Cast & Crew
Barbara Bel Geddes
Early one morning, a room service waiter at the Rodney Hotel in New York City is horrified to discover that the young man to whom he has just delivered breakfast is standing on the narrow ledge outside his fourteenth-floor room. When the youth threatens to jump, the waiter notifies the hotel manager, while Charlie Dunnigan, a policeman patroling the street below, sees the man and alerts his precinct. Dunnigan then rushes up to the room, and, while sitting on the window ledge, pretends to be a fellow hotel guest. The man refuses to come in, however, and when Deputy Chief Moksar arrives, Dunnigan is dismissed. Back on the street, reporters stream into the hotel, and Dunnigan tries to manage the crowd of bystanders and snarled traffic. While Dunnigan advises a woman named Mrs. Louise Anne Fuller to leave her cab and walk, a young woman named Ruth discusses the drama with a fellow watcher, Danny Klemptner. In the hotel room, Bellevue psychiatrists Dr. Strauss and Dr. Benson tell Moksar that the youth, whose name they still do not know, refuses to talk to anyone except Dunnigan, and Moksar sends for him. Meanwhile, as television and radio reporters broadcast the event, Mrs. Fuller reaches her attorney's nearby office, where she and her husband are to finalize their divorce agreement. A fervent evangelist, the Reverend Dr. J. C. Parkinson, then tries to gain admittance to the hotel, but a policeman shoos him away as Dunnigan arrives. Strauss and Benson advise the nervous Dunnigan to act natural and keep the boy talking, and soon Dunnigan and the young man are chatting about the upcoming St. Patrick's Day parade. Through his fingerprints, the police learn that the youth is Robert Cosick, and try to find his divorced parents. The police locate Robert's mother, but her hysteria only upsets Robert further. Mrs. Cosick relates that Robert, always a nervous boy, had been hospitalized for his condition. Mr. Cosick then arrives, and the enmity his ex-wife feels for him embarrasses the policemen. Mrs. Cosick rushes to the window and tells her son that no matter what "Virginia" thinks, he is not sick. Dunnigan is intrigued by the reference to "Virginia," but Robert denies knowing anyone by that name. Mr. Cosick approaches Robert, but the youth is reluctant to confide in him, as they have been virtual strangers for the past fifteen years. Below, Danny and Ruth continue to talk while Parkinson sneaks into the hotel stairway. As Mrs. Cosick informs the reporters about the career she gave up to have a family, Dunnigan interrupts her and learns that Virginia Foster was Robert's fiancee. On the roof, the police build a winch to lower a man down to Robert, but people in a neighboring building alert Robert as the policeman approaches, and Robert threatens to jump. Meanwhile, Mrs. Fuller, who can see the ongoing drama from the attorney's office, tells her still-loving husband that she is tired of the divorce proceedings and would rather stay married. At the hotel, Robert yells at Dunnigan for attempting to trap him, but Dunnigan reiterates that the policeman was trying to help him, and that the city has been brought to a standstill by his suicide threat. Robert apologizes, and Dunnigan persuades him to talk to his father again. Dunnigan then convinces Robert that everyone will leave the hotel room so that he can rest, but as Robert steps in, Parkinson bursts in and frightens Robert back onto the ledge. As night falls, the police locate Virginia and bring her to the hotel, where Strauss and Benson tell her that it was his parents' divorce and Mrs. Cosick's smothering that caused Robert's instability. Although Robert does not want to see Virginia, she comes to the window and states that she still loves him. Dunnigan then promises to introduce Robert to his wife and take him fishing. Just as it seems that Robert is about to come in, a boy on the street accidentally turns on a spotlight that blinds Robert, and in his panic, he falls from the ledge. As he falls, Robert grabs a net that the police had stealthily been raising, and he is pulled to safety. Strauss and Benson sedate Robert and put him to bed, then assure Virginia that the worst is over. Exhausted after his long ordeal, Dunnigan returns to the street, where he is greeted by his wife and son. Later that night, Danny and Ruth, who have fallen in love, walk the street hand in hand.
Barbara Bel Geddes
Howard Da Silva
Robert Wilson Holton
Robert Keith Jr.
Joyce Van Patten
William Welsh Jr.
