The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

126 mins | Drama | 24 October 1962

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HISTORY

The 11 Jan 1959 NYT reported that major and independent film companies were reading galley proofs of Richard Condon’s 1959 novel, The Manchurian Candidate, three months prior to its publication. In the 16 May 1961 LAT, Condon told syndicated columnist Art Buchwald that the story was inspired by Conditioned Reflex Therapy (1949), written by psychologist Andrew Salter. Condon believed advertisers and politicians might be able to use the treatment as mind control, eliciting reactions from people using “trigger words.” A “trained brainwasher” could easily pervert the power of this kind of therapy. The author also lamented the fact that many refused to believe brainwashing was possible.
       According to the 13 Mar 1960 NYT, director John Frankenheimer and writer George Axelrod purchased motion picture rights to The Manchurian Candidate for approximately $50,000. The 22 Jun 1962 LAT later explained that Axelrod’s agent, Irving Lazar, took a two-year option on the book, allowing the writer to develop his screenplay. A news item in the 24 Oct 1962 Var noted that Frankenheimer and Axelrod gave the randomly chosen name, Benjamin K. Arthur, to their fictional President of the United States, supposedly unaware of its resemblance to “Chester A. Arthur,” who held the office in the late nineteenth century.
       On 12 Oct 1960, columnist Hedda Hopper announced actor Robert Wagner for the role of “Raymond Shaw” in the LAT. More than a year later, the 24 May 1961 Var reported that Frankenheimer and Axelrod, doing business as Collage Productions, were considering ... More Less

The 11 Jan 1959 NYT reported that major and independent film companies were reading galley proofs of Richard Condon’s 1959 novel, The Manchurian Candidate, three months prior to its publication. In the 16 May 1961 LAT, Condon told syndicated columnist Art Buchwald that the story was inspired by Conditioned Reflex Therapy (1949), written by psychologist Andrew Salter. Condon believed advertisers and politicians might be able to use the treatment as mind control, eliciting reactions from people using “trigger words.” A “trained brainwasher” could easily pervert the power of this kind of therapy. The author also lamented the fact that many refused to believe brainwashing was possible.
       According to the 13 Mar 1960 NYT, director John Frankenheimer and writer George Axelrod purchased motion picture rights to The Manchurian Candidate for approximately $50,000. The 22 Jun 1962 LAT later explained that Axelrod’s agent, Irving Lazar, took a two-year option on the book, allowing the writer to develop his screenplay. A news item in the 24 Oct 1962 Var noted that Frankenheimer and Axelrod gave the randomly chosen name, Benjamin K. Arthur, to their fictional President of the United States, supposedly unaware of its resemblance to “Chester A. Arthur,” who held the office in the late nineteenth century.
       On 12 Oct 1960, columnist Hedda Hopper announced actor Robert Wagner for the role of “Raymond Shaw” in the LAT. More than a year later, the 24 May 1961 Var reported that Frankenheimer and Axelrod, doing business as Collage Productions, were considering Tony Curtis for the role, and Frank Sinatra as “Bennett Marco.” Although Hopper claimed in her 29 Mar 1961 LAT column that Sinatra’s Essex Productions purchased film rights from Collage, Var stated that the parties could not agree on a price. The Manchurian Candidate was Collage’s first production. Other casting announcements included Claire Griswold in the 2 Jan 1962 LAT, Mike Masters in the 2 Feb 1962 LAT, Lou Krugg, Tom Harris, and Marquita Moll in the 16 Mar 1962 LAT, and Lena Horne in the 1 Mar 1962 Los Angeles Sentinel. None received onscreen credit, according to listings at the time of release. Griswold was replaced by Janet Leigh, and Horne, who was to play a psychiatrist, did not appear in the film. However, Axelrod and Frankenheimer included several African Americans among the cast, hoping to represent the “ever-widening role of the Negro in American life,” as stated in the 14 Feb 1962 Var. The 8 Jun 1962 NYT reported that Sinatra offered a part to Jackie Gleason, but the actor-comedian was reportedly in need of rest after completing his third picture that year.
       The 16 Dec 1961 NYT noted that Frankenheimer had recently scouted locations in New York City. Chosen sites included Madison Square Garden, Central Park Lake, and an apartment house on Riverside Drive. According to production charts in the 7 Feb 1962 Var, principal photography began 22 Jan 1962 at Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood, CA. The 2 Feb 1962 LAT reported the start of location shooting at Madison Square Garden the following week. The 11 Feb 1962 NYT noted that two weeks of interior scenes had already been filmed at Goldwyn, saving the company two and one half days of its forty-five day schedule, and possibly reducing the $2.5 million budget. While on location at Madison Square Garden, Axelrod revealed the character “Senator John Iselin” to be modeled on anti-communist demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy. Frankenheimer later told the 22 Jun 1962 LAT that filming was completed five days ahead of schedule, due in part to Sinatra’s uncharacteristic cooperation with the director.
       The 21 Feb 1962 Var reported that the picture’s distributor, United Artists, had tentative plans for a promotional featurette to accompany the television broadcast of Sinatra’s 1956 film, Johnny Concho (see entry). According to the 5 Sep 1962 Var, a sneak preview was held the following week in New York City, while Axelrod, Frankenheimer, and Janet Leigh were in town. The film had already been screened at the White House for President John F. Kennedy.
       The Manchurian Candidate opened 24 Oct 1962 in New York City, and on 7 Nov 1962 in Los Angeles, CA, to mixed reviews. While the 25 Oct 1962 NYT considered the film a failure as both a satire and a thriller, the 28 Oct 1962 LAT praised it as exceptional. Box office receipts for greater New York City totaled $1,029,974 within five weeks of opening, according to the 5 Dec 1962 Var.
       The 1 Aug 1962 Var noted that a soundtrack album would be released through Sinatra’s Reprise Records, featuring actress Leslie Parrish on the cover. A rendition of the theme song, recorded by the Les Baxter Orchestra, was chosen as one of the top songs of the week in the 31 Oct 1962 Var.
       The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury) and Best Film Editing (Ferris Webster and Carl Mahakian). Although she did not win the Oscar, Lansbury received Golden Globe and National Board of Review awards for her performance. The film and its crew were also nominated for awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA). On 3 Apr 1963, NYT announced that The Manchurian Candidated was voted best film of the year in the annual FD poll of American critics and columnists.
       Despite such accolades, actor Laurence Harvey complained to the 10 Nov 1962 LAT that few critics understood the “what the picture was about.” In his article for the 21 Oct 1962 NYT, George Axelrod explained that the story addressed Senator McCarthy’s “brain-washing of an entire nation,” and the continued subtle brainwashing of the American people through mass media. Axelrod added that he was very proud of the finished product. On 28 Nov 1962, Var reported that the American Legion of Inglewood, CA, took offense to the film’s portrayal of McCarthy, and demanded an investigation of the motion picture industry from either the House Committee on Un-American Activities or the Senate Internal Securities Sub-Committee. The 19 Dec 1962 Var revealed that French critics were concerned by the film’s negative portrayal of American society, believing it could undermine the U.S. in its ideological battle against communism, and leave Western Europe vulnerable to aggression from Eastern Bloc nations.
       Just one year later, President Kennedy was assassinated on 22 Nov 1963 in Dallas, TX. Soon afterward, Richard Condon was asked by a British reporter if he thought The Manchurian Candidate may have influenced the assassin. Condon repeated his answer in 27 Dec 1962 LAT, admitting that he, along with other Americans, contributed to the assassin’s attitude. He added that observing people who share the mentality of the assassin compelled him to write the novel. He described Americans as “violent and unstable” people, conditioned to believe that “civilized, thoughtful conduct” is no longer possible for them.
       Location scenes filmed in and around Los Angeles and New York City. In 2004, Paramount Pictures released another film based on Richard Condon's novel. Also entitled The Manchurian Candidate , the picture was directed by Jonathan Demme and starred Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Sentinel
1 Mar 1962
Section C, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 1960
Section A, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1961
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
16 May 1961
Section A, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jan 1962
Section A, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1962
Section C, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
2 Feb 1962
Section A, p. 11, 13.
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 1962
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1962
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
28 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1962
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1962
Section B, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1962
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
12 Apr 1963
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1963
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
11 Jan 1959
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
13 Mar 1960
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
16 Dec 1961
p. 20.
New York Times
11 Feb 1962
p. 115.
New York Times
27 Apr 1962
p. 27.
New York Times
21 Oct 1962
p. 135.
New York Times
24 Oct 1962
p. 42.
New York Times
25 Oct 1962
p. 48.
New York Times
4 Feb 1963
p. 5.
New York Times
26 Feb 1963
p. 9.
New York Times
3 Apr 1963
p. 42.
Variety
24 May 1961
p. 7, 16.
Variety
7 Feb 1962
p. 24, 26.
Variety
14 Feb 1962
p. 7.
Variety
21 Feb 1962
p. 18.
Variety
1 Aug 1962.
---
Variety
5 Sep 1962
p. 4.
Variety
12 Sep 1962
p. 62.
Variety
10 Oct 1962
p. 69.
Variety
24 Oct 1962
p. 14.
Variety
31 Oct 1962
p. 40.
Variety
28 Nov 1962
p. 2.
Variety
5 Dec 1962
p. 16.
Variety
19 Dec 1962
p. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Scr supv
Dial coach
Stills
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (New York, 1959).
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 October 1962
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 October 1962
Los Angeles opening: 7 November 1962
Production Date:
22 January--early March 1962
Copyright Claimant:
M. C. Productions
Copyright Date:
2 November 1962
Copyright Number:
LP23300
Duration(in mins):
126
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

