Patterns (1956) – full review!
It’s curious to me that very few corporate boardroom dramas exist and that the two best were released within a couple of years of each other. Like Executive Suite (1954) this Rod Serling teleplay (which he also adapted for the big screen) is an excellent business behind-the-scenes story that holds up today because of it authenticity. Van Heflin plays Fred Staples a sharp plant manager who is brought in to replace aging executive vice president William ‘Bill’ Briggs (Ed Begley) by the company’s demanding chairman Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane). Briggs had worked for Ramsey’s father a man he respected and has continued to voice his concerns about any company issue refusing to become a “yes man” for the son that’s now in charge. Out of respect for Briggs’s tenure Ramsey will not fire him. However the chairman does employ a two pronged approach hoping to force the executive to resign: hire Staples then embarrass by harassing Briggs relentless at board meetings in front of the other executives.
Directed by Fielder Cook the cast also includes Beatrice Straight as Fred’s wife Nancy Elizabeth Wilson as Marge – Walter’s loyal secretary of seven years that’s reassigned to work for Fred Joanna Roos as the secretary’s boss and Mr. Ramsey’s secretary Miss Lanier Andrew Duggan as one of several other executives Ronnie Welsh as widower Briggs’s neglected son Paul and Ed Binns as the elevator manager. With a sharp and quick eye one can catch a glimpse of a woman that’s unmistakably Lauren Bacall (in the center of the lobby between the elevators) near the beginning of the film.
Initially Fred seems unaware of Walter’s intentions to replace Bill. However after a party at the Staples’ home during which Nancy encourages the chairman to read a report that her husband had been working on for Bill Walter makes them clear. Fred then has to struggle with his own ambition especially when Walter credits Fred for what was Bill’s idea at the next meeting of the executives. An argument ensues and a dejected Bill is forced to swallow his pride once again before leaving the room and collapsing under the stress and humiliation; shortly thereafter he dies in the hospital. This prompts a showdown meeting between Fred and Walter the outcome of which is unexpected and not entirely unrealistic either.