Movie Mirrors Index


(1956 b 84')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Written by Rod Serling, a plant manager joins a company’s executive suites and learns that he is replacing the aging vice president who is being pressured to resign.

         Miss Margaret Lanier (Joanna Roo) takes an elevator to the 43rd floor and is welcomed into the office. Miss Stevens (Valerie Cossart) answers the telephone and says that the switchboard opens at nine. She leaves a message for Mr. Staples, who is beginning with the company today. By the coffee pot several women talks about the new man.

         As the church bell tolls nine, Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane) takes the express elevator alone. His secretary is notified and orders three calls put through from the Portland, Dallas, and St. Louis offices. He asks for messages and tells her to teletype his Portland report to Seattle and have twenty copies ready for the board meeting. He orders the meeting delayed until ten and says where Mr. Staples is to sit.

         Fred Staples (Van Heflin) gets out of his car in the street, and his wife Nancy (Beatrice Straight) moves to the driver’s seat and says goodbye. In the lobby he asks for help and is instructed to take the tower elevator to the 40th floor. William Briggs (Ed Begley) arrives in the office and tells Marge Fleming (Elizabeth Wilson) it will be a big week with the planning report, and he asks if Staples has arrived yet. Staples arrives, and Miss Lanier shows him his office with furniture he likes. She asks Marge to see that Mr. Staples has everything he needs. Marge explains the phone system to Staples. He sits at his desk. Bill Briggs introduces himself and shakes hands with Staples, who says he and his wife just got there that week and came from a small-town plant. Staples says this business under Ramsey does not seem impersonal. Briggs says he has been there forty years or so. Staples says he is in industrial relations, and Briggs says that is one of his specialties. Marge tells Briggs and Staples that Ramsey has called a meeting in the conference room. Staples meets Harvey Jameson (Andrew Duggan), who is head of purchasing. Privately Marge tells Briggs that she may resign because she was ordered to be Staples’ secretary, and she is to break in his new secretary. Marge starts to cry and says what the job has meant to her. Briggs says he likes Staples.

         Men come into the conference room and sit around the table. Miss Lanier tells Staples where to sit. Ramsey stands at the head of the table and instructs them to look over the report. He introduces Fred Staples from Mansfield, Ohio and says he is a production engineer. Ramsey introduces each man to Staples. Ramsey asks Jameson if the supplement is attached. He asks Mr. Grannigan (John Shelley) if it is feasible, and he says he thinks it is. Jameson asks about the stock price. Ramsey notices that Briggs is examining the report and asks what it is. Briggs asks about the good will lost by laying off nine hundred men in the plant before they resume production after six months. Ramsey chooses to disregard that and asks Briggs what he thinks of it. Briggs says it is adequate. Ramsey says they will later employ twice as many men, and they will sell more goods. He raises his voice and criticizes Briggs. Briggs says he thought he should air the point in the meeting. Ramsey asks Staples if he has an opinion, and he says he has none so far. Ramsey says he respects his answer. Ramsey adjourns the meeting until two. The meeting breaks up, and Ramsey asks Briggs if everything is all right. Briggs is taking a pill and says it is cast iron. Ramsey tells Staples that Briggs is working on a report, and he wants Staples to help him with it.

         Staples returns to his office and asks to see Marge. He asks her to find out who is to be his secretary. She says she is to be his secretary. He asks if she wants to remain with Briggs; but she says it was Mr. Ramsey’s idea. Marge wants to share some notes with Briggs, but he says he will do it later.

         Staples and his wife Nancy arrive home in their car. He offers to fix a drink in the kitchen, but she says to do it in the library. Nancy asks about his secretary, and he says she does not like him because she prefers her former boss. He says Briggs is a vice president and a nice guy. He says that running a plant in Ohio seems easy now. He noticed tensions and undercurrents.

         The next morning Ramsey arrives. In his office Staples asks Billy to show him a break-down again. Staples instructs him to make detailed notes about his delivery of the break-down. Staples makes a call and asks for a delay. He asks Marge to set up a conference call. Briggs comes in and says Ramsey is grumbling about something in Portland he thinks is premature. Staples says they have a labor problem out there, and he tells Briggs to tell Ramsey about the strike. Staples says it may cost them $4,000 a day. Briggs brings in his son Paul, who thanks Staples for the gun. Staples suggests Marge drink her coffee in his office and relax. She shares some of her coffee with him. She heard he was an All-American and asks where he played football. She says he fit in well, and he says that is the first friendly thing she said to him. She says she worked with Briggs for seven years, and Staples says he likes him. She says he is the last of the original bunch, and he has a bad heart and an ulcer. She says Staples is a good executive because he admits mistakes and does not pass the buck, like Briggs. She says Mr. Ramsey does not like his judgment questioned. She is afraid Briggs is about to be pushed off.

