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The Set of 400: #324 – My Favorite Morbid Voyeurs First Date

Today! Because I don’t mind losing you, but I don’t want a whole daisy chain of cops sailing out that window –

Fourteen Hours (1951)

Directed by Henry Hathaway

Starring Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, Barbara Bel Geddes, Grace Kelly, Debra Paget, Agnes Moorehead, Howard Da Silva, Robert Keith, Jeffrey Hunter, Frank Faylen, Martin Gabel, Richard Beymer, John Cassavetes, Ossie Davis, Willard Waterman

The jumper-on-a-ledge thriller seems to have existed since movies began – from Harold Lloyd hanging off that clock (okay, not exactly a ledge flick) straight through to the no-frills Man on a Ledge in 2012 starring that great ’08-’11 movie star Sam Worthington (did not make the list!). But the best one – at least where the entire plot deals with this element – is 1951’s gripping Fourteen Hours. 

The cast is first rate – lead by Basehart’s suicidal Robert Cosick and Douglas’s endearing Officer Dunnigan charged with talking him back into the room. The layered complications are pretty standard for this type of film – why is he out there? How do we get him in safely? Who can help us talk to him? But in addition to this – with the parade of terrific supporting performers like Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Keith, the always brilliant Agnes Moorehead, the screen debut of Grace Kelly – the film also takes the interesting angle of presenting what’s going on at street level. The mania of the onlookers to gawk at the macabre spectacle happening above, with some sympathy, but mostly just to be entertained. It’s a fascinating choice, and one that elevates the movie from what could’ve been a standard suspense will-he-won’t-he flick into a bit of a condemnation of media and humanity, and in 1951! Continue reading

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