Point of Order!


1h 37m 1964

Brief Synopsis

Film clips reveal the rise and fall of anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Film Details

Genre
Documentary
Political
Release Date
Jan 1964
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Jan 1964
Production Company
Point Films
Distribution Company
Continental Distributing, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m

Synopsis

This editorial condensation of 188 hours of television kinescopes chronicles the United States Senate's Army--McCarthy Hearings, which occupied 36 days between 22 April and 16 June 1954 in the Senate Caucus Room. As the film begins, Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (known as the "McCarthy Committee"), has accused the United States Army of permitting Communist infiltration of its ranks. The Army has countercharged that McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy M. Cohn, have used threats to obtain special privileges for Cohn's friend and committee staff investigator G. David Schine, who had been drafted and sent to Fort Dix. McCarthy, in turn, has accused the Army of holding Schine for ransom to blackmail the committee into stopping its investigation. The principals in the hearing are introduced, and although several people on McCarthy's staff are pictured, including Robert F. Kennedy, it is primarily Cohn and McCarthy who are pitted against Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens, Army counselor John G. Adams, and special counsel Joseph N. Welch. The subcommittee also includes special counsel Ray Jenkins and his assistant Robert Collier; Senators John L. McClellan, Stuart M. Symington, and Henry M. Jackson; and Sen. Karl E. Mundt, who has temporarily taken over as chairman for McCarthy, who is now, in effect, on trial. Stevens testifies about Army efforts to resist pressures from the McCarthy staff to give special consideration to Private Schine. In retaliation the McCarthy Committee produces a photograph of Stevens and Schine together at an Air Force base, which gives the impression that the Secretary has been particularly friendly toward the private. The next day Welch produces a photograph identical to the other in every way, except that the second picture contains a third party, an Air Force colonel. From cross-examination of McCarthy staff member James Juliana it is established that the original group photo was cropped to make it seem as if only Stevens and Schine were in the picture. Later McCarthy submits to the committee a document identified as a 1951 report by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover summarizing espionage activities at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, but Hoover, through an intermediary, disclaims any knowledge of the paper. Welch, who establishes that McCarthy has possessed the document for months, asks Cohn why the incriminating information was never relayed to Stevens. McCarthy, riled at the lawyer's intensive questioning of his colleague, divulges that a member of Welch's law firm, Fred Fisher, once belonged to the National Lawyer's Guild, an organization labeled as subversive by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dismayed that McCarthy has used national television both to slander his associate and to exploit a minor occurrence that was already reported in the press, Welch castigates the senator in a long speech that receives loud applause from the spectators. Later McCarthy accuses Senator Symington of having advised Stevens of ways to frustrate the McCarthy staff's investigations of the Army, demanding that Symington rebut the accusations under oath. Symington criticizes the McCarthy staff's research and describes their files as the sloppiest and most carelessly handled he has seen in his government career. As Mundt calls a recess and the caucus room begins to clear, McCarthy likens Symington's statement to a Communist smear. Angrily, Symington answers that anyone critical in any way of the McCarthy staff is always certain to be branded a Communist, and he leaves the room with the others as McCarthy is left alone shouting into his microphone.

Film Details

Genre
Documentary
Political
Release Date
Jan 1964
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Jan 1964
Production Company
Point Films
Distribution Company
Continental Distributing, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m

Articles

In the Year of the Pig/Point of Order - Two Documentaries by Emile de Antonio on DVD

To order In the Year of the Pig, go to TCM Shopping.

To order Point of Order, go to TCM Shopping.


In a more perfect world, a boxed set of the late Emile de Antonio's political documentaries would come out, giving viewers a concentrated dose of his body of work and including a comprehensive documentary about the man.

That hasn't happened, but the release of DVDs of de Antonio's Point of Order! and In the Year of the Pig is a good start for those unfamiliar with the man who paved the way for such other political documentarians as Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), Ron Mann (Grass) and Robert Greenblatt (Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the War on Iraq, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price). The DVDs are also substantial enough that those familiar with the movies will find much to enjoy in their extras—despite the fact that neither includes the wished-for comprehensive documentary.

Point of Order! (1963) was de Antonio's first foray into filmmaking. He sifted through television footage of the 36 days of 1954's Army-McCarthy hearings, in which red-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy's bullying for power was exposed to a national audience, and whittled the proceedings down to movie length, making "high theater of it," as he later said. The hearings covered allegations traded by the Army and McCarthy. The Army charged McCarthy and his infamous chief counsel, Roy Cohn, had relentlessly sought privileges for G. David Schine, an ex-staffer who had been drafted. McCarthy said the Army was using Schine as a "hostage" to stave off the senator's investigation into Communist infiltration of the Army.

