘Seven Days in May’

A combination of competents has drawn from the novel of the same title a strikingly dramatic, realistic and provocatively topical film in Seven Days in May. Fletcher Knebel-Charles W. Bailey II's book detailed a military plot to overthrow the government of the United States 'in the not-too-distant future'.

A combination of competents has drawn from the novel of the same title a strikingly dramatic, realistic and provocatively topical film in Seven Days in May. Fletcher Knebel-Charles W. Bailey II’s book detailed a military plot to overthrow the government of the United States ‘in the not-too-distant future’.

What Seven Days in May undertakes is the proposition that extremists could reach the point where they’d try to uproot the present form of government. Such a man is Gen. James M. Scott, played with authority by Burt Lancaster. He’s a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, burning with patriotic fervor and seeking to ‘save’ the country from the perils of a just-signed nuclear pact with Russia. He enlists the support of fellow chiefs. Their plan of seizure is to be consummated in seven days in May.

The performances are excellent down the line, under the taut and penetrating directorial guidance of John Frankenheimer. Kirk Douglas is masterfully cool and matter of fact as Scott’s aide, utterly devoted until he comes to be suspicious. He goes to the president with information that has got to be checked out in those fateful seven days.

Edmond O’Brien is standout as a southern senator with an addiction to bourbon and an unfailing loyalty to the president. Ava Gardner works out well enough as the Washington matron who has had an affair with Lancaster and is amenable to a go with Douglas.

1964: Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (Edmond O’Brien), B&W Art Direction

Seven Days in May

Production

Seven Arts/Joel. Director John Frankenheimer; Producer Edward Lewis; Screenplay Rod Serling; Camera Ellsworth Fredricks; Editor Ferris Webster; Music Jerry Goldsmith; Art Director Cary Odell

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1964. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Burt Lancaster Kirk Douglas Fredric March Ava Gardner Edmond O'Brien Martin Balsam

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