Appointment with a Shadow


1h 13m 1958

Film Details

Also Known As
If I Should Die
Release Date
Nov 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "If I Should Die" by Hugh Pentecost in Argosy (Oct 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 13m

Synopsis

After reporter Paul Baxter passes out drunk in Pat O'Connell's bar, Lt. "Spence" Spencer escorts him to the apartment of Paul's girl friend Penny, who is Spence's sister. Because Paul's alcoholism has cost him job after job, Spence now counsels Penny to give up on him, but she vows to give Paul one more chance. To this end, when Paul revives the next morning, Penny informs him that if he can stay sober all day, she will provide him with an exclusive story that will revitalize his career. Paul, suffering from the DTs, tries to dissuade Penny's faith in him by describing in bitter detail the fears that drive an alcoholic: fear of inadequacy, of death and of sobering up the next day. Finally, he breaks down and holds her, allowing her to persuade him to attempt just one day of sobriety to prove his love and save himself. Penny then informs Paul that Spence has a lead on the whereabouts of infamous killer Dutch Hayden, who has been in hiding for years. Hayden's stripper girl friend, Florence Knapp, has informed Spence that Hayden has undergone extensive plastic surgery and will be at Carter's Restaurant with her that evening. Penny instructs Paul to read the background file on Hayden and then show up at Carter's in order to scoop the story of Hayden's arrest. Paul begs her to stay and help him resist alcohol for the day, but Penny insists that Paul overcome his addiction alone. Soon desperate for a drink, Paul makes a schedule for the day and tries, but fails, to eat breakfast. After managing to read Hayden's file, he can prepare a research report only by placing a Scotch bottle in full view on the desk. When he is unable to resist the Scotch, he pours it down the sink and tries to sleep. Small noises jolt him awake and, realizing only five hours have passed, he gives up and goes to O'Connell's. After he leaves, Penny calls Paul to inform him that Hayden's capture has been set for 7:00, but when there is no answer, she calls O'Connell's and finds him there. His shaking hands have thus far prevented him from drinking, and bolstered by Penny's voice on the phone, he returns to her apartment without a drink. There, he sleeps until the meeting time, after which he goes to a brownstone near Carter's in order to hide on the roof. On the way up the stairs, a quarrelling wife hurls a liquor bottle at her husband, dousing Paul's jacket with whiskey. Paul heads to the roof and watches as Spence and his men surround Hayden and, when he reaches for his gun, shoot him down. As Paul turns to leave, he bumps into a man on the roof and, recognizing Hayden's face from Penny's file, realizes that Hayden never underwent plastic surgery and that the killing has been a set-up. Followed by Hayden, Paul races to the policeman on the street, but as Spence has already left and Paul reeks of whiskey, no one believes his story. Paul then goes to O'Connell's, and when he is unable to reach Spence and Penny, leaves them the phone number of the bar. Spotting Hayden waiting outside, Paul sneaks out through the back door. Hayden pretends to be a cab driver in order to ask O'Connell about Paul, but O'Connell lies that he does not know Paul, and Hayden then informs Flo that he must kill Paul before they carry out their plan to leave town. Paul races to Penny's and finds Penny and Spence waiting there. Having seen the empty bottles and the bar's phone number, they assume he is drunk and raving. Furious, Paul then tries to sell the story to his old newspaper editor, who also refuses to believe him. With no help in sight, Paul resolves to solve the case himself. After changing into clean clothes, he heads to Flo's dance club and, hoping to trap Hayden, demands that the fugitive bring him $5,000 at 2:00 a.m. Flo then asks around about Paul and, discovering his alcoholism, informs Hayden that Paul cannot convince anyone of his story. Soon after, Penny finds a note from Paul explaining that he will have the real Hayden in his apartment at 2:00, and urges Spence to accompany her to Paul's. His apartment is empty, however, because Flo forced Paul at gunpoint to drive with her to Hayden's apartment, in the brownstone across from Carter's. There, Hayden confesses that he set up his brother to be killed in his place and that he now plans to throw Paul off the roof. Paul tells Hayden he will be hard to kill, as he finally has something to live for: a future without alcohol. Hayden forces Paul onto the roof, but Paul breaks free, seizes the weapon and wounds Hayden, whom he then leads at gunpoint back to the apartment. He calls Spence's partner and, sure of himself for the first time, demands that Spence be notified. Soon, Spence and his men arrive to arrest Hayden, and Penny falls into Paul's arms. When Penny apologizes for losing her faith in him, Paul informs her that she merely lent her faith to him.

Film Details

Also Known As
If I Should Die
Release Date
Nov 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "If I Should Die" by Hugh Pentecost in Argosy (Oct 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 13m

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was If I Should Die. According to a April 3, 1950 Los Angeles Times news item, Paramount purchased a screenplay by Herb Dalmas based on Hugh Pentecost's Argosy story "If I Should Die." The article calls the picture "a natural for Bill Holden." Paramount never made the film, however, and on July 26, 1956 Hollywood Reporter announced that Universal had hired Alec Coppel to write a screenplay based on Pentecost's story, with Van Heflin set to star. Los Angeles Times then reported in August 1957 that Jeffrey Hunter would star, and the film began production on October 22, 1957. According to a October 29, 1957 Hollywood Reporter item, Hunter was struck with a "serious illness" resulting from the flu which closed down production until early November 1957, when Universal announced George Nader as Hunter's replacement.
       Although November 1957 Hollywood Reporter news items add the following members to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Craig Duncan, Cosmo Sardo, Chuck Howard, Tom McDonough, Rand Mitchell, Marty Mason and John Phillips.