I watched a few 1960s Cold War movies recently, most recently 7 Days in May which is interesting because it has the cast of the 2021 Insurrection in the costumes of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and a bunch of other actors who were kind of before my time. Lynn Cheney is played by Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster plays Donald Trump. Frederick March plays Joe Biden, though there’s a little shifting around in the movie to fit it into 1 1/2 hour. The obligatory babe is played by Ava Gardner. She is a kind of 1960s Stormy Daniels.
The short jist of this film is that Kirk Douglas alerts the president to the fact that all but one of the Joint Chiefs is involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the duly elected government, that they have even developed a secret base in the desert (it’s always the desert) from which to launch their coup. The film makes the point that the Constitution is very clear that in this country the leader of the the government is chosen by a mandate of the people. Kirk Douglas (a Marine Colonel) personally agrees with the evil generals (led by Burt Lancaster), but he’s taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and that’s what he does.
The tech of the time was fascinating. Among that tech, in the office of the admiral (John Housman who plays the sole dissenter to the insurrection planned by the Joint Chiefs) was a Zenith Trans-Oceanic Radio exactly like my dad’s (fuzzy feature photo). When they wanted to get video of some of the conspirators they had to haul a full-on Hollywood movie camera into the woods. Everything was analog. The computers, of course, were immense and essentially mechanical. Tubes, not printed circuits, not even transistors. ❤
Since I grew up during the Cold War, and the Cold War supported my family, it’s intrinsically interesting NOW but not so much then. Back then it was the ambient reality. We lived 2 miles from the second major target the Soviets would go for so though we had a kind of bomb shelter in the basement, we’d have been vaporized. I learned this directly from my dad one night when I couldn’t sleep after watching On the Beach on TV. My dad was a war gamer for SAC and an adviser to the Joint Chiefs. Yep. Well, this knowledgable man comforted me by saying, “Don’t worry, MAK. We won’t have to worry about fallout. We live on a target. We’ll be vaporized. We’ll just go stand out in the yard and watch the whole thing then we’ll be gone.”
“Now roll over and go to sleep.” And I did.
A little while ago, I watched another Cold War film from the 50s — 1955? — when the government was trying to SELL the American public on the Cold War and the development of a fantastically armed air force to keep the peace. I didn’t even KNOW such a sales pitch had ever been necessary but there is a film, Stategic Air Command, starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allison that is pure Cold War propaganda. It’s very pretty with romantic cinematic shots of the B-36 (Giant airplane) in orange sherbet clouds with uprising music in the background and, with Jimmy Stewart as the hero? Who’s NOT going to love the Strategic Air Command?
BUT…by 1964 it seems that some Americans had caught on that developing bigger and “better” bombs was a dangerous con, and 7 Days in May opens with a demonstration between “hawks” and “doves” in front of the White House. The demonstration that turns into a fist fight. My adult life has brought me into contact with a lot of hawks and a lot of doves, the birds, and hawks don’t act that way and doves are not all sweetness and light.
Featured photo: My dad and his Zenith Trans-Oceanic Radio on which we used to try to listen to Russia but usually only got Mexico