powered by AFI
The working title of this film was The Man on the Ledge. At the film's end, the following written statement appears: "Out of past experience, the emergency rescue squad of the New York Police has developed techniques to deal with problems of this nature quietly, quickly and efficiently. For their expert advice and cooperation in the filming of this picture we are particularly grateful." Although the onscreen credits contain a standard indemnification statement asserting that the film and characters depicted are "entirely fictional," Joel Sayre's short story and the picture were based on the suicide of John William Warde. [Indemnification statements rarely appeared on Twentieth Century-Fox films at the time.] The twenty-six-year-old Warde jumped from the seventeenth floor of a New York City hotel on July 26, 1938 after a protracted attempt by police to save him. The character of "Charlie Dunnigan" was based on Charles V. Glasco, a real-life New York City policeman who tried to coax Warde inside.
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio changed the film's title from The Man on the Ledge to Fourteen Hours after Warde's mother requested that they change the title so that the picture would not be as closely identified with her son. In a November 3, 1940 memo, studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck speculated that they would have to change the film's locale to Chicago or Philadelphia to further distance it from the Warde suicide, but the released film is set in New York.
Although the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, contains drafts of the film's screenplay written by Arnaud D'Usseau and James Gow, their work was not used in the final film. Joel Sayre, the author of the magazine story, also worked on treatments for the film, but his screenplay work was not incorporated in the completed picture.
According to a July 25, 1949 Los Angeles Mirror article, the studio purchased Sayre's story as a vehicle for Richard Widmark, who was to play "Robert." According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Robert Wagner was originally set for the role of "Danny," but was replaced by Jeffrey Hunter. The picture marked the motion picture debuts of Hunter and Grace Kelly, as well as character actress Joyce Van Patten. Fourteen Hours also marked the return to the screen of Broadway actor George MacQuarrie, who had not appeared in a film since the 1943 RKO production This Land Is Mine.
The scripts collection contains an December 8, 1950 cutting continuity revealing that the film originally ended with "Robert" falling to his death after being frightened by the spotlight. Contemporary sources note that both endings were shot, and that it was not until just before the film's release that the studio decided to use the ending in which Robert is caught by the net and survives. As noted by contemporary sources, portions of the film were shot on location in New York City. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) category.
On March 23, 1953, Paul Douglas reprised his role for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story, which co-starred Terry Moore and Marvin Bryan. A one-hour television remake of the story, entitled Man on the Ledge, was telecast on December 28, 1955 on the 20th Century-Fox Hour. The television show was directed by Lewis Allen and starred Cameron Mitchell and William Gargan.