Greatest Film Scenes
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Patterns (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Patterns (1956)

In director Fielder Cook's drama that was originally produced as a teleplay written by Rod Serling (who became well-known after the debut of his 5-season TV series Twilight Zone beginning in 1959); the teleplay first aired on NBC's The Kraft Television Theatre in early 1955 before it was adapted by Serling and produced as a feature-length film, following in the footsteps of a similar teleplay that became a successful film - Marty (1955). The B/W drama was filmed in a Brooklyn studio and on-location in NYC. It was followed by Billy Wilder's acidic The Apartment (1960), and emulated decades later by AMC's Mad Men episodic drama series.

This boardroom-office urban melodrama (without a musical score) - about a back-stabbing power struggle and ladder-climbing within corporate big business ("survival of the fittest") and 'gray flannel suits' - was similar in plot to MGM's Executive Suite (1954). It featured the sensationalist tagline about the lack of corporate morality: "Ruthless Men And Ambitious Women...Clawing For Control Of A Billion Dollar Empire!!!" Another tagline was: "PATTERNS OF PASSION... PATTERNS OF GREED...PATTERNS OF LUST...that shake the gray flannel world of 'big money' like an earthquake!"

  • the film opened with title credits, including imposing low-angled views of NYC and its spectacular, over-powering skycrapers that dwarfed viewers from below; the industrial giant Ramsey & Co. (with its executive structure outlined on a building directory) revealed that the high-powered corporation was on the top 40th floor of the Ramsey Building skyscraper; its kingly head was ruthless, menacing, callous, and harsh profit-driven business executive Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane); his assistant general manager was aging, 62 year-old, long-time executive VP William "Bill" Briggs (Ed Begley) of over 30 years - he was one of the corporation's founders with Walter's father Jim Ramsey
  • Ramsey's cool, no-nonsense, all-knowing and efficient head secretary was introduced - Miss Margaret Lanier (Joanna Roos); she was assigned to prepare for the arrival of a new employee
  • in the film's early scenes, it was revealed that a young and ambitious rising star - production engineer Fred Staples (Van Heflin) had been newly-recruited from the small-town of Mansfield, Ohio, where he had worked for six years at Queen City Tool & Die when his company had been acquired by Ramsey; Fred had relocated to a new suburban country house with his ideally-suited, social-climbing wife Nancy (Beatrice Straight)

New Hire Fred Staples (Van Heflin) Arriving With His Wife For First Day of Work at Ramsey & Co.

Fred Staples Overwhelmed in Lobby of Immense Ramsey Building

The Extravagant 40th Floor Office Corridor
  • Fred arrived for his first day of work when his wife dropped him off outside - both were overwhelmed by the immense towering Ramsey Building before them; he noted hopefully: "A little different from Mansfield, isn’t it?... Gimme a chance, honey, maybe I can cut it down to my size"; after he entered the grandiose lobby, a low-angle shot emphasized the enormity of the place; after taking the Tower Elevator to enter the upper offices, he was shown his own luxurious, recently-redecorated private office
  • he met the personable, kind-hearted, positive-thinking, genial, ethical and honorable VP Briggs who had just returned from sick leave; he was suffering from medical issues related to heart problems and an ulcer; Fred expressed immediate amazement to Briggs about how he was slightly taken aback by everything: ("You come out of a small town plant, you-you feel a little lost in a place like this")
  • Bill's faithful secretary Marge Fleming (Elizabeth Wilson) for the previous seven years was told that she had been permanently reassigned to Staples through an order by Mr. Ramsey, without Bill's prior knowledge - she was devastated and struggled with her decision to either stay or resign; it was beginning to dawn on Briggs that there was an underlying strategy to replace him
  • in a board meeting in the conference room headed by Ramsey, one of the film's earliest contentious issues became evident during a discussion of the brutal, heartless planned purchase proposal of a bankrupt company in the small village of Williamston; Briggs was the sole voice to disagree with Ramsey when he mentioned that the plant employed 900 men - half of the inhabitants of the town, and that the acquisition would decimate the community for 6 months until the men were rehired; Ramsey counter-argued that more than 900 men would eventually be hired: ("We're not going to ruin that town, we're goiing to make it!") and that it would help the corporation's bottom-line
  • he also insulted Briggs with a tongue-lashing about not having an original idea or point-of-view in his head for many years: "I should think, Mr. Briggs, that after 30 years, you'd be able to think beyond the tongue-clucking stage and come up with something resembling an analytical point-of-view"; on the other hand, Ramsey complimented Staples for his thoughtful response - that he would pass on making a judgment until he knew more

