The Brotherhood of the Bell
|The Brotherhood of the Bell|
|Directed by||Paul Wendkos|
|Produced by||David Karp|
|Written by||David Karp|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Robert B. Hauser|
|Edited by||Carroll Sax|
|Distributed by||CBS Television
Warner Bros. Pictures
The Brotherhood of the Bell is a 1970 made-for-television movie produced by Cinema Center 100 Productions and starring Glenn Ford. The director Paul Wendkos was nominated in 1971 by the Directors Guild of America for "outstanding directorial achievement in television". David Karp wrote the screenplay based on his novel that had been previously filmed as a Studio One episode in 1958.
The film depicts a successful economics professor, Dr. Andrew Patterson, who discovers that an elite fraternity he joined as an undergraduate is really a callous banking and business cabal that obtains wealth and power for its members through nefarious practices.
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Twenty-two years after his initiation into a secret society known as the "Brotherhood of the Bell" or "the Bell", Dr. Andrew (Andy) Patterson (Glenn Ford) is requested to be the "senior" of a new initiate, Phillip Everest Dunning (Robert Pine). The initiation takes place in "the secret chamber of the bell" in the Beta Epsilon Lambda fraternity house of St. George College in San Francisco at sunrise. Patterson is coldly greeted by the house proctor Weber, who directs him to the library where he meets his "senior" Chad Harmon (Dean Jagger) of San Francisco, a member for forty years. The initiation takes place before a large bell in the center of a compass rose set into the floor. Phillip Dunning had been studying the articles and letters of the Brotherhood since midnight. He is then instructed by Harmon to give them to him to be destroyed. He is sworn to secrecy, and he takes his appropriate place at the east compass point with Harmon at the south point, Patterson at the west point, and Weber at the north point. He is reminded that he will be given an assignment or "due bill" at some indeterminate time in the future, and instructed that he is obliged to carry it out without question. The four men recite the oath of loyalty and secrecy and end by tolling the bell.
As they leave the fraternity house Chad Harmon gives Patterson a business card with an address written on it, telling him to stop by there before he takes the return flight to Los Angeles. In a parting conversation with his new junior Phillip Dunning, he makes the point of telling him that they are not only part of the establishment but "the" establishment.
Patterson arrives at the address on the business card, a mansion that appears unoccupied – the furniture is covered with drop cloths to protect against dust. A tall gray-haired man asks him for the card, and hands him two envelopes. A legal envelope contains his assignment, and a large manila envelope contains materials that assist in carrying out the assignment. Patterson is told to open them one hour after leaving the mansion.
Chad Harmon is being seated for luncheon when Patterson is ushered in. When the two of them are alone, Patterson tells Harmon his assignment: to ensure that a colleague at his institute, Dr. Constantine Horvathy (Eduard Franz), declines a deanship of the College of Linguistics in the eastern United States. The manila envelope contains photostatted dossiers of men and women in a Communist nation who helped Horvathy to defect to the West. Patterson is instructed to send the dossiers to the embassy of that nation if Horvathy refuses to comply.
Horvathy is a dear friend of Patterson and his wife, and Patterson is reticent to carry out the assignment. Harmon tries to calm Patterson by advising him to appeal to Horvathy on a personal level, which might eliminate the need for blackmail. Patterson agrees, returns to Los Angeles and meets Dr. Horvathy just before an evening scholarly presentation.
Dr. Horvathy does not agree to comply with Patterson's request, and demands reasons why he should do so. Patterson hands him the dossiers, which terrify Horvathy. Later that evening, Horvathy commits suicide.
Patterson and his wife, Vivian (Rosemary Forsyth), are awakened by the police. Patterson was the last person to see Horvathy alive, and the police want to question him. When the police leave, Patterson tells his wife the real reason Horvathy committed suicide. Vivian suggests that Patterson see her father, Harry Masters (Maurice Evans), and ask his advice.
Masters and Patterson meet with Thaddeus Burns, whom Masters says is an agent of the Federal Security Services (the film's fictional version of the FBI). They meet in what Burns calls a "cover office". Burns persuades Patterson to surrender materials related to the Horvathy incident, and Patterson complies. When he hears nothing more after several days, Patterson returns to the office of the Federal Security Services. Agent Shepherd (Dabney Coleman) tells Patterson that there is no agent "Thaddeus Burns", and that there is no record of Patterson's report to the FSS with information on the Brotherhood of the Bell. Shepherd questions Harry Masters, but Masters denies having taken Patterson to see Burns, and tells him that Patterson is emotionally disturbed and requires psychiatric help.
When Patterson returns to Harry Masters' home, he finds Masters in his study with a psychiatrist. Patterson angrily accuses Masters of lying. Patterson later learns that his entire department at the college will be dissolved due to a sudden cancellation of grant support. Patterson is also blacklisted so that he cannot attain another position elsewhere as a professor. The strain of these events takes a toll, and Vivian leaves him. Patterson realizes that everything he has had – career, success, marriage – for the past 22 years had been given to him because he was a member of the Brotherhood.
Patterson holds a press conference in which he discloses the existence of the Brotherhood of the Bell, and reveals his assignment that led to Horvathy's death. Chad Harmon publicly denies his claims, and the district attorney refuses to investigate due to lack of credible evidence.
Patterson's father (Will Geer), a road construction contractor, is ruined by a sudden audit of his company's books. The elder Patterson suffers a stroke in a confrontation with Harry Masters, and dies shortly thereafter.
Patterson becomes a crusader to expose and destroy the Brotherhood of the Bell. He appears on a local television talk show whose host (William Conrad) conducts an on-air forum. Since Patterson alleges a conspiracy, two conspiracy theorists in the forum embellish Patterson's claims with paranoid nonsense. The show host humiliates Patterson on the air by denouncing him as part of a lunatic fringe. Patterson attacks the host physically and is led off to jail.
Help comes from an unexpected quarter when his friend Dr. Fielder bails him out of jail and allows him to stay at his home. Fielder encourages Patterson to find another brother of the Bell to come forward with him. Patterson can only think of his own junior, Phillip Dunning. He flies to San Francisco and confronts Dunning in his dorm room early in the morning. Feeling he has failed to convince Dunning, he dejectedly returns to the airport. As he walks down a deserted corridor, he hears footsteps running towards him. It is Dunning, who is willing to return to Los Angeles with Patterson to help him expose the Brotherhood.
An earlier dramatic adaption of the novel was made for the Studio One anthology series, and aired January 6, 1958.
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- The Brotherhood of the Bell at the Internet Movie Database
- The Brotherhood of the Bell at AllMovie
- The Brotherhood of the Bell film on YouTube