Cast: Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates, Willis Bouchey, Kim Charney, James O’Hara, Paul Frees, Christopher Dark, Paul Wexler, Ken Dibbs, Charles Smith, Richard Collier, Dan White, Clark Howat, John Beradino, Charles Wagenheim, Roy Engel, Ted Stanhope
Early on a Saturday afternoon in 1954, Sheriff Tod Shaw (Hayden) and 8-year-old Pidge Benson (Charney) walk together on the main street of Suddenly, a small western town. Pidge hints that he’d like to have a cap pistol on a store display, and Tod buys it for him. Pidge’s mother, Ellen Benson (Gates), makes him give back the toy gun, but he secretly keeps it. Ellen’s husband, a soldier, was killed in combat, and his death has driven her to associate guns with violence and the pointless loss of life. Ellen forbids Pidge to see war films or own toy guns and, still hurting from the loss of her husband, she declines Tod’s invitation to drive her to church the next day. Tod receives a confidential telegraph message informing him that the President of the United States will arrive in Suddenly at 5 o’clock that afternoon on a special train. The President will leave the train and travel by road to a nearby ranch where he’ll do some fishing. Tod is asked to assist the Secret Service in making security and transportation arrangements for the President. Several cars with State Troopers drive into town, soon after Secret Service agents arrive by train to oversee security preparations. The lead Secret Service agent, Carney (Bouchey), tells Tod that the heightened security effort is due to their having received information that an assassination attempt may be planned. Three men drive into Suddenly, John Baron (Sinatra), Benny (Frees), and Bart (Dark). Unnoticed, they reconnoiter the town. They drive by the train station, notice that a single house upon a hill overlooks it, and make their way there. At the house live Peter “Pop” Benson (Gleason), his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and his grandson Pidge. John Baron, Benny and Bart arrive at the Benson house and identify themselves as FBI agents. They tell Pop Benson and Ellen that they must inspect their house. Pop finds the presence of a team of FBI agents in his house exciting. It reminds him of his young days when he worked as a Secret Service agent. Baron tells Pop and Ellen that he and his men have to stay at the house for a while, and Pop, Ellen and Pidge must stay indoors. Agent Carney is also interested in the house on the hill. It must be checked out before the President’s train arrives. He and Sheriff Tod Shaw drive up to the house. When Carney and Tod enter the house they sense something is not right about the supposed FBI agents. Baron and his men go into action. They shoot agent Carney dead, shoot Tod in the arm and disarm him, and easily subdue Pop and Ellen. Baron tells Pop, Ellen and Tod that any resistance will result in their killing Pidge. Ellen puts an improvised sling on Tod’s arm and stops his loss of blood. Baron is an assassin, a sniper hired to kill the President. He and his two men set up a rifle in shooting position at a window overlooking the train station. Baron’s neglected childhood helped warp his mind and make him into a chilling assassin. With no political interests, he works for money and the pleasure of killing. Baron has planned everything meticulously and has available a private airplane in which to leave the country. Their fate seems preordained, but Pop and Tod must find a way in which to overpower their captors, and Ellen must overcome her pacifist feelings if she is to help them thwart Baron’s plan to kill the President. Screenplay by Richard Sale.