10 December 2011 | MartinHafer
Sad but very important historically
Ernest Borgnine plays a government employee who is accused of being a security risk and is fired. What this meant in early 1950s language was that he was suspected as a communist. However, the exact reasons for this as well as his accusers were never presented to him and defending himself against vague charges was difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, he's defended by a capable lawyer (Ray Milland) and some members of the community come to his defense--though many of his so-called friends decide he MUST be disloyal and treat him and his family roughly. How can a guy defend himself if no witnesses or evidence are presented?! Such a film critical of the Red Scare of the early 1950s would never have been made much before 1956. Fortunately, by 1956, folks in Hollywood were willing to finally talk about the overreactions of the time. Now I am NOT saying communism was no threat--but the reaction was clearly a case where Constitutional rights were ignored. The film does a very nice job showing this and making Borgnine very sympathetic and real--sort of a great 'everyman'. And, I really liked Frank Faylen's portrayal as the mailman--he was quite the character! Overall, a very compelling film--and interesting as a portrait into our history.
By the way, this film was based on a real life government employee, Abraham Chasanow. However, Chasanow lived in Greenbelt, Maryland, a place that looks nothing like Riverview from the movie. A planned Levittown community, it was made up mostly of multifamily homes and were often blocky and unattractive--not the sort of place you'd want in a film. It looks a lot nicer now (they gave the places makeovers a few decades ago), by the way and I grew up only a few minutes from there.
Also, you might want to keep some Kleenex nearby. Some parts are very touching and emotional.