Tuesday, May 24, 2011
On Screen -- 14 Hours (1951)
14 Hours" is a great, suspenseful, noir type film. The film is based on the story "Man on a Ledge" and according to the folks at Fox, the film is actually based on an incident in 1938 in which a gentleman stood out on a ledge threatening suicide for approximately 16 hours. The first thing I'd like to mention is the spectacular editing, art direction, set decoration and cinematography. Everything is top-notch, from the sets to the sound engineering of the opening score to the lack of any soundtrack other than the strategically placed street sounds throughout the film. Set designers were nominated for an Academy award for their recreation of NYC. There are also a great number of well known actors with a sprinkling of very recognizable character actors in the film who all come together as a single cohesive group.
It's the story of "Robert Cosick" (Richard Basehart) a despondent man who's reached his limit and feels he has exhausted all options except for one. A very nervous Cosick pays a waiter for the room service for his breakfast and as the waiter turns back around after making change, he finds Cosick missing. But after a brief search of the apartment soon discovers him out on the ledge. After a woman's scream alerts traffic cop "Charlie Dunnigan" (Paul Douglas) to what's transpiring 15 floors above, Dunnigan races to the scene and begins a dialogue with the jumper. The rest of the film is basically shown from this perspective, alternating from police and psychologists within the apartment, to Cosick on the ledge, and then to street shots of the crowd gathering far below watching the spectacle unfold.
There are a few subplots that take place at street level such as the cabbies who pool their money and bet on what time the man is going to jump, and a young man and woman (Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget) who meet and become interested in each other as they seem to be the only people who show any sympathy for the jumper. Agnes Moorehead and Robert Keith also costar as Cosick's mother and father with Barbara Bel Geddes as "Virginia" the jumper's exgirlfriend. This film also marks Grace Kelly's film debut and the beginning of her somewhat brief career in Hollywood.
The dizzying and superb camera angles are the highlight of the film. It also has an air of cynicism and a heavy theme of media exploitation reminiscent of Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole" also from 1951. Many members of the cast are veterans of some of the greatest noir films such as "Panic in the Streets" (1950), "House on Telegraph Hill" (1951), and "House of Strangers" (1949).
Director Henry Hathaway is more famous for his noir documentaries, "House on 92nd Street" (1945) and "Call Northside 777" (1948), as well as a couple of my favorites "Kiss of Death" (1947) and "13 Rue Madeleine" (1947). Most of these films are available as part of the Fox Film Noir series.
As you can see there's a lot of talent packed into this one film, so get ready for some "high" suspense. Enjoy ...