Ramsey's Tyrannical Belittling of Briggs During a Conference Meeting

On the Other Hand, Ramsey Complimented Staples
  • after a party at the Staples' home, Fred experienced his first conflict with Mr. Ramsey in his home's library; after Fred was praised by Ramsey for his work on a project, Ramsey wouldn't accept Fred's claim that Briggs had collaborated with him: ("This isn't his style, it isn't his brand of thinking...Don't take half of your accomplishment and hand it out gratuitously to the man on the left who hasn't the stuff to do it on his own. That's charitable, humane, it makes you feel good, but it's not business")
  • when Fred defended Briggs as a "good man," Ramsey reminded him that Briggs' time was up and long overdue, like an antique: ("Grandfather clocks were good clocks, and Stanley Steemers were good automobiles, but you can't run them in competition today"); Ramsey blurted out the truth - that he was openly grooming Staples to replace him: ("Fred, you're Briggs' replacement! I thought you understood that. I'm expecting his resignation... You didn't steal that promotion, you won it!")
  • unable to fire Briggs due to his seniority, it was clear that Ramsey's tyrannical and devious plan was to degrade, sabotage and exasperate Briggs by bringing him to the brink of resignation or retirement rather than firing him, for reasons related to his poor health and his old-fashioned inability to adjust to changing times; Fred began to realize that he had been brought in by the demanding Ramsey to eventually replace Briggs as soon as possible - not just as an industrial relations manager but as VP
  • after Ramsey departed from the party, Fred explained to his wife how appalled and surprised he was that he had been misled and lured to NYC to replace the current VP - and that he disliked how it was being handled: "I don't like stepping on another human being to get to a capital gains bracket. Ramsey stalking that poor guy like an animal. He'll whip him to death if he could to make him resign" - but then Fred made the startling confession to his wife that he actually wanted the position: "I want the job"
  • in a sub-plot about Briggs' family, for years, teenaged son Paul Briggs (Ronnie Walsh) had been neglected and displaced by his father's workaholic hours; Briggs had often forgotten about promises to his son to attend ball games together, and now he had missed a double-header the previous night
  • that evening at work, Fred found an exhausted Briggs working late (and drinking) in his office after sending Paul to the ballgame by himself; Briggs was distraught and worked up over the direction the company had taken years earlier; he rhapsodically praised founder Jim Ramsey, but dismissed Ramsey's "barracuda" son as a "spindly little financial wizard, this wall-eyed, ice-coated little rooster who knows more about debentures than he does about the human heart" - the exploitative Ramsey had overtaken the company with sharpster financiers; in his opinion, the company's original principles of decency and humanity had been compromised and thoroughly destroyed
  • when Fred suggested that Briggs might resign to avoid being fired, Briggs told him about office policy: "On our level you don't get fired, you know that. After thirty years of productive work, they can't say to a man like me, 'Alright, now get out!' They just can't do that. So what do they do? They create a situation. A situation you can't work in and finally that you can't live in, with this tension, abuse. Small humiliations. It all starts out on a scale so subtle, so microscopic that at first you can't really believe it's happening at all. But gradually the thing begins to take shape. The pieces fit together - all the little bits. And it becomes unmistakable. They chip away at your pride, your security until you begin to have doubts, and then fears"

Briggs Found by Staples Working Late at Night - Distraught Over the Direction of the Company

