The FBI feared that "Seven Days in May" was bad for America

The FBI feared that “Seven Days in May” was bad for America

The Bureau shared concerns that the film’s depiction of an aborted military coup would be used as Communist propaganda

Written by
Edited by Beryl Lipton

A memo uncovered in Ronald Reagan’s Federal Bureau of Investigation file reveals the FBI’s concerns that the 1964 film “Seven Days in May,” which depicted an aborted military coup of the U.S. government, would be used as Communist propaganda and was therefore “harmful to our Armed Forces and Nation.”

The memo, dated March 20, 1964 and brought to MuckRock’s attention by an anonymous submission to our Ronald Reagan FBI crowdsource, details a communication between retired Admiral Arleigh Burke (described as “a good friend of the Bureau”) and Assistant Director William “Bill” Sullivan. Burke expressed his concerns over the recently-released film, which he described as “critical of military establishment” and “detrimental to Nation (sic).”

Burke had expressed this sentiment to the press, which resulted in him receiving several letters from other concerned citizens. These letters contained allegations regarding the film and other recent works that “derogate military” (including “Dr. Strangelove,” whose screenwriter Terry Southern would be the subject of an FBI investigation a year later), namely that they were all the work of individuals with Communist ties. Burke wanted to know if these allegations were true.

Echoing Burke’s concerns regarding the film, the memo recommended that Sullivan be given the go-ahead to provide Burke with the “public source material” available on these individuals. In a barely legible handwritten note, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover appears to agree.

What follows is a brief synopsis of the movie and the 1962 novel upon which it was based …

(and with typical FBI self-consciousness, specific attention given to any mentions of the Bureau)

and the aforementioned public source material regarding those individuals named by Burke, including “Seven Days in May” leads Burt Lancaster …

and Kirk Douglas.

(Though Reagan is not mentioned anywhere in the memo, considering that it is part of a larger file on alleged Communist infiltration in Hollywood, a topic for which Reagan was known to be a source for the Bureau, it’s not too wild to speculate that Reagan might be the name behind the black bar as the source of some of this material compiled for Burke.)

The memo concludes with a comment that regardless of its intended message, both the book and film will be embraced by those who “dislike, distrust, or fear the military” …

not the least of which were Communists, both foreign and domestic.

And as such, the FBI could only conclude that “Seven Days in May” was, to put it plainly, bad for America.

Anti-Soviet hardliners conspiring in secret over concerns that the U.S. population wasn’t taking the threat of Communism more seriously? Gee, that sounds familiar.

Read the full file embedded below or on the request page.

Image via Paramount Pictures