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Playhouse 90

Season 3 Episode 1

The Plot to Kill Stalin

Aired Thursday 9:30 PM Sep 25, 1958 on CBS
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Episode Summary

The Plot to Kill Stalin
It is reported that in his last years Stalin grew more and more feverishly suspicious of the men around him. Tonight's play opens in the fall of 1952, six months before the Soviet premier's death. On the eve of the 19th Communist Party congress, Stalin confides to his personal secretary Poskrebyshev his plan to centralize power even more completely in his own hands. He will abolish the Politburo, and replace it with a Presidium. This will be of such cumbersome dimensions that it will be virtually ineffectual. Then Stalin takes a further step to insure his control, he secretly records the conversations of his lieutenants. Beria, who eventually was executed by Stalin's successors, receives the first hint of his fall from favor when his portrait at the party congress is moved further down from its original position. Before long, others begin to realize that they too are being watched.moreless

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  • "Wolves were made to destroy the weak, and when the weak are all gone, they destroy each other."

    This is an excellent play by David Karp, considerably more intelligent than the sort of simplistic anti-Russian propaganda that poured out of Hollywood in the darkest days of the Cold War. The subject has a ghastly fascination - to a modern viewer, it's reminiscent of the later "I, Claudius" in its revealing of a world where mortal danger is everywhere and plots and counter-plots, on the highest and deadliest levels, are commonplace. Melvyn Douglas casts aside the suavity of his MGM heyday to show a chilling, brutish charisma as Stalin, overflowing with contempt for even his most loyal aides; and he is equalled by Oscar Homolka's loud, vulgar Khrushchev (so very like the man we were seeing in newsreels at the time this was first aired) and by E.G. Marshall as the monstrous Lavrenti Beria.moreless

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    • This play depicts Stalin as suffering his (eventually) fatal stroke in the Kremlin, watched by the various underlings who have been plotting against him, who then deliberately delay getting any medical help. The events surrounding Stalin's death were for some time kept a secret, but it is now generally accepted that Stalin was alone (save for guards outside) at his dacha at Kuntsevo, outside Moscow, when he suffered the stroke. It is said that his guards did nothing for some time after his inert body was discovered, because they had been given no orders as to what to do in this eventuality.


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