Though some of the details remain unclear, de Antonio's distillation of the hearings before a special Senate subcommittee is indeed dramatic. There is never a dull moment with personalities such as McCarthy, Cohn and Joseph Welch, the laconic lawyer who was the Army's special counsel, involved, while such elements as a cropped photo, a fabricated letter from J. Edgar Hoover and a real memo from President Eisenhower all figure in this great debate. It fell to self-described "old-time lawyer" Welch to level McCarthy during his cross-examination of the senator. With his bullheaded best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy, McCarthy injects a charge against one of Welch's law-firm colleagues, who had belonged to a leftist organization years before. In an eloquent refutation, Welch utters the famous line, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"

Arriving at this time, the DVD of Point of Order! makes a fitting companion to George Clooney's recent docudrama, Good Night, and Good Luck, about a different chapter in McCarthy's downfall, his struggle with broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. The McCarthy era's debate over balancing national security and civil liberties also makes Point of Order! especially relevant at the moment.

The same can certainly be said of 1968's In the Year of the Pig. After Point of Order!, de Antonio had made Rush to Judgment, an investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy with author Mark Lane, and America is Hard to See, which chronicled the upstart 1968 presidential campaign of a very different Senator McCarthy, Minnesota's Eugene McCarthy. Although his first three movies were anti-establishment advocacy movies, none was as bold as In the Year of the Pig, which questioned the Vietnam War at a time when the majority of Americans still supported it.

While you might expect such a film to be an emotional rant, In the Year of the Pig is actually a very interesting historical movie. Instead of just attacking U.S. foreign policy, in the movie's first half de Antonio presents an almost sober look at how Vietnam had been a plaything of Asian and western imperialism and how, when Vietnamese self-determination seemed to be a reality at the end of World War II, western democracy betrayed the country. First, the French colonials barged their way back into Vietnam, leading to their famous defeat at Dien Bien Phu to Vietnamese nationalist forces in 1954. The resulting truce agreement artificially split the country into the free north and French-occupied south until elections in 1956. But, then, when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh was going to win the election, the west reneged on the accord and installed a puppet regime, continuing the division of the country. This and later puppet regimes were increasingly propped up by the U.S. We, of course, sent in advisors and then troops when these regimes became less and less popular, and the chances for armed popular uprising became greater and greater—framing the conflict as a civil war in which we were aiding. But had the French and Americans left Vietnam to its own devices after World War II, the sources of much of the conflict would have vanished.

De Antonio gets around to attacking U.S. military conduct during the second half of the movie, and he frames the war as a David-and-Goliath battle in which he not only asks you to sympathize with the Vietnamese but to realize, as Daniel Berrigan says in his interview, "the war is not working." To tell his history, de Antonio uses a wide variety of news footage and interviews a wide variety of people, including politicians, academics and military and intelligence personnel. The perspective of the Frenchmen interviewed, who had already learned the hard lessons of Vietnam that the U.S. had not, is especially interesting. Of course, it's very debatable whether the U.S. truly learned the lessons of Vietnam, considering current world events. So the history in In the Year of the Pig feels very fresh, tragically fresh.

The Point of Order! and In the Year of the Pig DVDs each have extras that genuinely enhance its movie. Both have commentaries forged from a lengthy 1978 interview with outspoken de Antonio, although the second is shorter and not quite as interesting (its topics are more general). But the In the Year of the Pig DVD compensates by including a half-hour de Antonio interviewed that aired on Nebraska public TV in 1981. De Antonio is in fine, feisty form in the interview, as he is in these, two of his best known movies. His subsequent films included Millhouse, a savage knock on President Nixon that, again, exposed truths many had not yet noticed, and Underground, an extended interview with members of the radical Weather Underground when they were hiding out to escape arrest.

For more information about In the Year of the Pig, visit Image Entertainment. For more information about Point of Order, visit New Yorker Films.

by Paul Sherman
In The Year Of The Pig/point Of Order - Two Documentaries By Emile De Antonio On Dvd 
To Order In The Year Of The Pig, Go To
Tcm Shopping.

To Order Point Of Order, Go To
Tcm Shopping.

In the Year of the Pig/Point of Order - Two Documentaries by Emile de Antonio on DVD To order In the Year of the Pig, go to TCM Shopping. To order Point of Order, go to TCM Shopping.

