Classic Television Thursday #021 – A Day Called X (1957)

x1The year is 1957, the location is Portland, Oregon, and Soviet bombers had been spotted just to the north, indicating that a nuclear attack may soon be underway.

That’s the setup for CBS television’s production A Day Called X which details the plans and preparedness of the city in anticipation of just such an attack and how the city would respond, attempting to evacuate its citizens and protect those who remain.

What sets this TV show apart from other “What would Americans do in this situation?” shows is the fact that not only was it filmed on the streets of Portland – making it today a great historical piece in that it contains some very interesting footage of what the city looked like at the time – but also, apart from narrator Glenn Ford, everyone who appears onscreen is an actual Portland resident. Even Portland’s mayor at the time, Terry Schrunk, makes an appearance.

The telefilm is so realistic that the producers actually superimposed the words “An attack is not taking place” over many of the scenes. Another interesting aspect is that the show stops just short of showing the actual bombing, cutting back to Ford at the point where the bombers are just overhead (a point emphasized by a quite ominous overhead shot) and the star stating “What happened after that moment we’ll leave you to contemplate.”

So, whether you approach it as a piece of historical propaganda from the cold war era, a look back at the city iteself at a moment frozen in time, or simply as an entertaining piece of television history, A Day Called X has quite a bit to offer.






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