“There’s cruelty and hatred and tyranny in the world. You can’t make believe they aren’t there.”
A widowed mother (Nancy Gates) and her young son (Kim Charney) become trapped in their house along with Gates’ father-in-law (James Gleason), the local sheriff (Sterling Hayden), and a television repairman (James O’Hara) when a crazed assassin (Frank Sinatra) and his henchmen (Paul Frees and Christopher Dark) invade their home during a presidential motorcade.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Frank Sinatra Films
- Single Mothers
- Small Town America
- Sterling Hayden Films
Frank Sinatra’s first role after his Academy Award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity (1953) was this effectively chilling portrayal of a sociopathic veteran hired to kill the president. According to TCM’s article, when Sinatra heard Lee Harvey Oswald watched this movie the day before shooting Kennedy, he requested that it — and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), also about an attempted presidential assassination — be taken out of circulation. Interestingly, Suddenly — the eponymous title refers to the sleepy little town where all this action “suddenly” takes place — is a pro-gun movie, starting with young Charney’s frustration that he isn’t allowed to have one, and culminating in a situation where having guns lying around the house is very much a life-saving choice for this group of unwitting hostages (then again, when are hostages ever not unwitting?). Overall, this tense story is told in a compact and highly effective style, showing a small American town disrupted by pure malevolence, but saved by collective ingenuity and bravery.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Frank Sinatra as John Baron
- Nancy Gates as Ellen
- A tense screenplay, well-directed by Lewis Allen
Yes, as a fine and well-told thriller. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.