Briggs' Monologue About How He Was Being Pushed Out

Fred Begging For Briggs to Quit

Briggs' Crazed Dream of Striking Out at Ramsey
  • Fred begged for Briggs to quit, but he adamantly refused as he pounded his fist: "NEVER!"; Briggs explained why it would be foolish to quit at the age of 62 - because he wouldn't be a good worker any more: "Because I'm weak, I guess" - and he wouldn't be able to find another job; he became crazed as he described a dream of calmly being in a conference room and then "smashing" Ramsey multiple times; they were interrupted when they heard Paul arriving in the hallway; Fred kept it a secret that Briggs was there, and offered to drive Paul home
  • a series of incidents had already occurred in which Ramsey treated Briggs with condescension and degradation and stressfully humiliated him; another tense confrontation between them in the conference room saw Ramsey refusing to give credit to Briggs for his combined effort and joint contributions to Staples' Portland projects proposal report (Briggs' name had been crossed off); when both Fred and Briggs objected, Ramsey concluded the discussion with an undercutting jab: "Now then, if Mr. Briggs' ego has been sufficiently nourished...," but Briggs refused to be downgraded by Ramsey's "calculated discolorations of a man's worth"; Ramsey continued to pursue Briggs when he cruelly demeaned all of Briggs' work: "Your work hasn't shown this stamp of originality and talent in ten years. A man slips, clutches, he loses his grip, he tries to hang on by someone else's"; Ramsey followed his volatile criticisms of Briggs by suggesting that he step down, but Briggs declined to comply
  • then shortly later after the meeting was adjourned, Briggs collapsed in the hallway (filmed from his wavering and bleary-eyed POV), was taken away in an ambulance, and soon died of a heart-attack; Briggs' forlorn former secretary left her desk (and job forever) with the desk plant
  • in the film's final ten minutes, it was now Fred's turn to be outraged by Ramsey's brutal treatment of Briggs that led to his demise; he had been drinking in a bar outside the hospital, grieving Briggs' death, and his first inclination was to quit and start packing; when he returned to the office, Fred refused a trip to Lansing in Briggs' place, and he angrily told Ramsey how he truly felt: ("I don't want the job. I'm through, I'm quitting, I resign as of now...Because I hate your guts. You used Bill Briggs for a whipping boy. You made him knuckle under, and then you beat him to death. You wouldn't try anything like that with me because I'd kill you first"); Ramsey admitted that he was indeed a despicable human being: ("I'm not a nice human being")
  • Fred continued to argue with Ramsey and criticize his lack of sympathy: "You're nothing but a freak. You drive your people into peak efficiency if they can make it, or a grave if they can't. Because Bill Briggs lacked the strength..."; in a stunning rebuke, Ramsey described how one had to be ruthless to succeed in business, and Briggs had failed in his responsibilities: ("He was second in command, he had a lot of responsibility to hold and he cracked...It's no one's business. It belongs only to the best; to those who can control it, sustain it, nurture it, keep it growing. Right now it belongs to us because we're producing. But in the future, it belongs to whoever has the brains, the nerve, and the skill to take it away from us"); Fred rejected Ramsey's implication that he would now be replacing the failing Briggs: "I don't want any part of it"
  • Ramsey continued to reason with the resistant Fred and tempt him to stay by offering him a challenging position in the corporation: ("What do you want from me? Apologies? I don't apologize. What else? A nice unsullied conscience? You walk out of here with a halo because you spoke your mind? What do you do then? Go to work for some nickel and dime outfit run by nice people who won't challenge you and prod you and goad you and drive you to a height you never even dreamed of? A company where there's nothing to fight for because you're the best and there's no competition? Where everything is handed to you and nothing is worth fighting for? I want you to stay")
  • however, Fred was fed up with Ramsey's attitude and personal callousness: ("I don't think you understand, Ramsey. I don't like you. I don't like anything about you"); although the two hated each other, Ramsey knew he could get the embittered Fred to remain at the corporation by offering him a way to realize his full potential and find happiness: ("...whatever I am, you'll learn more, grow more, and do more here with me than anywhere else on Earth. I want you to stay because I need help on my level. And you're the only one who's able to function there. Be a conscience for me if you want. Be anything you like. And if it's something I don't like, you'll know about it soon enough. I think you're strong enough to take it. And if not, I think you're strong enough to get out")
  • the ambitious-minded Fred was enticed to take Bill's place and 'name his terms', and although he was terribly upset by the whole situation, he was tempted by Ramsey's offer of a double salary, stock options, and an unlimited expense account: ("As of now, your salary is doubled. Your stock option is doubled right down the line. Your expense account is whatever you make it. Add to that a new title, vice president")
  • Fred negotiated and threatened that he would never allow Ramsey to abuse him, and would never give Ramsey any peace as his second-in-command, because he would be angling for his top job: ("I want a lot more than that. You're not going to take me on as just another Vice President you can push around. You take me as someone who hates you down to the bare nerve. Nothing in the world will ever change that. I'll argue with you, contradict you, fight you every way I know how. I'll do everything in my power to push you out and take your place myself"); Staples surrendered and decided to accept the now-vacant secondary VP position, and the deal was agreed upon
  • Fred also added one vengeful reservation - and wanted it added to his contract: ("Bill had one pitiful little dream that someday he'd walk in here and break your jaw. I reserve the right to have that wish for myself"); Ramsey countered him: ("I'll have it drawn into the contract, with a little rider giving me the same privilege"); they now were pitted against each other: "It begins!"
Exiting from the Ramsey Building - "Satisfied"
  • as Fred walked down the office corridor, he felt that he had properly challenged Ramsey and proved his worth; he met his wife in the lower-lobby, and told her that he was "satisfied" with the outcome and that they wouldn't be moving; he was confident that they would be staying on his terms, not realizing that sooner or later, he would also follow the "pattern" of being victimized, discredited and belittled by the system

The Ramsey Building Directory

Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane) - Business Executive

Margaret Lanier (Joanna Roos) - Ramsey's Secretary

VP William "Bill" Briggs (Ed Begley)

Marge Fleming (Elizabeth Wilson) - Briggs' Faithful Secretary

Marge Devastated That She Had Been Permanently Reassigned to Staples

Briggs Realizing That His Time Was Limited

Staples Discussing His First Day of 'Office Politics' With Wife Nancy in Suburban Home

Fred's First Conflict with Mr. Ramsey - and Ramsey's Admission That Fred Was Brought to NYC to Replace Briggs

Fred to His Wife Nancy: "I want the job"

Briggs with Neglected Teenaged Son Paul

Ramsey Crossing Off Briggs' Name on Proposal Report - Refusing to Give Him Credit

Ramsey Chairing the Board Meeting

Ramsey Praising Fred For Report and Neglecting Briggs

Ramsey's Suggestion That Briggs Step Down

Briggs' POV - Collapsed in the Hallway

Briggs' Former Secretary Leaving the Office

Showdown Between Staples and Ramsey

Ramsey: "I'm not a nice human being"

Ramsey to Staples: "I want you to stay"

Staples to Ramsey: "I don't like you"

Ramsey's Offer of Higher Salary, and the VP Position and Staples' Rebuttal - With Reservations


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