Cast & Crew
In the New York offices of Ramsey and Co., president Walter Ramsey orders his subordinates, led by head secretary Margaret Lanier, to prepare for the arrival of new executive Fred Staples. Over coffee, several secretaries discuss the rumor that Fred is meant to replace the ailing vice president, Bill Briggs, who is coming off a medical leave after suffering an ulcerous stomach. Fred, a production engineer and former head of a small tool and dye company in Ohio, drives in from his new suburban home with his wife Nancy, and is taken aback by his luxurious office. Bill welcomes Fred warmly, but the men's introductions are interrupted by Bill's secretary, Marge Fleming, who informs them of an unexpected meeting called by Ramsey. In Bill's office, Marge confides her dismay that Ramsey has just assigned her to be Fred's new secretary. Although stung that he was not consulted, Bill encourages Marge to accept the position and agrees to take on a less experienced secretary. In the meeting, Ramsey introduces Fred before turning to the acquisition of a bankrupt company in a small town. Bill argues vigorously that the measures in Ramsey's proposal will cost most of the company, and town, their jobs. To Fred's dismay, Ramsey comes down harshly on Bill, dismissing his concern as ineffectual sentiment that ignores the long-term economic aims of the plan. Ramsey asks Fred his opinion and when Fred states he knows nothing about the company or the purchase, Ramsey is pleased by his honesty. Later after the meeting, Bill overhears Ramsey tell Fred that he must assist Bill on numerous projects. That evening at home, Fred admits to Nancy his unease over the tensions and undercurrents at his new office, but Nancy suggests Ramsey's attention to him bodes well. Several days go by and Fred slips into the office routine, working well with the affable Bill. Marge congratulates Fred for adapting so quickly and he comments on her tacit resentment toward him. Marge admits her discomfort at leaving Bill after seven years and observes that Bill, as the last of the company's founding members, deserves more of Ramsey's respect. Instead, Marge fears that Ramsey is trying to force Bill out due to his poor health. A few nights later at a party given by the Staples, Nancy gives Ramsey a report prepared by Fred. Although unhappy with his wife's action, Fred meets Ramsey in his study and is pleased when Ramsey praises the report. When Fred reveals that Bill, who has been too ill to attend the party, contributed to the report in equal measure, Ramsey warns him not to be generous to unworthy associates. Angered, Fred stands up for Bill, but Ramsey insists that while Bill was once a good executive, he has refused to adapt his business strategies to the times. Fred insists that Bill would be hard to replace and is stunned when Ramsey heatedly replies that Fred should accept that he was hired to replace Bill. Ramsey states that he will never fire Bill, but knows he will retire soon. After the party, Fred scolds Nancy for showing Ramsey the report, but when he suggests he will not "step on" others to get ahead, Nancy presses him to admit his own ambitions and have the strength to go after them. A few nights later, Fred is surprised to find Bill at the office even though he promised to take his teenaged son Paul to a baseball game. Bill reveals he sent Paul on alone and acknowledges he has been drinking to quell a headache. After Bill praises Fred's report and says he feels reassured that Fred supports many of his own ideas, he goes on to criticize the cold harshness that has crept into the business. Fred suggests that in order to grow, businesses must change, but Bill laments the honorable, personal touch that Ramsey's father gave to the company thirty years before. When Fred asks Bill if he has considered resigning, Bill admits he has, but then furiously declares he will continue to withstand Ramsey's degrading treatment and never resign. Fred grows alarmed when Bill suddenly describes his deep hatred for Ramsey and, when Paul returns, calms Bill by offering to take his son home for him. The next day, in preparation for a meeting, Ramsey is angered to find Bill's name on the report and crosses it out before copies are made. During the meeting, both Fred and Bill are taken aback by the omission of Bill's name from the report, but when Fred attempts to make amends, Ramsey overrides him and condescendingly berates Bill for attempting to claim credit for Fred's presentation. The three men begin a heated argument, in which Ramsey stingingly accuses Bill of not having had an original idea in ten years. When Bill rises, Ramsey warns him that if he finds things intolerable he can resign and Bill mutely returns to his seat. After the meeting's recess, Bill goes into the hall and collapses and dies later that afternoon at the hospital. Later, Nancy finds Fred in a bar near the hospital, outraged over Ramsey's brutal behavior toward Bill. Nancy reminds Fred that he advised Bill to resign, but Fred insists he will give up his position immediately. Fred orders Nancy home to pack, but Nancy refuses, declaring she will accompany him to the office. Upon returning there, Fred is stunned when Ramsey calmly orders him to take Bill's place on a trip the next day. When Fred bitterly states he would never allow Ramsey to treat him like he treated Bill, Ramsey declares that difference is why Bill was ineffectual and why Fred will be effective as vice president. When Fred hesitates, Ramsey tells Fred that if he leaves, he will never realize his full potential and remain unhappy. Ramsey offers to double Fred's salary, provide stock options and give him an unlimited expense account if he accepts the vice presidency. Fred retorts that he will never give Ramsey a moment's peace as his second-in-command, then agrees to the terms. Surprised by his grim pleasure, Fred then goes downstairs to share the news of his promotion with Nancy.
