Cast & Crew
Businessman Whitney "Cam" Cameron rushes to the hospital when his niece Polly is felled by a mysterious illness. Dr. Stevenson is baffled by Polly's painful seizures and her cries of "don't touch my feet," but reassures Lynn Cameron, Polly's stepmother and the widow of Cam's late brother Bill, that Polly will recover. After spending the evening by Polly's bedside, Cam and Lynn go home, where they are greeted by Lynn's young stepson Doug, who remarks that Polly's illness is strikingly similar to that suffered by his father before his death. Although it appears that Polly will survive, a sudden relapse kills her the next night, and the grief-stricken Cam turns to his friends, Fred and Maggie Sargent, for comfort. Maggie, a reporter, comments that Polly's symptoms sound suspiciously like poison, and explains that the majority of poisoning murders go undetected. Cam and Fred dismiss Maggie's idea as outrageous, as does Dr. Stevenson, although Maggie is intrigued when Cam admits that Lynn refused to allow an autopsy of Polly's body. Cam spends the following week with Doug and Lynn, and is impressed by Lynn's gentle treatment of her stepson. On the night before Cam is to leave, however, Fred asks him to stay, explaining that when he helped Bill to write his will, Bill stipulated that Lynn could not inherit his fortune unless both of the children died first. Cam is even more shocked when Fred comments that if Lynn is guilty of murdering Polly, she would have demanded that her corpse be cremated, which she did. Fortunately, Cam insisted that Polly be buried, and Fred arranges for her body to be exhumed. The autopsy confirms that Polly died of strychnine poisoning, and Assistant District Attorney Hal Cole and homicide captain Pringle agree to investigate. Lynn readily submits to questioning, as do the Cameron servants, and the police are frustrated by the lack of evidence. Cam, who still refuses to believe that Lynn could be guilty, is horrified when his own inquiries reveal that she purchased the last prescription of calcium capsules administered to Polly, which had to contain the fatal dose of strychnine. Cole and Pringle question Lynn again, and although she maintains her innocence, their certainty that she is guilty finally convinces Cam. Knowing that Lynn intends to take Doug to Europe, Cam fears that she will poison him, too, and Cole reluctantly agrees to arrest Lynn, even though their evidence is circumstantial. During the probable cause hearing, the case against Lynn is dismissed for lack of evidence, and Lynn, who does not know that Cam was instrumental in her arrest, is greatly relieved. Hoping to obtain custody of Doug, Cam applies to Judge James J. Adams, but Adams tells him that because the case against Lynn was dismissed, there is nothing he can do. Desperate to protect Doug, Cam decides to take the same ocean liner on which Lynn is departing for Europe, but before he leaves, he visits a nursery to buy some arsenic insecticide. While there, Cam also sees some strychnine tablets, used to kill rodents, which look just like aspirin except for a distinctive "W" imprint. Later, although Doug is delighted to see Cam aboard the ship, Lynn responds coolly. Cam schemes to keep watch over Doug by pretending to romance Lynn and the five-day voyage passes quickly. Cam, who has hidden the insecticide in a bottle of aftershave, is wracked by doubts over Lynn's guilt, but, knowing that there is no other way to save Doug, decides to poison her cocktail one night. Cam cannot bring himself to do it, however, and spends one last romantic evening with Lynn. When Cam briefly returns to Lynn's cabin to retrieve her coat, he sees her box of toiletries, and wonders if she could have hidden poison in the bottles, as he did. When he searches through a bottle of aspirin, Cam finds three of the "W" strychnine tablets and resolves to kill Lynn. Insisting that they return to her cabin for a nightcap, Cam puts one of the tablets into Lynn's drink, then announces what he has done. Frank Connelly, the ship's detective, had been alerted by Cam and is there as a witness when Lynn declares that the tablet was aspirin and therefore harmless. As ten minutes pass, Cam pleads with Lynn to confess and see the doctor while there is still time to save herself, but she angrily castigates him for his deviousness. Fed up, Connelly makes Cam leave, but soon after, while Cam stands on the deck reproaching himself, he receives word that Lynn is in the doctor's office. There, Cam learns that she phoned for the doctor immediately after he and Connelly left, and that she was barely saved from dying of strychnine poisoning. Later, Lynn is convicted of killing Polly, and Cam and Doug depart for a new life together.