A. F. Erickson
W. D. Flick
Fred J. Rode
Sol C. Siegel
Best Art Direction
By 1950, Hathaway had been enjoying considerable success with a run of noir thrillers The House on 92nd Street (1945), Kiss of Death (1947) and Call Northside 777 (1948) which made extensive use of actual inner city locations to add to their scenarios a layer of gritty verisimilitude. For Fourteen Hours, Hathaway brought a small army of 175 actors and technicians to film on the streets of New York. The screenplay by John Paxton (Crossfire ) fictionalized the events of July 26, 1938, renaming the Hotel Gotham the Rodney Hotel. (He also altered the names of John William Warde and Charles Glasco to Robert Cosick and Charlie Dunnigan). Cast as The Rodney was the Guaranty Trust Company, located at 128 Broadway in downtown Manhattan. Permission to film had been granted as a professional courtesy, as Guaranty Trust handled accounts for Fox. The original plan had been to film over the long Memorial Day weekend in 1950 but unexpected delays stretched the location shooting out to two weeks.
Ursine character actor Paul Douglas (who had turned down the opportunity to reprise his Broadway success with Born Yesterday  in Columbia's big screen adaptation) was tagged to play the affable family man Dunnigan, while the role of the troubled Robert Cosick was handed to Hollywood newcomer Richard Basehart (the angry loner of Alfred Werker's He Walked by Night ). Douglas and Basehart's home lives gave their respective characters unintended shadings: Douglas had just a month earlier married Jan Sterling, while Basehart's wife of ten years, costume designer Stephanie Klein, was diagnosed with a brain tumor during filming and died following brain surgery that July.
Its use of a seven-point narrative to flesh out Fourteen Hours makes the film a precursor of sorts to Pulp Fiction (1994) and Crash (2004). To play the peripheral characters drawn into the drama of the man on the ledge, Fox brought in a number of promising Hollywood newcomers including Jeffrey Hunter, Debra Paget and Grace Kelly (in her film debut, and beating out Anne Bancroft for the part) along with seasoned veterans Agnes Moorehead, Robert Keith, Howard Da Silva and Jeff Corey. Stage actress Barbara Bel Geddes was picked to play Cosick's love interest; interestingly, she would not appear in another feature film until Alfred Hitchcock's acrophobic Vertigo (1958) seven years later.
Among the three hundred New York bit players and extras called in for crowd scenes were jobbing actors Ossie Davis, Harvey Lembeck, Joyce Van Patten, The Magnificent Seven's (1960) Brad Dexter, John Cassavetes and Robert Keith's 20-year-old son Brian. Hired for ten days work at $55 a day was nonprofessional performer Richard Lacovara, whose job was to double Richard Basehart in long shots on the ledge (which Fox carpenters enlarged to minimize the risk of falling). A porter in the stereotype room of The Daily Mirror, Lacovara had answered a newspaper ad asking for construction workers unafraid of heights and lied about being a steelworker. Protected by a canvas life belt hidden under his costume that was connected to a lifeline, Lacovara filmed from 8am until 5pm, and then went to his regular newspaper job from 7pm to 1am. Despite being doubled, Richard Basehart still had to endure over three hundred hours of standing with almost absolute stillness over the course of the fifty day shoot, a requirement complicated by a sprained ankle and legs ravaged by a case of poison oak that the actor contracted while cutting weeds at his Coldwater Canyon home.
Two endings were shot for Fourteen Hours: one with Cosick falling to his death just as firemen raised a cargo net to catch him (as happened in the failed rescue attempt in 1938) and one in which he is coaxed back to safety. Henry Hathaway preferred the truthful, downbeat ending but the very day the finished film was previewed the daughter of 20th Century Fox president Spyros Skouras jumped to her death. While the understandably grieving Skouras wanted the film shelved, the studio ultimately released Fourteen Hours six months late with the hopeful happy ending. The subject was tackled again in December of 1955 for an episode of the Joseph Cotten-hosted 20th Century Fox Hour, with Cameron Mitchell playing Robert Cosick, William Gargan cast as the inexplicably renamed Patrolman Bragan and the title changed to The Man on the Ledge.
Although the publicity push for Fourteen Hours was strong (Paul Douglas promoted the project on the cover of Life magazine in March of 1951) and critical comments generally favorable (apart from griping about the boy-meets-girl subplot involving Hunter and Paget), Fourteen Hours lapsed into obscurity relatively quickly and was rarely seen or discussed as forgotten as John William Warde himself. When the film was shown in revival in 2003, the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles borrowed the only existing print. Happily, this rare title was included in 20th Century Fox's "Fox Film Noir" DVD series in 2006 and subsequent TV broadcasts will allow it to be appreciated and discussed by a new generation.
