I was giving a keynote at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference several years ago and I mentioned this book and movie and got blank stares.
The book isn’t that great actually. It reads like a manifesto and lecturing. One of the few times the movie is better than the book.
You’ve got Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas to start with. As antagonist and protagonist. President Kennedy actually allowed them to film the opening fight scene outside the White House, he was so impressed with the story. The movie was originally scheduled for a December 1963 release, but Burt Lancaster forced them to delay it as he felt it was too soon after the assassination.
This was the second of Frankenheimer’s “paranoid” trilogy after The Manchurian Candidate.
The mistress part, played by Ava Gardner, was based on General MacArthur and his long time mistress.
When Kirk Douglas is entering the Pentagon those are real guards who had no clue who he was and saluted him because he was in costume as a Colonel. The Pentagon had refused to allow filming there which makes sense since its about a military coup. In the same way, my book, The Line (Shadow Warriors), which is about a military coup by a secret clique of West Pointers, was refused to be reviewed by the Academy’s graduate magazine or be racked in their bookstore.
John Frankenheimer who directed it wanted a more futuristic weapon than the current M-14 in use in 1963. So he choose the Colt AR-15. Which subsequently was adopted by the military.
Leonard Nimoy was in the casting call for the movie, but never appeared.
My favorite scene in the movie is when Jiggs Casey, Douglas’s character, puts all these little clues together (no big smoking gun) and makes the career-ending decision to go to the President with his suspicions of a coup so quickly.