Patterns (film)

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Patterns FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fielder Cook
Produced byMichael Myerberg
Jed Harris [1]
Screenplay by Rod Serling
Story byRod Serling
Starring Van Heflin
Everett Sloane
Ed Begley
CinematographyBoris Kaufman
Edited byDave Kummins
Carl Lerner
Jed Harris
Michael Myerberg
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • March 27, 1956 (1956-03-27)(New York City)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States

Patterns is a 1956 American drama 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. [1]



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 brings youthful industrial engineer Fred Staples, whose performance at a company Ramsey has recently acquired has impressed him, to do a top executive job at the head office. 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 does everything in his power to sabotage and humiliate him into resigning. The old man stubbornly refuses to give in. Staples has mixed feelings about the messy situation, his ambition conflicting with his 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 and Ramsey says that only high performers have any right to leading posts. In the end, Ramsey persuades him to stay, telling him that he is the only one who can function at Briggs' level and that he would not be able to reach his full potential anywhere else. Staples accepts a promotion with double his salary and stock options but warns Ramsey that he will actively work to replace him in the company. Staples also tells Ramsey of Briggs' "one pitiful 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 "taken care of" and Staples asks if that will let him sleep better tonight. Ramsey smiles and acknowledges that Staples has now taken on Briggs' adversarial role, saying: "It begins, eh?"

While the film's initial goal was to seemingly deconstruct and examine the world of corporate America and those at the top of the ladder, it ends revealing how money and power corrupt. That is to say, as long as money and power are at stake, how people are treated in the workplace matters little.


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's 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. In the teleplay, the other execs talk of having expected a much older man. That was also omitted from the film version.


Critical response

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)." [2]

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. [3]

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Patterns". AFI Catalog of Feature Films . American Film Institute . Retrieved 2020-10-04.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. Schwartz, Dennis (September 27, 2002). "Ozus' World Movie Reviews" (film review). Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
  3. Shales, Tom (April 27, 2008). "Serling's Patterns an Icon of Lost Era". TVWeek. Archived from the original on 2010-09-24.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)