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FOURTEEN HOURS(director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: John Paxton/from the article The Man on the Ledge by Joel Sayre; cinematographer: Joe MacDonald; editor: Dorothy Spencer; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Paul Douglas (Charlie Dunnigan), Richard Basehart (Robert Cosick), Barbara Bel Geddes (Virginia Foster), Debra Paget (Ruth), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Cosick), Robert Keith (Mr. Cosick), Howard Da Silva (Deputy Chief Moksar), Martin Gabel (Dr. Strauss), Jeffrey Hunter (Danny Klemptner), Grace Kelly (Mrs. Louise Anne Fuller), Frank Faylen (Waiter), George MacQuarrie (Reverend Dr. J. C. Parkinson), Donald Randolph (Dr. Benson); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1951)
“It follows along the lines of Ace in the Hole by building most of the tension from the reaction shots of the bystanders.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Henry Hathaway (“Rawhide”/”Kiss of Death”) directs this gripping thriller that’s filmed like a documentary. It follows the same arc as Billy Wilder’s 1951 Ace in the Hole. It’s based on the story of John Warde, who on a fine summer’s day perched on the 17th floor of New York’s Hotel Gotham on July 26, 1938, for fourteen hours and threatened to jump. It follows along the lines of Ace in the Hole by building most of the tension from the reaction shots of the bystanders, as the New Yorkers make a Roman Holiday of the incident. It marks the screen debut of Grace Kelly in a small role as an onlooker contemplating a divorce. It’s based on The New Yorker magazine article by Joel Sayre and scripted by John Paxton.

After a room service waiter at the Rodney Hotel in New York City delivers a breakfast order, the young man he just delivered the order to is standing on the narrow ledge outside his fourteenth-floor room threatening to jump. The waiter notifies the hotel manager and a traffic cop Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas) calls it into the precinct. Dunnigan tries to talk the young man down until a brusque Deputy Chief Moksar (Howard Da Silva) arrives and sends him back to traffic duty. Soon a crowd gathers, reporters arrive, and traffic grinds to a halt. A young woman onlooker named Ruth (Debra Paget) discusses the event with a stranger named Danny (Jeffrey Hunter), and a romance blossoms. Bellevue psychiatrists Dr. Strauss (Martin Gabel) and Dr. Benson (Donald Randolph) tell the deputy chief to bring back Dunnigan, because the would-be leaper won’t talk to anyone else. After some time it’s discovered through fingerprints that the young man of 23 is named Robert Cosick (Richard Basehart) and that his folks are divorced. He finds his life destroyed because he believes his folks don’t love him, and that his neurotic possessive mother (Agnes Moorehead) did a number on him by turning him against his alcoholic absentee father (Robert Keith) and was constantly nagging him. The unstable Robert also leaves his girlfriend Virginia (Barbara Bel Geddes) because he thinks he won’t make her happy. Dunnigan gives it his best shot to talk Robert out of jumping on this beautiful St. Patrick’s Day, while cabbies in the crowd take bets on when he will jump and an evangelist, the Reverend Dr. J. C. Parkinson, tries repeatedly to see Robert for his own reasons.

The well-crafted film, filled with documentary-styled details that leave it looking real, is given a happy ending. It pays homage to the virtues of a nuclear family and those not demanding too much out of life other than that.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”