Suddenly (1954 )

Directed by Lewis Allen
Cinematography Charles G. Clarke

Suddenly is a 1954 American film noir   crime film directed by Lewis Allen with a screenplay written by Richard Sale. The drama features Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates, among others.

The tranquility of a small town is jarred when the U.S. president is scheduled to pass through and a hired assassin takes over the Benson home as a perfect location to ambush the president.


Critical response

Sterling Hayden as Sheriff Tod Shaw

When the film was released, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, liked the direction of the film and the acting, writing, “Yet such is the role that Mr. Sinatra plays in Suddenly!, a taut little melodrama that… [it] shapes up as one of the slickest recent items in the minor movie league… we have several people to thank—particularly Richard Sale for a good script, which tells a straight story credibly, Mr. Allen for direction that makes both excitement and sense, Mr. Bassler for a production that gets the feel of a small town and the cast which includes Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates.” Crowther especially liked Sinatra’s performance. He wrote, “Mr. Sinatra deserves a special chunk of praise…In Suddenly! he proves it in a melodramatic tour de force.”

The staff at Variety magazine also gave the film a good review and praised the acting. They wrote, “Thesp [actor Sinatra] inserts plenty of menace into a psycho character, never too heavily done, and gets good backing from his costar, Sterling Hayden, as sheriff, in a less showy role but just as authoritatively handled. Lewis Allen’s direction manages a smart piece where static treatment easily could have prevailed.”


Film critic Carl Mazek makes the case that the “Machiavellian attitude” of John Baron links the picture with the brutal films noir of the 1950s like The Big Night (1951) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Moreover, the themes of violence, sense of claustrophobia and despair mark the film as completely amoral, and, as such, Suddenly is quite opposite of non-noir films like The Desperate Hours (1955).

not bad for a buck!

Author: thefensk from North Carolina
31 December 2004

Like another user I found this movie at a “dollar store” and decided to take a chance on it. I believe the stories that this was pulled from circulation simply because I had never heard of it before. Where have they been hiding this movie?

I can believe those stories for another reason. It has an eerie feel to it … and seemed oddly prophetic: Imagine, an attempt to kill a President from a sniper position in a window above and behind, using a military-style weapon, by a former soldier. If Oswald truly watched this movie … one would have to wonder how HE felt about the movie. I mean, I wasn’t aware of that bit of trivia until I watched the movie and THEN checked out IMDb. While watching it I could not help but draw comparisons. Brrrrrrrr. It seems plausible that Sinatra might have had similar feelings.


Sure, this is not the best movie ever made but it is a good solid 1950s movie, with a good performance by Sinatra. Yes, it is corny, but given the timeframe, that is to be expected. To be honest, I am tired of special effects and enjoy movies with an actual story and actual acting. Even corny stories and corny acting. Not a single car blew up in this movie. Wow. What a relief.

Sinatra’s best film

Author: dtucker86 from Germany
20 October 2001

Frank Sinatra was certainly one of the greatest singers of our time. He was also a fine actor as well, he won an Academy Award for From Here To Eternity. This was the first film he was in after he won his Oscar and he proves it was not a fluke. He is absolutely chilling as a crazed cold blooded assassin who is out to kill the President. The only other actor who did a better job in this type of role is John Malkovich in In The Line Of Fire. This is a little known classic that really showcases Sinatra’s acting talents. I think that this film and The Manchurian Candidate are the best films he ever made.


A Tense Little Thriller Without Any Frills

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
8 October 2004

This tense, relatively well-crafted little thriller dispenses with frills or padding, and tells its story in a straightforward way that works pretty well. Once it sets up the story, it maintains the tension carefully enough to make up for some plot holes and one-dimensional characters.

The focus remains almost entirely on the story, and the characters are never developed very deeply. The three main roles are rather well-cast, though, and Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, and James Gleason each deliver what their roles call for.

Although implausible at some points, the story is otherwise well-constructed, and it moves at a good pace. Many film-makers are tempted to inject superfluous material into this kind of story, and this is an example showing that it usually works better to keep it simple. While nothing extraordinary, it works more than well enough to be worth watching.


Old Blue Eyes Elevates a B film

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
19 September 2006

I’m at a loss to explain why Frank Sinatra chose this particular project in the wake of all the acclaim he got for From Here to Eternity. Without his presence in the film, Suddenly with its length of 75 minutes on my VHS version would be a B film, even with Sterling Hayden starring in it as the sheriff. My guess is that Sinatra wanted to expand and test himself as an actor, something he did less and less of in the following decade.


The President of the United States is coming to the small town of Suddenly where he will leave the train he’s traveling on and proceed by motorcade to a vacation in the Sierras. The Secret Service has come to town to do their usual thing in protecting the Chief Executive.