W. D. Flick
Fred J. Rode
Harry M. Leonard
William B. Murphy
A Blueprint for Murder
This suspense thriller was written and directed by Andrew L. Stone and produced by his own production company, with distribution from 20th Century-Fox. Stone took great pride in his insistence on stark realism in virtually every picture he directed. Studio publicity notes indicate that Stone spent two years researching medical and police records dealing with poison before writing the Blueprint for Murder script. Among other facts, state the notes, "he uncovered startling evidence that the average poisoner gets away with nearly six murders before being found out... Stone points out that although all the material in the melodrama is based on fact, the story itself is a fabricated one, unbased on any actual incident."
Stone applied his penchant for authenticity to location shooting as well, eschewing soundstages where possible. He shot this film mostly in downtown Los Angeles, including Union Station and the Hall of Justice, with the former residence of Marion Davies, on the Santa Monica coast, filling in for the home of Jean Peters's character. For one shot, Stone placed the camera in the rear of a taxi to capture a cab ride from a train station to a courthouse in one uninterrupted four-minute shot.
Stone enjoyed a successful and quite independent career that stretched back to 1928, when he directed his first film. Early on, he concentrated on comedies and musicals, and in 1943 he directed the famous all-black musical Stormy Weather, a breakthrough for him. The same year, he formed his own production company, with distribution deals from various studios in the years to come. In the 1950s he shifted gears to suspense thrillers and mysteries, including Highway 301 (1950), The Steel Trap (1952, also starring Cotten), Julie (1956), and Cry Terror! (1958). Starting in the late 1950s, his wife Virginia co-produced and edited his films, often in a makeshift cutting room in their backyard.
A Blueprint for Murder opened on a double bill with Fox's Sailor of the King (1953) to mixed reviews, with The Hollywood Reporter finding it "thrilling" and The New York Times declaring that it "misses by a good mile." Jean Peters, reunited with Joseph Cotten after Niagara (1953), received especially high marks all around.
By Jeremy Arnold
A Blueprint for Murder
A Blueprint for Murder
Whitney "Cam" Cameron (Joseph Cotten) hurries to be with his late brother's family when his niece, Polly (whose face is never seen on camera), is rushed to the hospital with seizures. Polly's younger brother, Doug (Fred Ridgeway), tells Cam that the seizures are just like the ones his father had when he died. Polly is expected to survive, but then has a mysterious relapse and dies. Upset, Cam visits some friends, including reporter Maggie Sargent (Catherine McLeod), who tells him that his description of Polly's symptoms sound like poisoning. No one believes Maggie at first, not even Dr. Stevenson (Jonathan Hole). Cam begins to be suspicious when Polly's stepmother, Lynn (Jean Peters), refuses to allow her to be autopsied, and Maggie's husband, Fred (Gary Merrill), tells Cam that his brother's will leaves everything to Lynn only if the children die first. Actors Jack Kruschen, Barney Phillips and former silent film star Mae Marsh as Lynn's housekeeper, Anna Swenson, round out the cast.
A Blueprint for Murder had a short production, with filming lasting only from February 12 - March 6, 1953 at the 20th Century-Fox studios in West Los Angeles, as well as the (then) new wing of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, the Los Angeles Hall of Justice in downtown L.A. and locations in the beach community of Santa Monica, where scenes of Lynn's home were filmed at a mansion that had once belonged to actress Marion Davies. Shooting on location inside real buildings proved to be a challenge for cinematographer and Fox veteran Leo Tover. In the 1950s, cameras were still very large and very heavy, and maneuvering them into small spaces was difficult. Tover created a system using a small dolly for the camera that did not require a track. This allowed him to move the camera through a regular doorway without having to cut away.
