As a retired army officer and an adjunct history professor I thought it was important to review what I consider the best war movies depicting the challenges of leadership and the command of men.
"Seven Days In May" is one of the best movies at showing the tensions between the civilian authority over our military. A concept that I wholeheartedly support as part of our constitution. Unfortunately, it has been tested to a smaller degree recently with the General McChrystal flap. At the height of the cold war, an unpopular U.S. President (Fredric March), manages to get a nuclear disarmament treaty through the Senate, but finds that the nation is turning against him. Jiggs Casey (Kirk Douglas), a Marine Colonel, finds evidence that General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster), the wildly popular head of the Joint Chiefs and certain Presidential Candidate in 2 years is not planning to wait. Casey goes to the president with the information and this very famous line from the movie. "I'm suggesting Mr. President, there's a military plot to take over the Government of these United States, next Sunday..." Working with a small circle of reliable and loyal officials, (a great cast of actors in this movie) President Lyman tries to get the evidence of Scott's treachery and stop him.
Another reason why this movie is so high on my list is the sharp dialogue written by the brilliant Rod Serling!!! For instance, one of my fave lines in the movie spoken by Ava Gardner to Kirk Douglas. "I'll make you two promises: a very good steak, medium rare, and the truth, which is very rare."
I wish modern movies were written this well!
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Seven Days in May is a political thriller novel written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II and published in 1962. The novel was made into a motion picture in 1964, with screenplay by Rod Serling, directed by John Frankenheimer, and starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The story is said to have been influenced by the right-wing anti-Communist political activities of General Edwin A. Walker after he retired from the military. The author, Knebel, got the idea for the book after interviewing then Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay.
The novel and film tell the story of fictitious U.S. President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March). As the story begins, Lyman faces a wave of public dissatisfaction with his decision to sign a treaty with the Soviet Union, an agreement that will supposedly result in both nations simultaneously destroying their nuclear weapons under mutual international inspection. This is extremely unpopular with both the President's opposition and the military, who believe the Soviets cannot be trusted.
As the debate over the treaty rages on, an alert and well-positioned Pentagon insider, United States Marine Corps Colonel Martin "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk Douglas) becomes aware of a conspiracy among the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) led by his own superior officer, the charismatic head of the JCS, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). As he digs deeper, he uncovers the conspiracy's shocking goal: Scott and his cohorts, Colonel Broderick (John ...