In a more perfect world, a boxed set of the late Emile de Antonio's political documentaries would come out, giving viewers a concentrated dose of his body of work and including a comprehensive documentary about the man. That hasn't happened, but the release of DVDs of de Antonio's Point of Order! and In the Year of the Pig is a good start for those unfamiliar with the man who paved the way for such other political documentarians as Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), Ron Mann (Grass) and Robert Greenblatt (Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the War on Iraq, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price). The DVDs are also substantial enough that those familiar with the movies will find much to enjoy in their extras—despite the fact that neither includes the wished-for comprehensive documentary. Point of Order! (1963) was de Antonio's first foray into filmmaking. He sifted through television footage of the 36 days of 1954's Army-McCarthy hearings, in which red-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy's bullying for power was exposed to a national audience, and whittled the proceedings down to movie length, making "high theater of it," as he later said. The hearings covered allegations traded by the Army and McCarthy. The Army charged McCarthy and his infamous chief counsel, Roy Cohn, had relentlessly sought privileges for G. David Schine, an ex-staffer who had been drafted. McCarthy said the Army was using Schine as a "hostage" to stave off the senator's investigation into Communist infiltration of the Army. Though some of the details remain unclear, de Antonio's distillation of the hearings before a special Senate subcommittee is indeed dramatic. There is never a dull moment with personalities such as McCarthy, Cohn and Joseph Welch, the laconic lawyer who was the Army's special counsel, involved, while such elements as a cropped photo, a fabricated letter from J. Edgar Hoover and a real memo from President Eisenhower all figure in this great debate. It fell to self-described "old-time lawyer" Welch to level McCarthy during his cross-examination of the senator. With his bullheaded best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy, McCarthy injects a charge against one of Welch's law-firm colleagues, who had belonged to a leftist organization years before. In an eloquent refutation, Welch utters the famous line, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Arriving at this time, the DVD of Point of Order! makes a fitting companion to George Clooney's recent docudrama, Good Night, and Good Luck, about a different chapter in McCarthy's downfall, his struggle with broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. The McCarthy era's debate over balancing national security and civil liberties also makes Point of Order! especially relevant at the moment. The same can certainly be said of 1968's In the Year of the Pig. After Point of Order!, de Antonio had made Rush to Judgment, an investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy with author Mark Lane, and America is Hard to See, which chronicled the upstart 1968 presidential campaign of a very different Senator McCarthy, Minnesota's Eugene McCarthy. Although his first three movies were anti-establishment advocacy movies, none was as bold as In the Year of the Pig, which questioned the Vietnam War at a time when the majority of Americans still supported it. While you might expect such a film to be an emotional rant, In the Year of the Pig is actually a very interesting historical movie. Instead of just attacking U.S. foreign policy, in the movie's first half de Antonio presents an almost sober look at how Vietnam had been a plaything of Asian and western imperialism and how, when Vietnamese self-determination seemed to be a reality at the end of World War II, western democracy betrayed the country. First, the French colonials barged their way back into Vietnam, leading to their famous defeat at Dien Bien Phu to Vietnamese nationalist forces in 1954. The resulting truce agreement artificially split the country into the free north and French-occupied south until elections in 1956. But, then, when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh was going to win the election, the west reneged on the accord and installed a puppet regime, continuing the division of the country. This and later puppet regimes were increasingly propped up by the U.S. We, of course, sent in advisors and then troops when these regimes became less and less popular, and the chances for armed popular uprising became greater and greater—framing the conflict as a civil war in which we were aiding. But had the French and Americans left Vietnam to its own devices after World War II, the sources of much of the conflict would have vanished. De Antonio gets around to attacking U.S. military conduct during the second half of the movie, and he frames the war as a David-and-Goliath battle in which he not only asks you to sympathize with the Vietnamese but to realize, as Daniel Berrigan says in his interview, "the war is not working." To tell his history, de Antonio uses a wide variety of news footage and interviews a wide variety of people, including politicians, academics and military and intelligence personnel. The perspective of the Frenchmen interviewed, who had already learned the hard lessons of Vietnam that the U.S. had not, is especially interesting. Of course, it's very debatable whether the U.S. truly learned the lessons of Vietnam, considering current world events. So the history in In the Year of the Pig feels very fresh, tragically fresh. The Point of Order! and In the Year of the Pig DVDs each have extras that genuinely enhance its movie. Both have commentaries forged from a lengthy 1978 interview with outspoken de Antonio, although the second is shorter and not quite as interesting (its topics are more general). But the In the Year of the Pig DVD compensates by including a half-hour de Antonio interviewed that aired on Nebraska public TV in 1981. De Antonio is in fine, feisty form in the interview, as he is in these, two of his best known movies. His subsequent films included Millhouse, a savage knock on President Nixon that, again, exposed truths many had not yet noticed, and Underground, an extended interview with members of the radical Weather Underground when they were hiding out to escape arrest. For more information about In the Year of the Pig, visit Image Entertainment. For more information about Point of Order, visit New Yorker Films. by Paul Sherman

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 16, 1999

Released in United States January 14, 1964

Released in United States on Video February 16, 1999

Released in United States Winter January 14, 1964

Re-released in United States April 3, 1998

b&w

Selected in 1993 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States January 14, 1964 (New York City)

Released in United States Winter January 14, 1964

Released in United States February 16, 1999

Released in United States on Video February 16, 1999

Re-released in United States April 3, 1998 (Film Forum; New York City)