         In the library Ramsey tells how he makes coffee with salt and chocolate, and he asks Nancy if Staples is a coffee-drinker. She goes back to the party. People leave the party, and Nancy and Staples say goodbye to them. He asks why Briggs did not come and how long Ramsey is going to stay. Nancy says Ramsey is simple and charming. Staples goes into the library, and Ramsey says he read his report at his wife’s suggestion. Ramsey says he likes a man who shows initiative, and he is impressed. Staples says that he worked with Briggs on it. Ramsey says he knows Briggs’ work and that this is not his style. Ramsey tells Staples to learn to accept success. Staples says he does not want undue credit. Ramsey admits he is tough on Briggs, and Staples says he is a good man. Ramsey says he was, and he likes some of his ideas. Staples says Briggs would be hard to replace. Ramsey asks why he brought Staples there; he is Briggs’ replacement. He is expecting his resignation, but he will not fire him. Nancy comes in and offers coffee, but Ramsey says he has to leave. She goes out to get his coat, and Ramsey offers a suggestion. He says business cannot be run like a soup kitchen. He knows others think he is ruthless. Ramsey believes that the atmosphere of a large company cannot be like a cathedral. Nancy comes back in, and Ramsey thanks her for a wonderful evening. Ramsey tells Staples that he won his promotion, and he leaves. Nancy comes back in and asks what that was about. Staples says he is Briggs’ replacement. Fred says she told Ramsey that he wrote that report, but she denies that. He says the report is Bill’s basic idea. Nancy says Fred does not like to win if he knows the loser. She asks if he does not want to be successful. She asks if he told Ramsey he was taking credit for what he did not do. He says no, and she asks him why not. He says it is because he wants the job. She thanks him for the honest answer.

         In a kitchen Briggs says good morning to Paul and asks if he will be late. Paul says he has the time figured. Paul asks if his father knows how far he has to go and how long it will take him. He says they missed a double-header last night. Briggs suggests they go to the game that night. Paul asks him to call him if he cannot make it. Paul has to leave and goes out.

         Staples is leaving the office in the evening, and Briggs hears him. Briggs says his son is picking him up. Staples asks why he is still there. Briggs says he had a headache and sent Paul to the game. Briggs says he looked over Staples’ supplements to the report and says they are great. Briggs says he incorporated them because he thinks of the human factor. Briggs says Ramsey won’t be able to complain that he turns in the same report every year. He offers Staples a drink, but Staples says no. Briggs says he gets tired of the finagling. Staples says businesses grow, but Briggs says it did not grow but was only added to by old man Ramsey’s son. Briggs says old man Ramsey knew all the men’s names and would not lay off a single man. Briggs calls Walter Ramsey is a financial wizard. Briggs asks Staples to sit down and wonders if he is a good human being. Staples suggests that Briggs resign so that he won’t be fired. Briggs says on his level they cannot be fired; but the job becomes so hard that a person can no longer handle it. He says Ramsey wants him to resign. Staples asks why he does not quit. Briggs says he will never quit. Briggs says he is 62 years old and wonders if he could get another job. Briggs becomes upset and says how he would like to hit Ramsey. Staples tries to control him. They hear a door, and Briggs says he does not want his son to see him like that. Staples goes out in the hall and tells Paul that his father went home. Staples offers to drop Paul off, and they leave.

         In the morning Marge gets much mail and begins opening it. Staples gives her the proposals report for confidential copying. She asks how he wants the names. He says to put Briggs’ name first. Marge asks Miss Lanier to sign it for copying, but she tells her to show it to Ramsey. He sees the names and scratches out Briggs’ name, ordering her to print it. Marge takes it to Briggs’ office but sees he is busy. Miss Lanier says she can sign the report now, and Marge gives it to her.

         In the conference room Ramsey says the projects proposal report is ingenious and thanks Staples for his good work. Staples says that Briggs is responsible and that they worked on it together. Ramsey asks if Briggs’ ego has been nourished enough. Briggs objects, and they quarrel. Ramsey does not allow Staples to intervene. Ramsey says he built the business into a giant. When Staples gives his opinion, Ramsey shouts at him too. Staples asks Briggs to speak up. Ramsey says he knows which parts Staples added to what Briggs usually does. Briggs stands up, and Ramsey says he may resign. Briggs says he did not intend to seem insubordinate. Ramsey says the meeting is adjourned, and Briggs walks out. In the hallway Briggs collapses. Staples leans over Briggs, and Ramsey orders an ambulance.

         Later Marge answers the phone and thanks Staples. She tells two men that Briggs died five minutes ago. She watches Ramsey as he walks into his office and puts his hands on a bottle. Staples is sitting at a bar, and Nancy comes in. He asks how she got there. She asks if Paul knows, and he says he does. She asks if he has eaten anything. She asks what happened. He says nothing but a murder. He says no one lifted a finger to stop it. She says he begged him to resign and says he could not have done more. He tells her to go home and start packing. She asks where they are going, but he does not know. She refuses to leave him alone tonight. They go out and get in the car, and she drives off.

         Staples goes into Ramsey’s office, and Ramsey tells him that he has to go to Lansing in place of Briggs. He says Miss Lanier will bring what he needs to the airport. Staples says he does not want the job, and he is quitting. Staples says he hates his guts. Ramsey admits he is not a nice human being. Ramsey says Briggs had a lot of responsibility, and it belongs to those who can handle it. He does not apologize. Ramsey asks if Staples will work for nickel-and-dime people where nothing is worth fighting for. Staples says he does not like Ramsey, who says he needs Staples and that he is strong enough to take it. He asks him to name his terms. Ramsey doubles his salary and his stock option, and he gives him the title vice president. Staples says he wants more, to be someone who will fight him. Ramsey says it is a deal and asks if he has any reservations. Staples says he wants to be able to have Brigg’s idea of walking in and slugging him. Ramsey says that Briggs’ boy is being taken care of. Staples asks if that will help him sleep. They agree the new relationship has begun.

         Staples does down to the lobby, and Nancy asks if they pack. Staples says they are staying on his terms and those of Ramsey. She says she is happy. He says he has to fly to Lansing, and she asks when he will be back.

         This drama portrays the ruthless world of big business where powerful men make decisions that affect many people’s livelihoods. Personalities clash over values and ways of operating, and the man on top has the advantage and does not lose his power. He is able to bring in a new man as his second, but he does so by being hard-hearted to the man being replaced.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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