Executive Action (1973): David Miller’s Conspiracy Thriller of Kennedy’s Assassination, Starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan

David Miller directed Executive Action, a conspiracy thriller about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, written by Dalton Trumbo, Mark Lane, and Donald Freed, starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan.

Miller had previously worked with Trumbo (one of the Hollywood Ten), on the Western Lonely Are the Brave, starring Kirk Douglas.

A narrator states that, when asked about the Kennedy Assassination and the Warren Commission report, President Lyndon B. Johnson said he doubted the Commission’s findings. That segment did not run on TV, and was cut from a program about Johnson at his request.

At a gathering in June 1963, shadowy industrial, political and US intelligence figures discuss their dissatisfaction with the Kennedy administration.

Lead conspirator Robert Foster and others try to persuade Harold Ferguson, a powerful oil magnate, to back their plans assassination. Fellow conspirator James Farrington, a black-ops specialist, labels the operation as “executive action.”

Foster and Farrington discuss their paranoid fears about the future of the country under Kennedy, and the security of ruling-class white people across the globe.

Foster forecasts the world population in 2000 at 7 billion, most non-white and “swarming] out of their breeding grounds into Europe and North America.”

As news of the assassination reaches the conspirators, Foster states that “Bobby Kennedy is not thinking as Attorney General but as a grieving brother. By the time he recovers it will be too late.”

The conspirators hold that people will believe in the story because “they want to.” Soon after, Farrington dies of heart attack at Parkland Hospital.

The conspirators are now insulated from the link to the group that committed the killings.

Spoiler Alert

A photo collage of 18 material witnesses is shown, but only two of them died of unnatural causes within three years of the assassination.

In a voice-over, we learn that the British newspaper The Sunday Times mentioned the probability that all people who witnessed the assassination would die within that period of time to be 100,000-trillion-to-one.


Burt Lancaster as James Farrington
Robert Ryan as Robert Foster
Will Geer as Harold Ferguson
John Anderson as Halliday
Ed Lauter as Operations Chief


TCM showed this movie on April 23, 2020.