Suddenly (1954) is the tale of a crisis in a small California town. It’s a lot like Mayberry, we might think. But rather than Sheriff Taylor and Barney Fife being visited by the Fun Girls, Sheriff Tod Shaw (Sterling Hayden) finds his little town hosting a trio of assassins led by sociopath John Barron (Frank Sinatra). Their reason for stopping by? To murder the President, who is scheduled to pass through town on a train.
Along for the ride through this terse noir thriller is not only the Sheriff and the villain but also a family living in the home the assassins use for their lookout. There’s the prim and grim widow Benson (Nancy Gates), wise old Pop Benson (James Gleason), and spunky mancub “Pidge” (Kim Charney). Will they survive their captivity with the vicious killers? Will the President make it through town safely? Will Pidge save the day with his cap gun?
As you can tell, my tone is rather light with this heavy film. I definitely enjoy it, and I know #BNoirDetour regulars will as well, but I also find it almost campy in places.
I also wonder if others will find, as I do, that Sinatra is a lot like noir Widmark here. The icy sociopathy, the wild greed, the vicious smirks, and even the hysteria of Sinatra’s Barron remind me a lot of Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death (1947), “Jefty” in Road House (1948), and Ray Biddle in No Way Out (1950).
Whether it terrifies or tickles you or both, I look forward to enjoying the ride with everyone on Sunday, 11/8 at 9pm ET.