During the Korean War, members of a U. S. Army patrol are captured and taken to Manchuria by Chinese Communists who brainwash them into believing that Raymond Shaw, a mother-dominated sergeant, has led a successful action against the Communists. Back in the United States, Raymond is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on the strength of his comrades' testimony. Actually he is now a puppet of the Communists; at the sight of a Queen of Diamonds, his mind is triggered into obeying any instruction, retaining no knowledge of his subsequent actions. Meanwhile, another member of the patrol, Bennett Marco, begins having nightmares in which he vaguely recalls what happened in Korea. Suspicious, he starts an investigation and discovers Raymond's strange reaction to the playing card. Unknown to Raymond, the key Communist behind the U. S. operation is his mother, a politically ambitious woman who plans to have her son shoot the presidential nominee during a rally at Madison Square Garden, thus paving the way for her husband, Senator Iselin, the vice-presidential nominee, to take control of the government. As part of the Communist master plan, she uses the cards to force Raymond into killing both his wife, Jocie, and his father-in-law, Senator Jordan, a crusading liberal and his mother's chief political enemy. On the night of the rally, Marco confronts Raymond with a handful of the cards and tries to convince him that he no longer has control of his own mind, but Raymond follows his mother's instructions and takes a rifle to a deserted projection booth. At the last moment, however, the hypnotic spell breaks and he kills his mother and stepfather and then takes his own life. ... +


During the Korean War, members of a U. S. Army patrol are captured and taken to Manchuria by Chinese Communists who brainwash them into believing that Raymond Shaw, a mother-dominated sergeant, has led a successful action against the Communists. Back in the United States, Raymond is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on the strength of his comrades' testimony. Actually he is now a puppet of the Communists; at the sight of a Queen of Diamonds, his mind is triggered into obeying any instruction, retaining no knowledge of his subsequent actions. Meanwhile, another member of the patrol, Bennett Marco, begins having nightmares in which he vaguely recalls what happened in Korea. Suspicious, he starts an investigation and discovers Raymond's strange reaction to the playing card. Unknown to Raymond, the key Communist behind the U. S. operation is his mother, a politically ambitious woman who plans to have her son shoot the presidential nominee during a rally at Madison Square Garden, thus paving the way for her husband, Senator Iselin, the vice-presidential nominee, to take control of the government. As part of the Communist master plan, she uses the cards to force Raymond into killing both his wife, Jocie, and his father-in-law, Senator Jordan, a crusading liberal and his mother's chief political enemy. On the night of the rally, Marco confronts Raymond with a handful of the cards and tries to convince him that he no longer has control of his own mind, but Raymond follows his mother's instructions and takes a rifle to a deserted projection booth. At the last moment, however, the hypnotic spell breaks and he kills his mother and stepfather and then takes his own life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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