Throwback Thursday – Suddenly (1954)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

February 2010, and the very early days of the Professor’s blog. At this point, each day was dedicated to a different genre and Wednesday was Mystery Day. I actually really like Suddenly, but there was a slight problem, as you’ll see, when the company that distributed an early version of the film on DVD decided to colorize it…


Mystery Wednesday – Suddenly (1954) starring Frank Sinatra

sud1Ok, pop quiz, hotshots! When does Old Blue Eyes not have blue eyes? When the Hal Roach Studios gets ahold of a classic Frank Sinatra gangster movie and decides to colorize it. In doing so, they made the odd decision that Sinatra’s eyes should be brown. Of course, this was in the early days of colorization, so honestly there were a lot of colors that weren’t very well done, but this seemed a particularly egregious mistake. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer our noir in black and white, it’s also available both online and on disk in its original format..

For those who only remember Sinatra from later years when he was best known as a lounge singer or a member of the rat pack, Suddenly may come as quite a surprise. As he had already shown in the previous year’s From Here to Eternity, and would again in 1962 with The Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra was quite the dramatic actor.

In this very dark outing, Sinatra plays a hitman named John Baron who has been hired to kill the (unnamed) American president as he pulls in for a whistle-stop speech in the small California town of  Suddenly. (Yeah, the town is called Suddenly. Because “That’s the way things used to happen here.” Wanna make something of it?) Weaseling their way into the Benson home by pretending to be FBI agents, Sinatra and his henchmen set about getting ready to put their plan into action. Once the Bensons realise who Baron and his men really are, they attempt to talk them out of the killing, and then Pop Benson (played by James Gleason) tries to sabotage the proceedings. There’s also a confrontation with Sheriff Tod Shaw (played by Sterling Hayden) and a real Secret Service agent (Willis Bouchey). But nothing and no-one is going to stop a determined Baron from fulfilling his contract.

sud2The movie, with its true sense of desperation and inevitability is very much in the film noir genre, and Sinatra proves a very creditable lead as the odds mount against him but he remains determined to pull the trigger. not even losing one of his men in a gunfight with the police or the unexpected appearance of a television repairman who quickly becomes a hostage. In a review at the time of the film’s release, The Hollywood Reporter stated “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.”

Again, as with Mclintock, this is a case where the copyright simply wasn’t renewed after the first 28 year period, so the movie fell into the public domain. Some say that one reason the copyright wasn’t renewed was that Sinatra (and distributer United Artists) wanted to disassociate himself from it after rumors that Lee Harvey Oswald watched it shortly before he killed President Kennedy.

I wasn’t able to find an official trailer online for this film, but here’s one apparently created by youtube user publicdomaintheatre that gives a good sense of what the movie is like (though I’ve got to admit i don’t really like the overlay filter):

Ok, time for the skinny:

Title: Suddenly
Release Date: 1954
Running Time 75 min.
Black and White (though colorized versions are available – they’re not recommended, but they’re available.)
Stars: Frank Sinatra, James Gleason, Sterling Hayden, Nancy Gates
Director: Lewis Allen
Producer: Robert Bassler
Studio: United Artists

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the public domain past.



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