When A Blueprint for Murder premiered in New York on July 24, 1953, with the Los Angeles opening on August 28th, the critics were mixed. The New York Times unnamed critic "H.H.T." wrote that although the film was "supposedly based on fact, the rhetorical contrivances [...] defeat a trim little cast. [...] Indeed, it loses conviction altogether before the climax, when [Cotten] traps the culprit aboard an ocean liner, squiring her intended victim and enough strychnine--as Mr. Cotten accuses her, twice--to choke a horse. 'This farce,' replies the understandably surly Miss Peters, 'has gone on long enough.'"
A Blueprint for Murder (1953). (1953, November 23). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045566/
AFI|Catalog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://catalog.afi.com/Film/50769-A-BLUEPRINT-FOR-MURDER?sid=dea73284-09d1-4cb3-aab8-a0ad330d3e85&sr=4.4063144&cp=1&pos=0
Keaney, M. F. (2015). Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
New Suspense Film Opens at Palace. (1953, July 25). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1953/07/25/archives/new-suspense-film-opens-at-palace.html
By Lorraine LoBianco
A Blueprint for Murder
TCM Remembers - Jack Kruschen
Jack Kruschen (1922-2002)
He may have not been a household name, yet his career consisted of over seventy-five films, spanned over six decades, and displayed a strong versatility in playing either dramatic or comic roles with equal effectiveness. He was the definitive, "I can't quite remember the name, but I remember the face" character player who enlivened many films with his robust frame, cherubic face and infectious smile. His name was Jack Kruschen, a superb performer who died on April 2, 2002 at the age of 80, leaving behind a strong body of work that was impressive as any character actor of his generation.
Kruschen was born on March 20, 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The son of a watchmaker who later set up shop in Hollywood, he was performing in an operetta at Hollywood high school when a talent scout for CBS radio discovered him. Kruschen was soon doing voice characterizations on popular network programs such as Dragnet, The Danny Thomas Show and Sam Spade. With his gift for dialects (he was most adept at playing ethnic types like Greeks, Yiddish or Italians - a skill finely honed in his radio days), Kruschen was a natural for the movies and soon made his film debut with a small role in the Betty Hutton comedy Red, Hot and Blue (1949).
Kruschen's early career is peppered with a variety of roles like a comical gangster in both Abbott & Costello Go to Mars (1953) and Money from Home (1953) starring Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin; a hard-nosed police detective in Confidence Girl (1952) and Julie (1956), an underrated Doris Day thriller; or doomed victims to alien prey in Sci-fi cult classics: the 1953 version of War of the Worlds (fans remember him as Salvatore, one of the first earthlings to be killed by the invading Martians) and The Angry Red Planet (1959). The roles offered steady work, but not much critical recognition. All that changed when Billy Wilder cast him in the key role as Jack Lemmon's bemused but caring neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss in The Apartment (1960). As the man who observes the steady stream of women in and out of Lemmon's apartment and the one who saves Shirley MacLaine from a drug overdose, Kruschen offered a wonderful performance - viewing his neighbor's proceedings with a jaundiced eye, yet never letting his disdain overtake his humor and humanity. He was justly rewarded with an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
From this point on, Kruschen was seldom out of work, appearing in over 40 films (including a terrific dramatic turn in the original Cape Fear (1962) as Dave Grafton, a corrupt southern bigot) and nearly 60 guest roles on television for the next two decades. Kruschen would later find fame toward the end of his career when he was cast as Papa Papadapolis in the hit sitcom Webster (1985-1987) and would show pleasant variations of the "kindly old codger" throughout the remainder of his career - like his final role in the romantic comedy 'Til There Was You (1997). His death in April this year may have gone largely unnoticed by the movie-going public, but for those of us who treasure the art of the character player, Kruschen's passing was a loss that is fortunately compensated by his strong body of work that will be enjoyed for fans of the late show for many years to come.
