Seven Days in May
is a Conspiracy Thriller
about an attempted Military Coup
in the United States. The story first appeared as a 1962 novel by Washington journalists Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. It was adapted into a 1964 Film of the Book
, directed by John Frankenheimer
, starring Kirk Douglas
and Burt Lancaster
, and scripted by Rod Serling
President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) is about to sign a treaty with the Soviet Union for the disarmament of all nuclear weapons. This has caused a record slump in his popularitynote
and the public opposition of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the charismatic General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). Lyman is determined to proceed regardless but then a Pentagon officer, Colonel Martin Casey (Kirk Douglas), approaches him with a shocking revelation. He believes that General Scott is planning a Military Coup
, to be staged during a troop mobilization exercise at the end of the week. Although his staff are skeptical, President Lyman is not so sure. He now has only seven days
to find proof that the most popular general in the country
is planning treason, and stop him.
When the movie was being filmed, President John F. Kennedy
gave the producers special access to the White House, allowing them to film there with access never before or since granted to any (non-documentary) film crew. The President would even conveniently arrange to visit Hyannis Port for a weekend when the film needed to shoot outside the White House. The Pentagon, in contrast, refused to cooperate at all, leading to the filmmakers doing a bit of covert filming on-site with star Douglas in costume.
JFK -who was killed shortly before the film's release- considered the film so important because he believed the events in the book and movie could very well happen. After the spat between Douglas MacArthur
and President Harry Truman
, as well as JFK's own problems with his generals, he was well aware that there were those in the military who felt they should be in control of the country instead of him.
The story is said to have been influenced by the right-wing anti-Communist political activities of General Edwin A. Walker
after he retired from the military. The authors got the idea for the book after interviewing then Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay