Seven Days in May (1964)

120 mins | Drama | 19 February 1964

Director:

John Frankenheimer

Writer:

Rod Serling

Producer:

Edward Lewis

Cinematographer:

Ellsworth Fredricks

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Companies:

Seven Arts Productions , Joel Productions
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HISTORY

Several months before Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey, II’s novel Seven Days in May reached the NYT bestseller list, the 5 Sep 1962 Var announced that actor Kirk Douglas, producer Edward Lewis, and director John Frankenheimer planned to adapt it for the screen. According to the 10 Oct 1962 DV, Douglas originally intended to serve only as a producer, but later decided to act in one of the five key roles. On 1 Nov 1962, LAT reported that screenwriter Rod Serling was expected to complete a first draft of the script sometime the following week.
       While Frankenheimer told the 6 Feb 1963 Var that he hoped to keep costs in the low $1 million-range, the budget was expanded once he secured a studio distribution deal. After nearly a month of negotiations, the 23 Apr 1963 DV announced that Paramount Pictures had beat out competing bids from United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for worldwide rights to the project, which was to be independently produced through Joel Productions, a subsidiary of Douglas’s Bryna Productions, in association with Seven Arts Productions. Sources indicated that Frankenheimer would also participate as a producer, but his company was not named in contemporary sources. The 24 Apr 1963 Var estimated the revised budget at $3.5 million.
       Shortly after agreeing to appear in the picture, Douglas offered a co-starring role to Frank Sinatra, who recently worked on Frankenheimer’s political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate (1962, see entry). By the following year, however, the 22 Feb 1963 edition reported the casting of Burt Lancaster and Spencer Tracy, who ... More Less

Several months before Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey, II’s novel Seven Days in May reached the NYT bestseller list, the 5 Sep 1962 Var announced that actor Kirk Douglas, producer Edward Lewis, and director John Frankenheimer planned to adapt it for the screen. According to the 10 Oct 1962 DV, Douglas originally intended to serve only as a producer, but later decided to act in one of the five key roles. On 1 Nov 1962, LAT reported that screenwriter Rod Serling was expected to complete a first draft of the script sometime the following week.
       While Frankenheimer told the 6 Feb 1963 Var that he hoped to keep costs in the low $1 million-range, the budget was expanded once he secured a studio distribution deal. After nearly a month of negotiations, the 23 Apr 1963 DV announced that Paramount Pictures had beat out competing bids from United Artists, Columbia Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for worldwide rights to the project, which was to be independently produced through Joel Productions, a subsidiary of Douglas’s Bryna Productions, in association with Seven Arts Productions. Sources indicated that Frankenheimer would also participate as a producer, but his company was not named in contemporary sources. The 24 Apr 1963 Var estimated the revised budget at $3.5 million.
       Shortly after agreeing to appear in the picture, Douglas offered a co-starring role to Frank Sinatra, who recently worked on Frankenheimer’s political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate (1962, see entry). By the following year, however, the 22 Feb 1963 edition reported the casting of Burt Lancaster and Spencer Tracy, who was attached to play U.S. President “Jordan Lyman.” Tracy remained onboard for only a month, as the 21 Mar 1963 LAT revealed he decided to leave after a dispute with Lancaster and Douglas over who would receive top billing. Fredric March filled the role two days later, and LAT claimed that Douglas let Lancaster choose which character he wanted to play.
       According to the 11 Jun 1963 DV, Edie Adams was forced to decline a role due to previous television commitments. Two days later, the publication stated that Jean Simmons and Audrey Hepburn were both considered for “Eleanor Holbrook,” but the role ultimately went to Ava Gardner. On 14 Jun 1963, DV announced that radio and television announcer Bill Baldwin had been selected to provide his voice for a fictional news conference. The following week, DV also reported the casting of Leonard Nimoy, but he does not appear in the final film. Additional DV casting announcements throughout the summer of 1963 included several actors whose participation could not be confirmed or may have been uncredited, including Tyler McVey, Irvin Richardson, Bill Raisch, Regan Marlowe, Tom Harris, Douglas Henderson , Tom Conroy, and Joel Fluellen.
       Items in the 27 Jun 1963 and 9 Jul 1963 DV stated that the production placed an advertisement in a Washington, D.C. newspaper looking for cab drivers to test for a role in the film. Fifty-three-year-old George Pearson was selected from fifty applicants to drive his taxi to California, where he would film scenes on the studio set before rejoining the production on locations in the nation’s capital.
       Principal photography began 20 May 1963, as stated in a DV production chart four days later. The majority of filming took place at the Paramount studios in Hollywood, while briefs in the 29 May 1963 and 11 Jun 1963 issues reported locations at the Glendale YWCA, which stood in for the “White House” swimming pool; Los Angeles International Airport; and a hotel and house in Beverly Hills. On 5 Jul 1964, DV stated that the unit spent the day at the recording stage of the Los Angeles-based news station, KTLA. According to the 13 Jun 1963 DV, KTLA crews also helped Frankenheimer replicate a presidential news conference, which was simultaneously shot using four live video cameras and two 35mm film cameras.
       The remainder of production was split between locations in Yuma, AZ, and Washington, D.C. A 31 Jul 1963 Var article stated that nearly 300 local amateur theater actors and twenty retired wrestlers were recruited for a picketing scene and brawl outside the White House, which drew the attention of many passing tourists who believed the incident to be real. Although the unit received permission to film in Washington, D.C., Frankenheimer told the 25 Jun 1963 NYT that he did not expect to receive any participation from the U.S. government or the Pentagon.
       According to the 5 Jul 1963 LAT, costume designer Orry-Kelly was expected to create clothes for Ava Gardner. A 20 Aug 1963 DV brief claimed David Amram was hired to compose the score, but Jerry Goldsmith receives credit on the final film.
       On 27 Sep 1963, DV indicated that Paramount had planned a weeklong engagement in Dec 1963 to qualify for Academy Award consideration. The 2 Dec 1963 DV stated that private screenings would begin the next day, 3 Dec 1963, in thirty-four key cities across the U.S. and Canada. The 30 Nov 1963 NYT reported that general release was still scheduled for late Feb 1964, providing sufficient time after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, which caused several studios to rethink the distribution strategies of some politically topical films. Although no changes were made to the film itself, a Paramount spokesperson conceded that the advertising campaign was “considerably altered” out of sensitivity.
       Seven Days in May debuted 19 Feb 1964 at the Criterion and Sutton Theatres in New York City, and 4 Mar 1964 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
       The film received Academy Award nominations for Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmond O’Brien) and Art Direction (Black-and-White), as well as Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Fredric March), Best Original Score – Motion Picture (Jerry Goldsmith), and Best Director – Motion Picture (John Frankenheimer). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1963
pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety
24 May 1963
p. 6.
Daily Variety
28 May 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
29 May 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1963
p. 12.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1963
p. 11.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1963
p. 5.
Daily Variety
27 Sep 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Dec 1963
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
1 Oct 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1963
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1963
Section A, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1963
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jun 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1963
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 1963
Section E, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1963
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1963
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
1 Mar 1964
Section B, p. 10.
New York Times
25 Jun 1963
p. 23.
New York Times
29 Jun 1963
p. 13.
New York Times
30 Nov 1963
p. 17.
New York Times
24 Jan 1964
p. 19.
New York Times
20 Feb 1964
p. 22.
Variety
5 Sep 1962
p. 4.
Variety
17 Oct 1962
p. 5.
Variety
6 Feb 1963
p. 12.
Variety
24 Apr 1963
p. 3.
Variety
31 Jul 1963
p. 2.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Frankenheimer Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod secy
Scr supv
Gaffer
Prop
Dial coach
Constr coordinator
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey, II (New York, 1962).
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 February 1964
Premiere Information:
Washington, D. C., opening: 12 February 1964
New York opening: 19 February 1964
Los Angeles opening: 4 March 1964
Production Date:
began 20 May 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Seven Arts Productions
Copyright Date:
12 February 1964
Copyright Number:
LP26986
Duration(in mins):
120
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