But three contract killers headed by Frank Sinatra are in town to kill the president. We’re never told exactly who is paying for this contract, but the inference is that it is our Cold War enemies. Through a combination of circumstances the sheriff is wounded and the head of Secret Service detail, Willis Bouchey, is killed. And the killers are holed up in Nancy Gates’s house with her, her father-in-law James Gleason, and child Kim Charney and the wounded Hayden.

Suddenly SInatra

Most of the film is taken up with the wait for the train to arrive where a lot of souls are bared open, including Sinatra’s. It’s the one and only time that Francis Albert ever essayed the role of an out and out villain. He does it well, but I suspect he didn’t want to push it with his public too much, so he never did anyone as evil as this again.

Of course history tells us that the president named Eisenhower at the time never was an assassin’s target so we know Sinatra’s efforts will fail. However it’s rather ingenious as to how it does fail.

I think more than fans of old Blue Eyes will like Suddenly.


Sinatra shines!

Author: Penoyer1 from Virginia
7 July 2004

I found this at an “everything $1.00 store” and bought it just because Sinatra was in it. What a find!! The film is really slow and poorly acted until Sinatra shows up about 20 minutes in but then becomes MUCH better. This is written right after Brando died and all the obituaries said he changed acting with his facial expressions and emotions right out there for the world to see, but it seems to me Old Blue Eyes deserves some of the same credit. In 1954 when this was made, everybody was reading their lines and standing very straight but in this film Sinatra breaks those rules and shows us into the mind and heart of a man badly damaged by his war experiences.


Gift-wrapped for Joe McCarthy

Author: newsuneed
8 August 2008

SUDDENLY was, I suspect, meant to rebut Senator Joe McCarthy and prove, gosh darn it, Hollywood loves America, loves guns, hates pacifism, and pledges allegiance. You’ll get that message in the first five minutes, and every few minutes all the way to the unsurprising end.

There’s a place for cornball movies with a message, but this movie is so cornball it’s almost camp. The main message is that guns are necessary, and I don’t argue or even disagree (I own two). But this message is hammered home over and over again, along with the goodness of cops and the greatness of America and the virtue of ordinary Americans. And again I’m not disagreeing, just bored silly — the schmaltz drips off everything here, like pouring a whole bottle of syrup over a few pancakes.


Frank Sinatra is excellent as the bad guy, though his scripted lines are frequently absurd. The dialogue is clumsy and clunky — real people don’t speak like this, and never did. Sterling Hayden has never seemed more wooden, and his obsession with the town’s young widow is downright creepy and cries out for a restraining order.

Too Dated With No Credibility

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
20 August 2006

This is another of these films that a friend thought was great, so I went out and rented it, expecting more than what was delivered. It’s certainly not what it’s lived up to be, by either my friend or by critics in general. Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden were fairly interesting, and it was refreshing to see a patriotic line or two, but that was about it. The story had NO credibility! It was just so unrealistic it was embarrassing and insulting to watch, with very dated dialog.

At least it was a short film. They didn’t go overboard in dragging it out and making it even more talky and hokey.


High voltage and tension in a thriller featured by an excellent Frank Sinatra

Author: ma-cortes from Santander Spain
25 October 2005

The movie focuses US President protected by Secret Service (Willis Bouchey as Chief agent) who passes through a small and peaceable town called Suddenly where only the sheriff (Sterling Hayden) executes the law . One house inhabited by a grandfather (James Gleason) , a widow (Nancy Gates) and son is ideal place for a criminal scheme by means of an ambush , designed and pulled off by ominous murderers commanded by a ruthless psycho assassin (Frank Sinatra).

The film has got emotion , strain , suspense , thriller and although is mostly developed on interior scenarios , it doesn’t make boring neither tiring . Release was withdrawn from circulation for the Dallas assassination (1963) because of the events are pretty similar .


Frank Sinatra (JFK’s friend) as producer ordered the retaining copies and the movie was forgotten , however long time later was issued in video market and obtained a lot of success . Frank Sinatra’s interpretation is top-notch as the cruel and brutal killer , his acting is magnificent , he’s the best . Attractive Nancy Gates is the pacifist widow who hates the guns and embittered for her husband’s death during WWII . Sterling Hayden interprets properly a kind and valiant police believer of the ¨American way of life¨ . James Gleason as stiff and rigid veteran is very fine . Atmospheric cinematography and agreeable musical score by David Raksin (author of Laura’s score) . The motion picture was well directed by Lewis Allen (he directed some noir classic films). Rating : Interesting , worthwhile seeing and it will appeal to Frank Sinatra fans.



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