Sidney Lumet’s rejected television pilot THE CHALLENGE (1955)

Here’s a clip with quite a history behind it. Sidney Lumet made The Challenge in 1955, in collaboration with Rod Serling and the Fund for the Republic—an anti-discriminatory group that worked toward promoting awareness of social injustice, especially on the issue of McCarthyism. It was developed while Lumet was still working in television and, indeed, The Challenge was intended as the pilot episode for a weekly series geared to tackle various issues plaguing society. The story involves a bus driver who, after refusing to sign a ‘loyalty oath’ with the school, is eventually fired from his job. According to the fascinating information found on the Princeton website about the film,”‘The Challenge’’s exploration of loyalty oaths mirrors the arguments raised in Fund for the Republic studies of the issue. It questions whether loyalty oaths were effective in their efforts to prevent Communists from subverting American institutions, whether they were constitutional, and if they led to additional rights or ethics violations.” It goes on to say that the show was deemed unfit for television because it made no effort to editorialize the subject. The Challenge, naturally, fell into obscurity

Lumet, of course, stuck around to produce more work about the fight against institutions, but The Challenge is one of the earliest examples of the humanity and intensity mastered in his subsequent films.

About the Author

Samuel Tunningley is a student attending Central Michigan University. He is currently working toward an undergraduate degree in online journalism and a minor in cinema studies. In addition to contributing to The Seventh Art, he also serves as the Arts & Entertainment editor for Grand Central Magazine.