In the excellent 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate one of the key characters is a rabble-rousing and bibulous US Senator called John Iselin.

In the movie his claim to fame and the cause of his rise to being a vice-presidential candidate is based on his campaign against supposed communist infiltrators in government. He is portrayed somewhat comically.

Was he intended to be a parody of Joseph McCarthy (who also showed excessive love of alcohol and campaigned against supposed communist infiltration)?


Yes, this character was a deliberate caricature of Joseph McCarthy, and at the time the movie came out, his rhetoric was recent enough that most of the viewers would have recognized it immediately.

As one example, the character of John Iselin is told to pick a consistent number of alleged communists in the State Department because his ever-changing numbers are.making him look foolish. In the movie, he chooses 57 as an easy to remember choice based on seeing the "57 Varieties" on Heinz ketchup. This is a specific satire on McCarthy's inconsistent numbers and a direct reference to his famous speech from February 1950 where he said:

I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card-carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.

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    – Mike
    Dec 3 '20 at 12:26

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