The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2014 - page 39

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
JULY-AUGUST 2014
39
the motion picture, its casting and what makes
it such an enduring portrait of the United States
Foreign Service.
Dramatis Personae
Playing our Foreign Service hero, Ken Seeley,
was the handsome WilliamLundigan (1914-
1975). While studying at Syracuse University
Law School, he worked part-time as a radio
announcer. A Universal Studios executive heard
his voice, and signed him in 1937. His many pre-
war screen credits included “Dodge City” (1939),
“The Fighting 69th” (1940) and “The Sea Hawk”
(1940). In “Santa Fe Trail,” also released in 1940,
he joined Ronald Reagan in the cast.
During the war, Lundigan enlisted and took
his place behind, rather than in front of, the cam-
era. He was a Marine Corps combat cameraman
in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Return-
ing to Hollywood, he starred in “Pinky” (1949),
“Love Nest” (1951), “The House on Telegraph
Hill” (1951), “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain”
(1951), “Inferno” (1953) andmany other movies.
Like his friend Ronald Reagan, Lundigan
leaned conservative in his politics. In the 1964
presidential campaign, he, Walter Brennan, Chill
Wills and EfremZimbalist Jr. were a celebrity
Hollywood foursome supporting the Republican
candidate, Barry Goldwater, in his run against
President Lyndon Johnson.
Playing opposite Lundigan in our Foreign
Service blockbuster was Virginia Bruce (1910-1982). As the more
famous star, she received top billing. She had already played the
title role in the 1934 version of “Jane Eyre,” and in 1936 she intro-
duced the Cole Porter song, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in “Born
to Dance,” melting Jimmy Stewart’s heart. Her long list of other film
masterpieces includes “The Mighty Barnum” (1934), “The Great
Ziegfeld” (1936) and “PardonMy Sarong” (1942), in which she
starred with screen greats Abbott and Costello. Her performances
in “Adventure inWashington” (1941), “Action in Arabia” (1944) and
“Brazil” (1944) no doubt informed and shaped her work in “State
Department File 649.”
Other Hollywood deities appeared in the cast, as well. Jona-
than Hale surely deserved a statuette for his best-ever portrayal of
“the Director General.” Philip Ahn and Richard Loo were unjustly
neglected at the Oscars as Best Oriental Heavies. And it’s inexpli-
cable that the 1949 award for Actor with the Best Makeup did not
go to the professional wrestler Henry “Bomber” Kulky, appearing
as one of the Mongolian “bandits.”
Story Line
The filmopens with a stirring narrative introduction, referring
to the Foreign Service as “unsung and unhonored heroes;” “the
Silent Service that works under the most difficult and danger-
ous conditions, which require tact, diplomacy and courage;” and
“men and women who have given their health and their lives in
obscurity,” often “tortured, maimed, stricken by disease, disaster
and death.” I thought that Navy submariners were “The Silent
Service,” but who am I to dispute such plain words of truth, so well
deserved? From the platen of a scriptwriter, pure inspiration!
The film’s nonpareil plot then follows Seeley (Lundigan) as he
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