The date was October 1954, and the city of Newhall, California was still small enough to pose as the setting for the sleepy fictional town of “Suddenly” in the film of the same name.
In the film, Sinatra and a group of hired killers pose as FBI agents who take a group of people hostage in a house overlooking a train station, where they intend to shoot the president when he de-trains.
Suddenly came on the heels of Sinatra’s Oscar-winning performance in From Here To Eternity, and Sinatra delivers a solid performance as a psychotic heavy, which was a tough sell for a 120-pounder.
The film used many locations sprinkled around downtown Newhall which still exist, including the Benson house on 8th Street, and the Saugus Train Station, which is no longer at the site it occupied in the film, but today can be found in Heritage Junction, inside the William S. Hart Park.
Suddenly was thought to be an inspiration for 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate, another presidential assassination film, which also starred Sinatra, who this time tries to prevent an assassination attempt.
Rumors circulated that Lee Harvey Oswald watched Suddenly shortly before assassinating Sinatra’s friend John F. Kennedy. This was not the case, but it’s possible that Oswald saw the film on its initial release in theaters nine years earlier.
The film was pulled from distribution after the Kennedy assassination and was largely forgotten. It again became a subject of controversy in the mid-1980s when a colorized version was released which turned Sinatra’s famous blue eyes brown.