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: John Paxton; Joel Sayre (story)
Cinematography: Joe MacDonald
Art Direction: Leland Fuller, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Alfred Newman
Film Editing: Dorothy Spencer
Cast: Paul Douglas (police officer, Charlie Dunnigan), Richard Basehart (Robert Cosick), Barbara Bel Geddes (Virginia Foster), Debra Paget (Ruth), Agnes Moorehead (Christine Hill Cosick), Robert Keith (Paul E. Cosick), Howard da Silva (Deputy Police Chief Moskar), Jeffrey Hunter (Danny Klempner), Martin Gabel (Dr. Strauss), Grace Kelly (Mrs. Louise Ann Fuller), Frank Faylen (Walter, room service waiter), Jeff Corey (Police Sgt. Farley), James Millican (Police Sgt. Boyle), Donald Randolph (Dr. Benson)
by Richard Harland Smith
"That Was New York: The Man on the Ledge," by Joel Sayre, The New Yorker, April 16, 1949
"High Above Lower Broadway: Unit from Hollywood Shoots Picture About a Suicidal Maniac on a Building Ledge in Financial District," by Thomas M. Pryor, New York Times
"A Long Time to Fall," Crimes and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Aberrant Behavior, Volume 10, The Symphonette Press 1974
Henry Hathaway: A Director's Guild of American Oral History by Rudy Behlmer
Accidental Genius: How John Cassavetes Invented the American Independent Film by Marshall Fine
"A Princess's Progress: Grace Kelly's Screen Debut," by Danny Peary, AMC Movie Magazine
Fourteen Hours - Richard Basehart in FOURTEEN HOURS on DVD
The film takes a simple premise and runs with it. A busboy is called to deliver room service but the occupant (Richard Basehart) quickly disappears. Turns out he's on the ledge of a high-rise hotel, deciding whether to jump. A traffic cop (Paul Douglas) is the first to arrive and tries to convince Basehart to hold on until more skilled professional help can arrive. This starts a psychological game between Basehart-whose motivations aren't immediately clear-and Douglas with the other police who want him back inside the room. Because Fourteen Hours appeared during a period when censorship and film conventions were starting to break down, viewers can't be entirely sure whether Basehart will jump or not, though the ending of a film is never really the point.
To some degree Fourteen Hours is a chamber drama. It's easy to imagine it as live theatre with the two main characters up on stage while the observing rabble is down by the seats. Oh, the observing rabble? That's one of the more interesting aspects of Fourteen Hours. The potential suicide quickly draws a massive crowd (it's also St. Patrick's Day and he's holding up the parade). Local news covers this almost like it was a sporting event while elsewhere callous cab drivers bet on the time of death, old women wonder if it's a publicity stunt, two young people form a potential romance before getting accidentally separated, and a young wife about to sign her divorce (Grace Kelly in her first screen appearance) has second thoughts. It's a broad range of reactions and if it doesn't quite hit the cynicism of Billy Wilder's somewhat similar Ace in the Hole (released the same year) it's also more humane. It's the kind of film where even minor characters glimpsed for a minute or two have an almost Shakespearean vitality: the elevator boy bursting with gee-whiz amusement, the journalist quickly bored by the responses of a Basehart relative, and quite memorably the busboy who doesn't phone that there's a potential suicide right away but pauses to replace his receipt pad on his own cart instead of the table by the telephone.
This multiplicity of viewpoints is one reason the film doesn't feel like a two-person show, though in many ways that's what it is. Baseheart and Douglas were given well-written roles, easily understandable on the surface but with currents below, and they take off from there. Basehart perfectly captures a genuine sense of mental disturbance, not the broad gestures and heavy hints that are often used to portray this but subtle approaches such as the way he moves his head or his obsession with personal health. Douglas starts out as just a kindly beat cop who becomes a surrogate father (one memorable low-angle shot shows Basehart in the center of the screen with his real father on the left and Douglas on the right). But there's more to him as he schemes to get the jumper inside and though you feel much of what Douglas says is honest you also never quite know how much is him simply trying to do his job. This is where Fourteen Hours draws much of its strength. In one sense it's really just a fascinating, well-told story but unobtrusively the film examines a variety of topics. Why not let Basehart jump? Should strangers care about him? Should the city spend that much money to save him? Is it really a traffic cop's job to handle this? What responsibilities does Basehart's family have?
Fourteen Hours is also a film of its time. Probably its main flaw is an overly psychological explanation that was all too typical of the 1950s when Freud had entered American pop consciousness right after World War II without being entirely understood. This psych-think became so common that it was even parodied by the ending of Psycho when the psychiatrist's talk is shown as altogether insufficient to explain what happened. But that's hardly a major point. Along with the tight drama, Fourteen Hours simply looks wonderful with clean but rich cinematography (including a great opening of NYC streets) while matching the actors to high-altitude shots in nice process work that would rarely be matched today. There are also familiar faces filling out the cast, such as Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter, Barbara Bel Geddes and Ossie Davis in one of his earliest roles.
