Thursday, February 28, 2008

Getting pedantic with Robert Osborne

Grace Kelly in High Noon,
Grace Kelly in High Noon

In his comments after the end of On the Beach last night, TCM's Robert Osborne made a comment about the next film up, High Noon, being the movie that introduced America to Grace Kelly. True enough, High Noon made Kelly a star, but it wasn't her first movie. That would be Fourteen Hours.

Fourteen Hours is a gripping little drama about a man (Richard Baseheart) who walks into a hotel one St. Patrick's Day, rents a room, and then walks out of the room onto the window ledge, with the intention of jumping. Of course, somebody notices him on the ledge before he gets the chance to jump, and this is where the drama begins. Who is this man? Why does he want to jump? And can anybody convince him not to jump? Meanwhile, the prospect that a man might jump off a building brings the usual crowd of gawkers to the street below, with the expected crowd dynamics. Also, however, the scene affects people on the ground in what we, or they, might not have imagined. The material isn't anything groundbreaking, and in many ways what we would reasonably expect to happen is what does happen: the film is relatively realistic by the standards of what Hollywood could do in the early 1950s. And director Henry Hathaway handles it all with a deft touch that will leave the viewer guessing whether or not Baseheart will jump.

In the cast besides Baseheart is Paul Douglas as an Irish cop who sees Baseheart, and it the first one charged with getting him off the ledge. In many ways, Douglas is the only person Baseheart can trust. Also appearing are Howard Da Silva as the deputy police chief who's heading the operation to get Basehart back in the building; Agnes Moorhead as Basehart's overbearing mother, and Barbara Bel Geddes as Baseheart's finacée. People with bit parts on the street who aren't listed in the credits are John Cassavetes; Brian Keith; and Ossie Davis playing a cab driver.

What about Grace Kelly, you ask? She's not in the crowd below, but in a neighboring building. Her story line is that of a woman about to get a divorce, and going through all the legal formalities with her lawyers. But when she sees what happens to poor Basehart out on the ledge, she starts to have a change of heart....

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Fourteen Hours is indeed available on DVD. It was released by 20th Century-Fox, and we know how they can be negligent in showing their classic movies on the Fox Movie Channel.

Edit: Updated to add photo of Grace Kelly

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