Originally, Patterns was a teleplay by Rod Serling (host and narrator of TV's The Twilight Zone) that made its premiere in 1955 on Kraft Television Theatre and immediately received unanimous critical acclaim. While it bore similarities to The Strike, an earlier teleplay by Serling, Patterns hit a nerve with audiences of its era. It was one of the first films to explore the psychology of the modern corporate workplace and to question the ethics and morality of the people who worked there. Certainly, big business was a topic of interest to most American audiences in the mid-fifties. The Oscar-nominated Executive Suite, which also dealt with a power struggle behind closed doors, appeared in 1954, and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which focused on the fast track to success on Madison Avenue, arrived in theatres in 1956. Unfortunately, Patterns with its excellent ensemble performances and razor-sharp dialogue, received no Oscar nominations and was virtually ignored by the public when it was transferred to the big screen. Yet, of the three films, Patterns is the more complex and intense viewing experience and one that can be interpreted differently by diametrically opposed groups. For instance, Everett Sloane, so effective as the ruthless boss, was surprised to learn from targeted viewer surveys that "the executives took it as complete justification for the credo that anything goes that's for the good of the business."
The inspiration for Patterns was Serling's own experiences at the television station, WLW, while the cold, calculating Ramsey was a composite of Colonel Rock Haugen, Serling's former regimental commander, CBS owner William Paley, and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. When Serling agreed to adapt the teleplay for the screen, he was subjected to some Hollywood power politics himself by co-producer Jed Harris, who penned additional scenes for the film while discarding some of Serling's original material. Luckily, director Fielder Cook convinced Harris to bring Serling back for much needed rewrites resulting in a film that was almost identical to the original television version. Regardless of the problems he encountered during the filming of Patterns, Serling soon found himself a much sought-after screenwriter and went on to reap further acclaim for his screenplays for Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Seven Days in May (1964), and Planet of the Apes (1968).
Director: Fielder Cook
Producer: Michael Myerberg
Screenplay: Rod Serling
Film Editing: Dave Kummins
Art Direction: Richard Sylbert
Cinematography: Boris Kaufman
Principle Cast: Van Heflin (Fred Staples), Ed Begley (William Briggs), Everett Sloane (Walter Ramsay), Beatrice Straight (Nancy Staples), Michael Dreyfuss (Billy), Sally Gracie (Ann), Eleni Kiamos (Sylvia Trammel), Elizabeth Wilson (Marge Fleming).
By Jeff Stafford
Patterns is not listed in the Copyright Catalog, nor is there a copyright statement on the film. Patterns was a filmization of the teleplay of the same name broadcast on January 12, 1955 as part of NBC's Kraft Television Theatre series. It was one of the first teleplays (after the Hecht-Lancaster production of Marty, ) to be produced as a feature film. Fiedler Cooke also directed the "Patterns" teleplay. Everett Sloane, Ed Begley, Elizabeth Wilson and Joanna Roos recreated their roles from the television original.
According to an October 1955 Daily Variety article, after the film's production, co-producers Jed Harris and Michael Myerberg, who had teamed at the beginning of that year, split up. Patterns was their first joint effort and only Myerberg received onscreen credit. Both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety reviews listed Harris as co-producer. The Hollywood Reporter review noted the discrepancy between the onscreen and paper credits given to reporters. Daily Variety noted in November 1955 that Harris had filed suit against Myerberg and board member Lee Moselle, stating that the defendants had "wasted" corporation assets and demanding that Harris receive 50% stock interest in the firm created by Harris and Myerberg. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
Many reviews of Patterns noted its story similarities to M-G-M's 1954 production Executive Suite. Like that film, Patterns did not have a musical score. One review commented on how the lack of music accentuated the street and office sounds and lent the production atmosphere. The film was shot on location in New York and at the Warner Bros. studio in Brooklyn.
Released in United States Spring March 1956
Originally started out as a television play for the "Kraft Theatre" hour.
Released in United States Spring March 1956