Fourteen Hours (1951)- Henry Hathaway

 ★★★★★

 

The idea of a film centered around one desperate man standing on the ledge of a New York building is a difficult one because there are so many unanswered questions that arise. How do you keep the audience entertained when, in all actuality, very little is happening? How do you deal with a main character that just stands there, and in fact, doesn’t even really want to talk to anyone? And finally, what happens at the end of the film?  Paul Douglas in "Fourteen Hours" (1951)All of these questions had to have played heavily on director Henry Hathaway’s mind when filming his noir, suspense drama, “Fourteen Hours” (1951), but fortunately his talent for great storytelling and an extensive cast of sensational actors help turn this possibly entertaining film into a memorable movie, with an exorbitant amount of humanity under the surface.

In a New York City hotel, an emotionally tormented young man named Robert (Richard Basehart) steps out his window onto the ledge. The moment of desperation is seen from the street below by a traffic cop, Charlie (Paul Douglas). Charlie rushes up to the room where he sits on the ledge as well, trying patiently to get Robert to come back inside.

The event turns into a circus, with people filling the streets below, engrossed by the human drama that has presented itself to them. Taxi drivers place bets on what time he will jump, people walking to work stop, frozen, waiting to see what will happen. Even the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is cancelled. Richard Basehart and Barbara Bel Geddes in "Fourteen Hours" (1951)Obviously with a title like “Fourteen Hours”, you can guess that things aren’t resolved quickly, as every step towards a resolution just seems to make things worse.

The acting in this movie is the kind of stuff that directors dream about. Richard Basehart gives a towering performance as the sad, mentally unstable young man at his own personal crossroad. It amazes me how intense he is without being able to move more than a couple of inches the entire picture. He acts through his expressions. He eyes speak for him (his fear, his anger, and regret) present themselves with little dialogue and almost no physicality. It’s Paul Douglas who does most of the talking. The majority of his dialogue goes unanswered…but he keeps talking anyway. He is the driving force of the script, but being an amazing actor, he knows that he can’t take the focus off of Basehart, Richard Basehart in "Fourteen Hours" (1951)so Douglas keeps his perfect performance controlled.

The aspect that helps “Fourteen Hours” to shine is the inclusion of sub-plots that transpire during the 14 hours, and the performances given by the enormous cast of supporting players. Both of Robert’s parents (Agnes Moorehead & Robert Keith) show up to “help”, but end up bringing back years of family dysfunction and drama. His former fiance (Barbara Bel Geddes) also arrives, with Bel Geddes giving a brief, but touchingly memorable performance. And then there are all the individuals involved indirectly, whether down on the street or hiding in the hotel, trying to come up with new ideas; Howard Da Silva as the police chief, Martin Gabel as a psychiatrist, Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget as two strangers who meet on the street, even Grace Kelly shows up in her screen debut as a woman in the midst of a divorce, who reconsiders after witnessing Robert’s plight. Everyone who appears on the screen adds to the film’s intensity by acting a human as possible.

It’s been said that “Fourteen Hours” is, possibly, Henry Hathaway’s best film. As a fan of westerns and film noir (both of which he made in abundance), it would be hard to pick which one of his classic pieces of cinema is “best”. He spent an entire career making great movies that all continue to be enthralling because of Richard Basehart and Paul Douglas in "Fourteen Hours" (1951)his underrated skill as a director, and his uncanny ability to entertain an audience. “Fourteen Hours” is a unique film for him, and it is obvious that he was excited at the challenges that filming this type of story would offer. Although it has faded in popularity over the years, it is a film that deserves to be revisited and appreciated by a new audience.

Although “Fourteen Hours” goes out of its way to tell the audience that it wasn’t based on real events, the screenplay (masterfully penned by John Paxton) was based on an article in The New Yorker by Joel Sayre, who was in fact writing about the suicide of John William Warde in 1938. The details are quite different, but it did (unfortunately) serve as inspiration.

New Release Round-Up! July 30th, 2013

We have arrived! That lull in the summer release schedule is over and it is time to have movies to choose from once again. There are more choices this week, as well as an increase in overall quality of the films. We will receive a new addition to The Criterion Collection, as well as blu-ray debuts from some of the most interesting directors of all time, including Budd Boetticher, Otto Preminger, Henry Hathaway and Anthony Mann. It is so nice to once again have to decide what to watch. What will you be watching this week?

  • “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001): The Devil's Backbone (2001)Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro wowed and amazed with this ghost story set during the Spanish Civil War. A home for orphaned boys is run by an elderly woman and her friend, who both side with the Republican loyalists. The estates also has a caretaker, however, who is a mean-spirited young man, hiding dark secrets at every turn. This amazing film is being introduced into The Criterion Collection, and is a must see for fans of the genre. There is so much more to this film than one might expect. Included in this release (particularly the blu-ray edition) are a plethora of bonus features, including a commentary from director del Toro.

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  • “Niagara” (1953): Niagara (1953)Marilyn Monroe made films for almost every genre, but few are as acclaimed as this film noir from director Henry Hathaway. The story revolves around a newlywed couple on their honeymoon and another couple at a crossroads in their marriage, who also happen to be staying at the same motel. The two couples converge in a story filled with sexuality, mystery, adventure and danger- not to mention the second greatest dress of Marilyn’s career. This movie also stars Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters and Casey Adams.

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  • “Bus Stop” (1956):Bus Stop (1956) Two blu-ray debuts for Marilyn in one week! This character drama from director Joshua Logan is one of Marilyn’s most acclaimed performances, as she plays a wandering singer/dancer trying to make her way to California. Don Murray plays a Montana rancher, leaving his ranch for the first time in over a decade. He has absolutely no experience with women, but everything changes the moment these two misfits meet. He wants to take her home, but she wants him to leave. Which strong-willed person will win?

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  • “That Touch of Mink” (1962): That Touch of Mink (1962)Cary Grant, Doris Day and Gig Young star in this romantic comedy about a millionaire who has finally met his match in the tender career woman. This film is memorable as being the last of the Cary Grant “womanizing films”, but lacks some in the comedy aspect. It’s still worth seeing, and the DVD quality has always been so disappointing that it is truly exciting to finally see this film in a remastered edition.

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  • “G.I. Joe Retaliation” (2013): G.I. Joe Retaliation (2012)Guns, bombs, explosions, mayhem and some of the most muscle-bound, heart-throbs out there. Directed by John M. Chu, and based on the Hasbro action figure, this is the sequel to 2009’s “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra”. This next installment, which has received pretty bad reviews, stars Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson, as well as other huge men who find different ways to take off their shirts. I think this film may have been made expressly to cater to both men for the action and women for the stars.

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  • “Peggy Sue Got Married” (1986): Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)This 80’s classic from director Francis Ford Coppola is about a middle-aged woman who has recently separated from her husband, after being married since high school. Now she is going to attend her 25-year reunion, but when things get awkward, she faints. When she awakens, Peggy Sue finds that she has been transported back in time to the glory days of high school, giving her life a second chance. Kathleen Turner stars in an Academy Award nominated performance, but the cast includes many up and comers, such as Nicholas Cage, Joan Allen, Helen Hunt and Jim Carrey.

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  • “Black Rock” (2012): Black Rock (2012)This horror film is about three women (Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth and the film’s director, Katie Aselton) who travel to a remote island in order to rekindle a distancing friendship. On the island, they meet three discharged soldiers (Jay Paulson, Will Bouvier and Anslem Richardson). At first the six hit things off, but soon things turn for the worse when one of the men is killed,  and the remaining two begin hunting the three women.

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  • “The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell” (1955): The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)American General Billy Mitchell is being court-martialled for openly complaining about his superiors. Based on a true story, this Otto Preminger film stars Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy and Rod Steiger, and has received positive reviews, particularly for the acting and directing. Then again, when does Otto Preminger make a movie that isn’t interesting, and when does Gary Cooper ever do a bad acting job?

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  • “Angel and the Badman” (1947): Angel and the Badman (1947)Any week with a John Wayne movie western is a good week, right? Wayne stars as an injured gunfighter and the Quaker girl (played by Gail Russell) who nurses him back to health. This is a wonderful western film that has been almost unwatchable due to the poor quality of the print. It is truly exciting to see this classic get the blu-ray treatment this week.

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  • “Love Me Tender” (1956): Love Me Tender (1956)Elvis Presley made his film debut in this western musical that also stars Richard Egan and Debra Paget. The plot revolves around a family with four sons during the Civil War. The three eldest go off to fight, but the youngest (Presley) stays home to take care of the family and land. Incorrect news is received that the eldest brother has died, and eventually the youngest son marries his brother’s girl. When everyone returns home, passions are ignited in a family that is forever torn apart.

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  • “Bullfighter and the Lady” (1951): Bullfighter and the Lady (1951)From legendary director Budd Boetticher comes this drama film about the dangerous profession of bullfighting. Starring Robert Stack, Joy Page, Virginia Grey and Katy Jurado, “Bullfighter and the Lady” was shot on location in Mexico, and Boetticher used a unique, semi-documentary approach, making this film a memorable look into a sport that is loved and feared around the world.

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  • “God’s Little Acre” (1958):God's Little Acre (1958) Based on the controversial best seller by Erskine Caldwell, this Anthony Mann directed film is about a man obsessed with finding gold thought to be buried by his grandfather, years before. At the same time, his daughter-in-law is suspected of having an affair with a politically controversial “worker” in town. Upon this film’s release, no one under the age of eighteen was admitted to the theaters for the lured subject matter, and after years of neglect, it has finally found its way to blu-ray, giving audiences just cause to be excited.

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