By Michael T. Toole
SIGNE HASSO, 1910-2002
Actress Signe Hasso died June 7th at the age of 91. She was best-known for starring in A Double Life (1947) but played numerous Europeans in films during the 1940s. Hasso was born on August 15, 1910 in Stockholm, Sweden and began acting on stage at the age of 13. Ten years later made her first film appearance as Signe Larsson. She was married in 1936 and adopted the last name of her husband, cinematographer and later director Harry Hasso. After a dozen Swedish films, Hasso moved to Hollywood in 1940 where her first screen appearance was an uncredited role in Journey for Margaret (1942). A brief stint at RKO didn't lead to any more promising film parts so Hasso concentrated on her stage career in New York City. Eventually, her film career became more active, thanks to a quick succession of roles, most notably in Fred Zinnemann's The Seventh Cross (1944), Douglas Sirk's A Scandal in Paris (1946) and Henry Hathaway's The House on 92nd Street (1945). However it was her portrayal of Ronald Colman's wife in the Oscar-favorite A Double Life that solidified her fame. But as Hasso continued to act on the stage and TV, her film work began to taper off. She appeared in high-profile thrillers like Crisis (1950), several made-for-TV movies, a few European productions and even the cult murder mystery, Bert Gordon's Picture Mommy Dead (1966). In 1972, the king of Sweden decorated Hasso for her work. Her final appearance was in a 2001 documentary about Greta Garbo.
HERMAN COHEN, 1927-2002
One of the key producers of B-movies, Herman Cohen, died June 2nd at the age of 76. Like most producers, his name wasn't generally known outside the industry or the realms of film buffs but most people never forget the titles of his films: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) and the not-quite-immortal Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952). Cohen was a Detroit native, born August 27, 1927. He entered the film business in the smallest possible way, as a 12-year-old janitor, often accepting passes for his family and friends instead of wages. Cohen served in the Marine Corps (several articles incorrectly say the Army) before becoming a publicist at Columbia Pictures. By 1951 he was working as a producer's assistant on low-budget independent films, mostly for Realart Pictures run by another Detroit native Jack Broder. Soon Cohen was producing his own movies, including Westerns and mysteries, until hitting big with the famous I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Starring a then-unknown Michael Landon (under personal contract to Cohen who later tore it up so Landon could appear in Bonanza), the film was made for $100,000 but in just a few months grossed over $2 million. Cohen didn't hestitate to turn out I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula by Thanksgiving of that same year and before long had made several films that continued to earn money for years to come. (One TCM writer remembers Horrors of the Black Museum turning up in a small Alabama town in the early 70s, over a decade after its initial release. The film is scheduled for a DVD release with a Cohen commentary from VCI Entertainment.) Cohen also made several films in England including The Headless Ghost (1959) and the cult favorite Konga (1961) where Cohen even paid RKO $25,000 for the rights to use the title King Kong in publicity for his own film. Cohen's later movies included a spaghetti Western and Joan Crawford's final acting role Trog (1970). In the 1980s Cohen ran a company, Cobra Media, that distributed some films and licensed material such as Teenage Werewolf to Landon for use in one of his Highway to Heaven episodes.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Jack Kruschen
According to studio publicity, director-writer Andrew Stone wrote the screenplay for A Blueprint for Murder after spending two years conducting extensive research into poison murders and discovering that very few cases are ever uncovered and successfully prosecuted. A February 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Stone had written an article for Collier's based on his research, but its publication has not been confirmed. Although a January 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Lou Nova was being tested for a role in the picture, his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed.
According to studio publicity, various locations in Los Angeles were utilized for the production, including the new wing of the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, the Hall of Justice and a Santa Monica mansion once owned by Marion Davies, which was used for the home of "Lynn Cameron." Contemporary sources add that in order to overcome the obstacles presented by the often narrow doorways of the location buildings, photographer Leo Tover perfected a "a trackless camera dolly so small that it can be moved through any regulation-size doorway without interruption of shooting." On March 29, 1954, Dan Dailey and Dorothy McGuire performed in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story.