U. S. President Jordan Lyman signs a nuclear treaty with the Soviet Union, arousing public displeasure and the disapproval of the military, particularly Gen. James M. Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who considers the action almost treasonable. After Martin "Jiggs" Casey, Scott's aide, comes across some cryptic messages and learns of a top secret base in Texas, the existence of which is denied by others in the Pentagon, he suspects that Scott is leading the other Chiefs of Staff in a coup to occur seven days later when the President will be isolated from his civilian aides during a military alert. Casey reports his suspicions to the President, who sends Sen. Raymond Clark to investigate the secret base. Clark locates the base but is held there incommunicado until he breaks out with the help of an officer friend of Casey's. Presidential aide Paul Girard flies to Gibraltar, where he obtains a statement from Admiral Barnswell, a Joint Chief who isn't enthusiastic about the coup, but Girard is killed in a plane crash on the return trip, and Barnswell denies signing the statement. Later, Casey obtains some highly incriminating letters from Eleanor Holbrook, Scott's former mistress, but the President cannot bring himself to use them when he confronts Scott and demands his resignation. Scott, confident that public opinion is on his side and that his aides are behind him, refuses. The President goes on television to demand the guilty officers' resignations, and Scott's colleagues desert him. During the telecast it is learned that Barnswell's statement has been found in the plane wreckage, and Scott also resigns, squelching the coup before it ... +


U. S. President Jordan Lyman signs a nuclear treaty with the Soviet Union, arousing public displeasure and the disapproval of the military, particularly Gen. James M. Scott, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who considers the action almost treasonable. After Martin "Jiggs" Casey, Scott's aide, comes across some cryptic messages and learns of a top secret base in Texas, the existence of which is denied by others in the Pentagon, he suspects that Scott is leading the other Chiefs of Staff in a coup to occur seven days later when the President will be isolated from his civilian aides during a military alert. Casey reports his suspicions to the President, who sends Sen. Raymond Clark to investigate the secret base. Clark locates the base but is held there incommunicado until he breaks out with the help of an officer friend of Casey's. Presidential aide Paul Girard flies to Gibraltar, where he obtains a statement from Admiral Barnswell, a Joint Chief who isn't enthusiastic about the coup, but Girard is killed in a plane crash on the return trip, and Barnswell denies signing the statement. Later, Casey obtains some highly incriminating letters from Eleanor Holbrook, Scott's former mistress, but the President cannot bring himself to use them when he confronts Scott and demands his resignation. Scott, confident that public opinion is on his side and that his aides are behind him, refuses. The President goes on television to demand the guilty officers' resignations, and Scott's colleagues desert him. During the telecast it is learned that Barnswell's statement has been found in the plane wreckage, and Scott also resigns, squelching the coup before it occurs. +

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

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