This is a made for TV movie that aired back in October of 1973. It is one of the rare made for TV films that are made so well and have everything it takes to make it worth watching again after so many years.
The movie is based on the novel by Robert J. Serling. The basic plotline as described on IMDB states … “While on the brink of a military confrontation with China, Air Force One crashes in the desert, killing the President. This brings Vice-President Kermit Madigan to power who, having been left in the dark by the president, must now rely on his predecessor's aides to guide him. But they have markedly different viewpoints and hidden agendas. Will he blunder his way into a nuclear exchange with the Chinese?”
That description fails to mention that the body of the President was NOT found in the wreckage of the aircraft when it was finally found, and this error of omission is really the main point of intrigue explored in the film. There is panic, confusion and those only interested in making war, not peace. Not to worry, there's a clever little angle and twist that resolves this well crafted story.
Check it out, I think you'll like it.
- Buddy Ebsen as Vice President Kermit Madigan
- Peter Graves as Mark Jones
- Arthur Kennedy as Gunther Damon
- Raymond Massey as Secretary of State Freeman Sharkey
- Mercedes McCambridge as Hester Madigan
- Rip Torn as National Security Advisor George Oldenburg
- Louise Sorel as Joanna Spencer
- Dabney Coleman as Senator Bert Haines
- Joseph Campanella as Colonel Doug Henderson
- Richard Eastham as General Colton
- Byron Morrow as Admiral Phillips
- Bill Walker as Thomas
- Richard Bull as First Controller
- Richard Stahl as Dentist
- Gil Peterson as Tower Controller
- Barry Cahill as Ground Crew Chief
- Lillian Lehman as Genesse
- James Sikking as Aide to Dunbar
- Barbara Leigh as WAF
- George Barrows as Mr. Meyers
- John Amos as Marine Corporal
- John Ward as Major D'Andrea
- Tod Andrews as President Jeremy Haines
- James Wainwright as General Ben Dunbar
- James B. Smith as Major Earl Foster
This movie was filmed in 1971 but delayed for airing by ABC because that was the year of President Richard Nixon's trip to China and they didn't want to show the Chinese in a negative way. Instead, it aired on October 23rd 1973.