Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon: The Original "Conspiracy Theory" (1947)


Did you know that Conspiracy Theory (1997) starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts is actually a remake of a 1947 film of the same name starring John Garfield and Maureen O'Hara? It follows the same story line very closely, with only a few minor differences.

Released by Warner Brothers and directed by Elia Kazan (Gentleman's Agreement), the film tackles the conspiracies about Communism floating around Hollywood at the time. Jerry Fletcher (Garfield - in Gibson's role) is a New York cab driver who sees conspiracies of all kinds everywhere. He prints them in a newsletter that has a subscription of five people. When one of his conspiracies turns out to be true, he finds himself hunted by "them."

(The Postman Only Rings Twice)

Alice Sutton (O'Hara in Robert's role) is a Justice Department Attorney that Jerry is obsessed with. He visits her at her office whenever he has a really big conspiracy. Alice tolerates him because he saved her from being mugged once. One day Jerry comes to her with a conspiracy that members of the Communist Party are slowly infiltrating the Federal Loyalty Security Program, which had been newly formed by President Truman. This program "gave loyalty review boards the power to fire federal employees when 'reasonable grounds' existed for belief that they were disloyal. Evidence of disloyalty included not only treasonous activities, but 'sympathetic association' with a long list of organizations deemed by the Attorney General to be 'Communist, fascist, or totalitarian'." Alice listens to him and tells her she will take care of it. In a conversation with her boss though, we find out that she is really only concerned with finding out who her father's killer was.

(The Fallen Sparrow)

After Jerry leaves Alice's office, he spots some suspicious characters and follows them to a government building. A little while later he is abducted and brought to an abandoned wing of a mental hospital where he is tortured and injected with "gravy for the brain." Tied to a wheelchair, he manages to bite his captors nose and escape by sending the wheelchair down some stairs causing it to fall apart.

(Body and Soul)

Jerry makes his way back to Alice's building, holding up the guards at gunpoint. In a dramatic and emotional scene, Alice gets him to put down the gun and listens as he tries to tell her what happened to him under the influence of the injection. All he remembers is that he bit a man's nose off. Jerry is then brought to the hospital, as he has an injury in his side. Alice goes to visit him and he begs her to switch the his chart with that of the other man in the room, who is suffering from a knife wound. Alice tells him she can't do that. The next morning she comes back to find that the other man is dead. Jerry thanks her but she insists she didn't switch the charts.

(The Postman Only Rings Twice)

When the hospital discovers that the body is not that of Jerry Fletcher, as it says on the chart, the CIA and FBI come in and ask Alice some questions. Alice is thrown off guard when the CIA psychiatrist Dr. Jonas (Humphrey Bogart in Patrick Stewart's role), the man in charge, shows up with a huge bandage covering his nose. He tells her it is a dog bite, but now Alice isn't so sure that Jerry's story is so crazy after all. She also meets Agent Lowry (John Payne in Cylk Cozart's role).

(Miracle on 34th Street)

Jerry manages to escape the hospital, with Alice's help, and hides in her car. They swing by Jerry's apartment to try to figure out which of his conspiracies must be correct. Jerry gives Alice a list of his subscribers. The next day Alice calls all of the people on the list, only to discover that all but one have died. She follows the trail and ends up in Jonas's office. He tells her that Jerry was part of a government sanctioned program that brainwashed it's test subjects and turned them into assassins. He also tells her that it was Jerry who killed her father.

(Dark Passage)
Bogart's dramatic face bandage was reduced in the final film to just cover his nose.

Even though Alice knows Jonas is an evil man, she wants to get her father's killer, so she works with him to trap Jerry. When Jerry sends her a note to meet him on the bus, she goes. Jerry manages to lose Jonas and his men who are following and drives to Alice's father's stables in Connecticut. Alice calls Jonas at a fueling station to let him know her location.

At the stables, Jerry finally remembers what happened the night of her father's death. He was the one sent to kill him but found he couldn't go through with it. He tells her another assassin was sent to finish the job.

(The Fallen Sparrow)

Suddenly they are surrounded and Jerry is taken again. Alice tracks him down to the abandoned hospital wing. She hears him though a vent and manages to find him. As she unties him Jonas shows up. A fight ensues. Jerry drowns Jonas but is shot in the process. Agent Lowry shows up and Jerry is whisked away to a hospital. Alice is not allowed to go with him and later is told he is dead.

(We Were Strangers)

Able to move past her father's death now, Alice takes up horse riding again. One day, after visiting Jerry's grave, she finds a note in her house that had been slipped under the door. It's from Jerry. Alice realizes that he is still alive. When the communists have been cleared from the government program, he will be able to come out of hiding.

The moment Alice realizes Jerry is still alive.
(gif from Miracle on 34th Street)

Trivia:

Ann Sheridan was considered for the role of Alice.

Garfield and O'Hara had starred in The Fallen Sparrow together in 1943. It centered on Nazi conspiracies.

It's ironic that the conspiracy involved the Red Scare as Garfield was included in a FBI report as a Communist Party Member in 1949. This lead to his name being added to the Hollywood Blacklist and eventually his death from heart failure in 1952.

The film was not very well received at the time because the topic hit a little too close to home, which is why it remains such an obscure film, even today.

(Humoresque)

This post is part of The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes. Be sure to read about all of the other movies that weren't actually made! ;)

12 comments:

  1. I LOVE IT! Conspiracy Theory is one of my favorite movies, and this is such a perfect pre-make. Your casting is top-notch, and it would have worked perfectly with Communism instead of terrorism. Brilliant!

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    1. Thanks!! I watched Conspiracy Theory a few days ago and then the next day watched a couple Garfield movies and I thought he would be perfect in it!! :)

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  2. Great review, Phyl! I have not seen the Mel Gibson version, so I really got caught up in your plot description. I love the added touch of "Ann Sheridan was considered for the role of Alice"....I'm glad Maureen O'Hara got the part instead. She and James Garfield were a wonderful pair. Thank you for participating in the blogathon!

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    1. Thanks!! You should really watch it! I personally think Gibson should have gotten an Oscar for his performance.

      I was trying to think of red-heads and Sheridan popped into my head and then I thought, duh! Definitely Maureen O'Hara!!!

      So glad you hosted this again!!

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  3. By golly, I would pay money to see this picture. Garfield and Commies - yeah, I'd pay big time.

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  4. Aw so wish this had been a real film - would have reviewed it for your blogathon xx

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    1. Thanks :) I was pretty excited when I came up with it.

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  5. I did see the Mel Gibson version, but this sounds so much better! What a great idea.

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    1. Thanks!! Love the Gibson one but if I had to choose between it and this one..... ;)

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  6. I'm another one who wishes this film had been made. It would have been one of Garfield's best!

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    1. I agree. It was a role made for him!!

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