The film comes in a solid transfer to DVD, so sharp that you can distinguish individuals in distances and more importantly the flickers of thought in the main characters. Though the power of Fourteen Hours might survive viewing in a washed-out, splice-ridden print, this DVD shows it solid enough for full impact. The extras include an overly obvious commentary by historian Foster Hirsch, the film's trailer and ads for other releases in the Fox Noir series.
For more information about Fourteen Hours, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order Fourteen Hours, go to TCM Shopping.
by Lang Thompson
Fourteen Hours - Richard Basehart in FOURTEEN HOURS on DVD
Ossie Davis (1917-2005)
He was born Raiford Chatman Davis on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. His parents called him "R.C." When his mother registered his birth, the county clerk misunderstood her and thought she said "Ossie" instead of "R.C.," and the name stuck. He graduated high school in 1936 and was offered two scholarships: one to Savannah State College in Georgia and the other to the famed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but he could not afford the tuition and turned them down. He eventually saved enough money to hitchhike to Washington, D.C., where he lived with relatives while attending Howard University and studied drama.
As much as he enjoyed studying dramatics, Davis had a hunger to practice the trade professionally and in 1939, he left Howard University and headed to Harlem to work in the Rose McClendon Players, a highly respected, all-black theater ensemble in its day.
Davis' good looks and deep voice were impressive from the beginning, and he quickly joined the company and remained for three years. With the onset of World War II, Davis spent nearly four years in service, mainly as a surgical technician in an all-black Army hospital in Liberia, serving both wounded troops and local inhabitants before being transferred to Special Services to write and produce stage shows for the troops.
Back in New York in 1946, Davis debuted on Broadway in Jeb, a play about a returning black soldier who runs afoul of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep south. His co-star was Ruby Dee, an attractive leading lady who was one of the leading lights of black theater and film. Their initial romance soon developed into a lasting bond, and the two were married on December 9, 1948.
With Hollywood making much more socially conscious, adult films, particularly those that tackled themes of race (Lonely Are The Brave, Pinky, Lost Boundaries all 1949), it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling for Davis. His first film, with which he co-starred with his wife Dee, was a tense Joseph L. Mankiewicz's prison drama with strong racial overtones No Way Out (1950). He followed that up with a role as a cab driver in Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1951). Yet for the most part, Davis and Dee were primarily stage actors, and made few film appearances throughout the decade.
However, in should be noted that much of Davis time in the '50s was spent in social causes. Among them, a vocal protest against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and an alignment with singer and black activist Paul Robeson. Davis remained loyal to Robeson even after he was denounced by other black political, sports and show business figures for his openly communist and pro-Soviet sympathies. Such affiliation led them to suspicions in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the early '50s, but Davis, nor his wife Dee, were never openly accused of any wrongdoing.
If there was ever a decade that Ossie Davis was destined for greatness, it was undoubtly the '60s. He began with a hit Broadway show, A Raisin in the Sun in 1960, and followed that up a year later with his debut as a playwright - the satire, Purlie Victorious. In it, Davis starred as Purlie, a roustabout preacher who returns to southern Georgia with a plan to buy his former master's plantation barn and turn it into a racially integrated church.
Although not an initial success, the play would be adapted into a Tony-award winning musical, Purlie years later. Yet just as important as his stage success, was the fact that Davis' film roles became much more rich and varied: a liberal priest in John Huston's The Cardinal (1963); an unflinching tough performance as a black soldier who won't break against a sadistic sergeant's racial taunts in Sidney Lumet's searing war drama The Hill (1965); and a shrewd, evil butler who turns the tables on his employer in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1969).
In 1970, he tried his hand at film directing, and scored a hit with Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), a sharp urban action comedy with Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as two black cops trying to stop a con artist from stealing Harlem's poor. It's generally considered the first major crossover film for the black market that was a hit with white audiences. Elsewhere, he found roles in some popular television mini-series such as King, and Roots: The Next Generation (both 1978), but for the most part, was committed to the theater.
Happily, along came Spike Lee, who revived his film career when he cast him in School Daze (1988). Davis followed that up with two more Lee films: Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jungle Fever (1991), which also co-starred his wife Dee. From there, Davis found himself in demand for senior character parts in many films throughtout the '90s: Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Client (1994), I'm Not Rappaport (1996), and HBO's remake of 12 Angry Men (1997).
Davis and Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, In This Life Together, and in 2004, they were among the artists selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. Davis had been in Miami filming an independent movie called Retirement with co-stars George Segal, Rip Torn and Peter Falk.
In addition to his widow Dee, Davis is survived by three children, Nora Day, Hasna Muhammad and Guy Davis; and seven grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Ossie Davis (1917-2005)
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.
Released in United States Spring April 1951
John Cassavetes was an extra.
Released in United States Spring April 1951