Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fielder Cook|
|Produced by||Michael Myerberg|
|Screenplay by||Rod Serling|
|Story by||Rod Serling|
|Edited by||Dave Kummins
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||83 minutes|
Patterns is a 1956 film directed by Fielder Cook and starring Van Heflin, Everett Sloane, and Ed Begley. The screenplay by Rod Serling was an adaptation of his teleplay Patterns originally telecast January 12, 1955 on the Kraft Television Theatre, which starred Sloane, Begley and Richard Kiley.
From play to film
Apart from establishing shots on New York City streets, the film's screenplay makes a couple of major changes from the teleplay - after the death of Andy Sloane, Fred Staples is shown at a bar, where his wife comes to pick him up and take him home, insisting he is in no condition to drive. Staples is more insistent in the film than in the play that he and his wife leave town, even telling her to pack. The final confrontation between Staples and Ramsey takes place the next day, not immediately afterwards. For the film, "Andy Sloane"'s name was altered to "Bill Briggs." Also, Ramsey and Company" is depicted as a huge corporate machine, with expansive quarters downtown. And the company does things "in a big way". In the teleplay, Staples tells Ramsey he and his wife have "found a house", but the film version has Staples moving into a big home more or less provided by the company, and stocked with "all the essentials" including beer in the ice box and food in the freezer.
While Sloane and Begley reprised their roles, Heflin replaced Kiley in the role of up-and-coming executive Fred Staples, though at 46, he was arguably a little too old to play a junior executive. But Serling also changed Staples' character. Instead of a junior-level manager of a small factory that had done some sub-contracting work for Ramsey, he was now shown as the manager of a presumably much larger facility taken over by "Ramsey and Company", and whose performance there in keeping the factory afloat during that period impressed Ramsey enough to hire Staples direct. And, in the teleplay, the other execs talk of having expected a much older man. That was also omitted from the film version.
Most of the scenes are set in the corporate boardroom and surrounding offices of Ramsey & Co., a Manhattan industrial empire headed by the ruthless Walter Ramsey. He recruits youthful industrial engineer Fred Staples, whose performance at a company Ramsey has recently acquired has impressed the boss. Ramsey is grooming Staples to replace the aging Bill Briggs as the second in command at the company.
Briggs has been with the firm for decades, having worked for and admired the company's founder, Ramsey's father. His concern for the employees clashes repeatedly with Ramsey's ruthless methods. Ramsey will not fire Briggs outright, but he does everything in his power to sabotage and humiliate his subordinate into resigning. The old man stubbornly refuses to give in. Staples has mixed feelings about the messy situation, ambition conflicting with sympathy for Briggs.
The stress gets to Briggs, who collapses after a confrontation with Ramsey and later dies. This causes a heated showdown between Ramsey and Staples, in which Staples announces he is quitting. In the end, Ramsey persuades him to stay, telling him that he is the only one who can function at Briggs's level, and that he would not be able to reach his full potential anywhere else. Staples accepts a promotion and double his salary and stock options, but warns Ramsey that he will actively work to replace Ramsey in the company. Staples also tells Ramsey of Briggs' "one little dream" of someday walking in and breaking Ramsey's jaw. He now reserves that dream for himself. Ramsey says he'll have it written into the contract agreement and will attach a special rider giving him the same privilege. Ramsey notes that Briggs' son will be "provided for" and Staples asks if that will let him sleep better tonight. Ramsey smiles and says, "It begins."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz highly praised the film and also discussed the background of the production in his review, "Patterns is based on the teleplay of Rod Serling which was aired live on TV in January of 1955 on Kraft Television Theater, and was so-well received that it was repeated four weeks later. That was something not done during that period. This brilliant script by the creator of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, is considered by many as the finest piece of writing he has ever done and brought him instant acclaim. It is ably directed by Fielder Cook ... The ensemble cast is superb, with special kudos to Van Heflin, Ed Begley, Beatrice Straight and Everett Sloane. This is Van Heflin's finest role since Shane (1953)."
In the April 27, 2008 edition of TV Week, the television critic Tom Shales compared the movie unfavorably to the live TV production:
- Some people thought live TV was the beginning of a truly new storytelling medium—one uniquely suited to intimate, unadorned, psychological dramas—but it turned out to be a beginning with a tiny middle and a rushed end... Patterns was so well-received that Kraft mounted a live repeat of the show a month later, and the intimate TV show was turned into a less intimate (and somehow less satisfying) movie in 1956. Except for the use of terms like “mimeographed” and “teletype,” little about the drama seems dated, unless one is of the opinion that corporate politics and boardroom bloodletting no longer exist... With minimally judicious scene-setting (shots of clocks, a building directory, a switchboard) and a rapid introduction of characters, Serling pulls a viewer almost immediately into his story, a tale of corporate morality—or the lack of it—and such everyday battles as the ones waged between conscience and ambition.
- Patterns at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, September 27, 2002.
- Shales, Tom. "Serling's Patterns an Icon of Lost Era," TV Week, April 27, 2008.
- Patterns at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Patterns at the Internet Movie Database
- Patterns at AllMovie
- Patterns at the TCM Movie Database
- Patterns is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- Patterns plot summary at Classic Film Guide