Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Frank Sinatra vs. Cliff Richard

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'd realize that I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and enjoy making references to some really lousy music. Those of you who remember the train-wreck-of-a-movie Xanadu may remember that, stuck in amongst the symphonic rock of the Electric Light Orchestra, was a duet between star Olivia Newton-John and the quintessentially British singer Cliff Richard: "Suddenly". Someday I might blog about Xanadu, but I make the bad music pun because overnight tonight, ie. at 3:00 AM ET on May 28, TCM are airing the Frank Sinatra movie Suddenly.

Sinatra comes late to the movie; we first see 50s B-movie stalwart Sterling Hayden as Todd Shaw, the sheriff in Suddenly, California. He's approached by the Secret Service: the President is taking a fishing trip, and his train is going to make an unexpected stop in Suddenly so that he can disembark and get into a car that will take him to his final destination. It's up to Sheriff Shaw to get everybody away from the President and the train station, without letting anybody in on the fact that the President is coming to town.

Of course, the bad guys already know the President is coming to town. They're led by John Baron (played by Frank Sinatra), and they're casing the town for the best place to shoot at the president. That, of course, is obvious: it's a house on a hill owned by "Pop" Benson (there's wonderful character actor James Gleason in yet another role), who just happened to be a Secret Service agent before being shot in the line of duty. He lives there with his widowed daughter-in-law (played by Nancy Gates), who just happens to be in love with the sheriff. Naturally, Baron and his gang force their way in, taking the Bensons hostage, and eventually taking the sheriff hostage as well when he shows up -- he too realizes that the Benson house is the obvious place for any bad guy snipers to shoot at the president.

Suddenly is a pretty good "B" thriller (despite having a star like Sinatra, it's got all the trappings of a "B" movie), and it's available on DVD. Apparently, Sinatra had it pulled from any sort of distribution after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and it must have fallen into the public domain, allowing those with prints of it to sell copies themselves. (The only print I've ever seen is pretty lousy; let's hope TCM have access to something better.) The one upside to this is that you should be able to find a DVD of a good movie for a very small price.

edited to correct the time Suddenly is airing

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