Suddenly is a small town in America, a small town in which nothing much happens. Until today. The President is due to make an unscheduled stop in Suddenly, and the townsfolk are joined by Secret Service agents there to ensure the President’s safety. They, however, are not the only newcomers in town: a gang, led by Frank Sinatra, are there on an entirely different mission: to kill the President. He and his two accomplices take over the house of a young widow, whose husband died in the war. Also there are her son, her father in law, the local sheriff, who is in love with her, and a visiting repairman.
This film is a revelation. In other circumstances, Sinatra could have become a top actor rather than a singer. The performance he gives here is masterful, creepy and edgy; he insists that he is not a traitor: in the war, he won a Silver Star. Now he sells his loyalty for cash. His only motivation is the payment he will get from his actions, even though he realises that the President is no more than a figurehead: as soon as the President is killed, another man will take over. This knowledge is what turns this film from a run-of-the-mill thriller into something special.
There are some old-fashioned homilies about loyalty and doing one’s duty, even if that means dying for one’s country, ideas which may not sit well in today’s world. The setting, mainly in one house, gives the film a claustrophobic feel, with characters getting on each other’s nerves.
Sinatra had this film withdrawn when it became known that JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had watched the film not long before carrying out his assassination. Whether this really had an effect on his actions will never be known, but the situation it presents, and the planning which went into it, certainly make it possible.
This is an underrated and highly watchable film.