The Story Behind How Sedalia (Indirectly) Saved The World
Guys, I'm sure most of us have heard the story of the most famous incident that Sedalia was....not involved in, but was, a few times.
Heck, I've even written about it before. But I had to admit even back then, I didn't know much about how this happened, and I knew even less on the impact of any of it past, you know, our memories. I'm talking, of course, about the 1983 TV movie that killed us all on ABC, "The Day After". I got curious one day and started digging, and I found some neat little details as well as one BIG part of it that I didn't realize. Let's unpack that.
I started nosing a bit randomly one day, and my original idea was going to be writing up a piece about the screenwriter of the movie, a guy named Edward Hume. I wanted to find out WHY it was us of all places that got the bomb. I wanted to know if there was a reason the film was set in Missouri and Kansas. I thought, there must be a personal connection to the Midwest, right? Maybe he was from here, or maybe he was familiar with the area.
Honestly, a lot of it was a dead end. Wikipedia says he was raised in Chicago. I found out a little bit about him and made the conclusion that he's probably retired since his writing credits stop around 1997. His first credits were in the early seventies, so he started somewhat "late" in life as a writer. He didn't have a ton of movies or tv shows, but he did win the equivalent of a Canadian Oscar once. I'm not 100% sure if he's still alive (It was hard to even find a picture of him online. I did find one, from the '70s where he won about $25k for a writing award), so he might not want anybody finding him. But if he is still with us, he's in his late eighties. There's another guy who has a VERY similar name to his, but rest assured, the name is Hume, not Humes.
I found more than one Hume family in the St Louis area, and even one of the guys was a writer that wrote poems about his experience in WWI. Which was super cool to see and really touching, but... I couldn't confirm if they were related. If they were, that would be a good link between our author and Missouri, but... the information just isn't there. After all, there are a ton of Cramers not even that far away from here that I'm not related to at all. So that idea went up in smoke. So to speak.
So I started to look at the film itself, and other people that were involved. Names like Brandon Stoddard and Stu Samuels, as well as Nicolas Meyer, kept popping up. Who are these people? Basically, Stoddard had the idea for the movie. He was the head of the motion picture division and the president of ABC at the time. He saw a movie called "The China Syndrome", which is a pretty good but somewhat dated movie with Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, and Jane Fonda about whistleblowers and nuclear power. He decided he wanted to bring the topic to television. Stoddard handed the idea to Samuels, who was the Vice President of TV Movies and Miniseries. He came up with the title, and Hume took it from there. It was Hume's decision to actually nuke us during the movie. One thing I didn't know, was that the director of "The Day After", was a guy named Nicolas Meyer, who had just directed a huge hit, "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan".
Anyway, what I did know was the film was huge for the time and still holds viewing records. It was unusual at the time for too many "made-for-TV" movies to be taken seriously, so this definitely stuck out. Now, what I didn't know was, the movie that vaporized us...also helped end the Cold War.
Apparently, 100 million people watched this movie at the time, one of them was, naturally, President Ronald Reagan. He had mentioned the film, and how it made him "deeply depressed" for a long time, and it affected his talks with Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1987, not only was the film shown on Soviet television for the first time, but the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed by the United States and USSR. The treaty banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate ranges. And what's more, during the talks, both Reagan and Gorbachev briefly considered signing a treaty that would have done away with all the US and USSR's nuclear weapons. Sadly this did not come to fruition because both leaders realized that the political will in their respective governments for such a move just wasn't there. In his memoir, Reagan directly mentioned a quote from the movie in relation about the signing*.
Which... just amazed me. Our little town was, indirectly at least, partially responsible for ending the Cold War, right? Right. I mean, I think we deserve a little bit of the credit for that, even passively.
And then... I found it... There's a documentary ABOUT the making of the movie.
You could be easily forgiven for not having heard of this because it's an Australian documentary that came out a few years ago. Even the trailer on YouTube hasn't broken a thousand views. It's directed by a guy named Jeff Daniels (not that one), and you can watch it on Apple TV. I don't have Apple TV at the moment, and so I haven't seen more than the trailer, but it does look interesting - and it definitely touches on the fact that the movie, and by extension us, had an effect on the Cold War.
What do you think? Did you know about some of these details? If you were allowed to watch it at the time, what were your memories of the movie?
25 True Crime Locations: What Do They Look Like Today?
*I found the passage. It's in his book "An American Life", page 585, if you want to be exact.