The Day Called X
“Our problem,” said CBS Producer Harry Rasky, “was to take a dull subject and dramatize it.” Rasky’s subject: Civil Defense.
To inject it with drama, he had some 10,000 people in Portland, Ore., one of the U.S.’s 99 “critical targets,” go through the motions of mass evacuation on the day “enemy” aircraft approached from the Aleutians, The Day Called X. Rasky’s twelve-man technical crew, aided by publicity-eager federal Civil Defense experts and convoyed about the city by police motorcycle escort for three weeks, ably caught the mood of the day that began in an ordinary way. The cameras poked neatly around the well-stocked innards of the city’s steel-and-concrete underground operations center.
But Portland’s citizens let viewers down. Mobilizing to the immobile narration of Cinemactor Glenn Ford (“quietly, with caution, but without panic”), the actors behaved with the equanimity of Perry Como in a high school fire drill, rendering unnecessary the slides CBS periodically superimposed over the actors to explain: “AN ATTACK IS NOT TAKING PLACE.”
The Day Called X can be viewed at www.archive.org.