Mirage (1965 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Harry Keller
Written by Peter Stone
Howard Fast (book)
Starring Gregory Peck
Diane Baker
Walter Matthau
Music by Quincy Jones
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • May 26, 1965 (1965-05-26)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,500,000[1]

Mirage is a 1965 thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk[2] from a screenplay by Peter Stone, based on the novel Fallen Angel, written by Howard Fast under the pseudonym Walter Ericson; the novel is not credited by title onscreen. The film stars Gregory Peck, Diane Baker, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and Kevin McCarthy, and was released by Universal Pictures.


When the electricity cuts out in the New York City skyscraper where he works, cost accountant David Stillwell (Gregory Peck) decides to leave by the darkened stairs rather than wait for power. A young woman (Diane Baker) on the stairs, Shela, greets him as a friend, but he does not know her. Alarmed, she flees into a sub-basement.

On the street is the body of peace activist Charles Calvin (Walter Abel), who apparently jumped from his office. Stillwell returns to the stairwell, but there is no sub-basement. A man in the basement, Willard (George Kennedy), tells him to leave.

At Stillwell's apartment building, a stranger, Lester (Jack Weston), pulls a gun on him. He orders Stillwell to go meet "the Major" and to take his briefcase. Stillwell manages to knock out the gunman.

Reporting this to the police, Stillwell is distressed by basic questions about his background. He storms out and finds a psychiatrist, Dr. Broden (Robert H. Harris). There he suddenly realizes he has no memory of anything before the two years of his present job. Broden says it is impossible to have amnesia for two years without being aware of it, and angrily throws him out.

Stillwell finds a private detective, Ted Caselle (Walter Matthau), who admits that this is his first case. Skeptical at first, Caselle becomes convinced his client is not crazy when he spots Willard following them. Stillwell tries to show Caselle his office, close to Calvin's, but there is only a blank wall. They go to the basement; Willard arrives and shoots at Stillwell and Caselle, but they escape.

Stillwell then encounters Shela. She tells him he has something the Major wants very badly; she also claims they were previously in a relationship. She reluctantly accompanies him to see Joe Turtle, the concierge at Stillwell's workplace, but Turtle has been murdered. Stillwell forces Shela to see what her associates are capable of, then they spend the night together.

Stillwell wakes to find Shela gone and Lester and Willard downstairs. He disarms Lester and tries to use him as a shield, but Willard just kills Lester. Stillwell escapes once again, but then finds Caselle murdered.

Stillwell has started having flashbacks. He revisits Dr. Broden: he now believes his amnesia is only two days old, which is plausible. Broden helps him recall more. Stillwell realizes that his memories were false; Broden explains that his mind was trying to replace memories too painful to remember. Stillwell is not an accountant, but rather a "physio-chemist", and a protege of Calvin's. Although he formerly lived in New York and owns an apartment there, for two years he has been working (in a sub-basement) under Josephson (Kevin McCarthy) in California, doing research.

Stillwell goes to see Calvin's widow. She thinks he killed Calvin and Stillwell remembers seeing him fall. He spots a photograph of Calvin with a major, whom she names. He goes to see the Major; also there are Willard, Josephson, and Shela, the Major's girlfriend. Stillwell's memory returns completely. He discovered a way to "neutralize nuclear radiation"; ostensibly for peaceful purposes, this would also make using nuclear weapons more attractive. He went to New York to consult Calvin and found he was in business with the Major. (During their confrontation Stillwell used the words "cost accountant".) The Major turned off the power to keep Stillwell in the building. Stillwell burned the paper describing his invention; Calvin grabbed for it and fell out the window, causing Stillwell's amnesia.

The Major has Willard play Russian roulette with his gun pointed at Stillwell's head, but Stillwell refuses to recreate his work. Finally Shela shoots Willard. Josephson takes her gun; but when Stillwell points out that the Major dare not let Josephson live, Josephson calls the police. Stillwell and Shela embrace.



The Hitchcockian screenplay was written by Peter Stone as a follow-up to the hugely successful Charade. Matthau and Kennedy were holdovers from the cast of Charade.

Filming took place on a number of locations in the New York Financial District. The fictitious Unidyne company was headquartered at 2 Broadway. Another key location in the film is the walk with Peck and Baker through Battery Park to City Pier A.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  2. ^ "Mirage". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 29, 2016. 

External links[edit]