Savant Column

Tuesday October 24, 2017


Correspondent and now reviewer “B” sent along this note, plus a fascinating link about Seven Days in May that’s a nice follow-up to valued correspondent Michael Schlesinger’s note back on August 21 putting to rest a nagging controversy about the movie. The notes and correspondence on the other end of B’s link merit a close read:

Dear Glenn: While looking up something entirely other, I ran across this U. of Wisconsin webpage about Seven Days in May. Kirk Douglas long ago donated his papers to U. Wis. — UA and Warners also have a lot of papers in the college’s archives — and this online compilation and overview of some documents relating to the picture’s production is very interesting. Like The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days would probably have never been made by anyone if JFK hadn’t given both his tacit approval and encouragement to the project.

I was amazed to learn that as late as early 1963, Douglas and his Joel Productions were seriously considering making this entirely independently and releasing through Walter Reade-Continental. The papers here don’t reveal just how Seven Arts eventually became involved with the movie, but it’s evident that given the explosive nature of the material, Douglas and company greatly preferred that this one be made independently in order to retain creative control. [Seven Arts ultimately backed the picture and Paramount distributed it worldwide; rights eventually reverted to Seven Arts, hence the film’s current ownership by Warners.]

The apparently unsolicited letter from Stanley Kubrick to Douglas regarding his opinion of and ideas about the Bailey/Knebel novel is downright fascinating. All accounts suggest that Kubrick and Douglas had a bitter professional parting a few years earlier; this thoughtful, intelligent note, and Douglas’ friendly response, makes clear that the two maintained at least some sort of cordial relationship. A detailed post-production memo from Douglas to his producer-partner Edward Lewis discusses certain reservations regarding the minor character of General Barney Rutkowski (played in the movie by editor Ferris Webster!). Kirk suggests the character simply be deleted; he’s still in the movie but the role may have been trimmed. The memo also gives a provocative description of the film’s original car-crash ending while making a good case that it needed to be re-thought and re-shot. [It was, of course, entirely re-worked and re-shot; it was lucky that Burt and Frankenheimer were then working on The Train and could figure out how to make Paris sub for Washington, D.C.]

I learned enough here to make me interested to know more, but it’s worth a look. — Best, Always. — B.”

Thanks, “B.” That link again: Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. Be sure to follow the interior links to scans of original documentation, even the original letter from Stanley Kubrick.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson