The Missiles of October

The Missiles of October is a 1974 docudrama made-for-television play about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The title evokes the book The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman about the missteps amongst the great powers and the failed chances to give an opponent a graceful way out, which led to the First World War. The teleplay introduced William Devane as President John F. Kennedy and cast Martin Sheen as United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The script is based on Robert Kennedy's book Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Missiles of October
DVD cover for the film
Written byStanley R. Greenberg
Directed byAnthony Page
StarringWilliam Devane
Martin Sheen
Howard Da Silva
Ralph Bellamy
Theme music composerLaurence Rosenthal
Country of originU.S.
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Irv Wilson
Producer(s)Robert Berger
Herbert Brodkin
Editor(s)Jerry Greene
Running time150 mins
Production company(s)Maljack Productions
Viacom Productions
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original release18 December 1974

Production notes

The title of the play was influenced by the 1962 book The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, which describes various events leading to World War I; and, which had been read by President Kennedy shortly before the crisis.[1] In the play, Kennedy compares events in the book to the crisis with the Soviet Union.

Staged as a two and a half hour television play, the production eschews physical action and detailed sets and wardrobes, in favor of emphasis on dialogue, emotion, and decision making. It depicts how the world came close to the brink of, and eventually stepped away from global thermonuclear war, highlighting the roles of President John F Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson, and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson in the crisis.

The Missiles of October gave the US general public its first look behind the scenes at the inner workings, disagreements, and ultimate consensus of Kennedy's administration to blockade Cuba, rather than attempt to invade to dislodge the just-discovered, only partially completed Soviet nuclear missile emplacements in Cuba. It details US attempts to give the Soviets room to negotiate without appearing to capitulate, and also periodically depicts Khrushchev reporting progress of the events to his Communist Party cohorts.

Then Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a member of EXCOMM, is not portrayed by any actor in the docudrama.

The play was directed by Anthony Page with writing credits given to Stanley R. Greenberg and Robert Kennedy.



Technical Director Ernie Buttelman won the 1975 Emmy Award for outstanding achievement. There were several other Emmy nominations, including outstanding drama or comedy special; outstanding supporting actor in a comedy or drama special for Ralph Bellamy; and outstanding writing in an original teleplay for Greenberg. That same year Greenberg won the Humanitas Prize in the 90-minute category.

In 1997 the play won a Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame award.

See also


  1. Hindley, Meredith. "The Dramatist". National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Retrieved 2 May 2019.

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