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The Arena 1956
Description: Arriving in Washington, a freshman senator gets an experienced advisor who warns him not to continue a heated feud with his state's senior salon, held over from his father. But soon in a drunken jag, he blurts out secret evidence that can end the career of the older man.
Released: 09 Apr 1956 Director: Franklin J. Schaffner Writers: Rod Serling (written especially for Studio One by) Actors: Wendell Corey, Chester Morris, John Cromwell, Leora Dana Genres: Drama
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The Arena Reviews:

This live teleplay has an perfect pedigree. First, it's written by Rod Serling--a boy who had an nice ability to write dialog and fascinating characters. Second, it stars two unbelievable hero actors who are cute much forgotten today but who are more than capable of anchoring a production--Wendell Corey and Chester Morris. Considering all these factors, it's natural that I would play "The Arena".The movie stars Corey as a brand-new Senator who was just appointed to finished a term. It seems that Corey's father was also a Senator. However, to some he was a nice man, but to the fellow Senator from his home state, the old boy was a fraud. Corey naturally takes nice umbrage at this and spends almost all his time and energy attacking his colleague--demanding he retract the accusations that his father was a crook.As for Morris, he stars as a behind the scenes guru who the politicians consult to create their careers blossom. His recent pet project is Corey--and where this relationship goes is for you to see for yourself---I certainly don't wish to spoil the movie by giving away spoilers.Overall, it's a very well-written and tight live TV movie that was fortunately saved for rebroadcast using the Kinescope process. The only negative is something my wife noticed--some of the melody (the drumbeat) was too intense and too heavy-handed. Still, it's a very well-crafted present and it's nice they did this live!


American political stories frequently revolve around the threat of blackmail -- ADVISE AND CONSENT, THE BEST MAN and PRIMARY COLORS come to mind. This present predates most of these, but is nowhere as interesting. Serling says of a young senator called Norton newly appointed to fill out the term of one who has just died. Norton comes with a chip on his shoulder -- his father had been a senator from the same state until he was forced out of politics by the same boy Norton actually has to deal with because he's a colleague. Norton acquires the ammo to avenge his father but wrestles with whether or not he could test it.Part of the trouble is that Serling draws his characters in such large crayon strokes that there is tiny moral complexity here. The father is such a snarling, vicious pit-bull that we wonder how the son should possibly have been blind to the old man's nature for so long. The son seems like a fool from day one. It doesn't support that Wendell Corey is supposed to be young and callow but he seems to be in his late forties at least. (I don't actually what his true age was then.)Serling wrote a lot of nice stuff, but this isn't one of his better efforts. It's preachy and clunky. This present is most interesting for the slightly over-the-top performance by Chester Morris as a political operative with a convenient weakness for liquor and a view of the young Frances Sternhagen who would go on to do a lot of unbelievable work in better parts.This is in the STUDIO ONE box set and is the first tool I've sampled. I'm hoping that the others are stronger.


Wendell Corey, the son of a forcibly retired politician, is appointed as a caretaker Senator. Is he fit to do war in THE ARENA that is the US Senate, with the support of veteran aide Chester Morris?Chester Morris is one of those actors whose reputation might be helped if there weren't a Turner Classic Movies. This is because, in the 40s, Mr. Morris often starred as the obnoxious Boston Blackie, who, when not solving his crimes in black-face (yes, really), smirked his method through a lot of stupid comic mysteries. And those are the films TCM keeps playing.To this role, Morris brings what is often visible in his 30s movies, an everytime show surface cockiness, tempered by experience. Here, he has to attempt to enjoy the worldly counselor to a daddy's man senator, who might be a nice man, if he can just escape his father's influence. He nails the part (which is written beautifully) and supports turn a somewhat preachy script into something more interesting. Wendell Corey gives an average performance, and others are just fine too.Of course, the present ends with a moral crisis, solved happily. In the politics of 2016, rest assured the morally pleasing respond Mr. Serling gives us would not have been considered by any politician now thinking of his future. For that reason, the ending may seem too pat to modern audiences. Not sure that is a judgment a 1956 viewer would have made.



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