I’ve been racked with a nasty cold the past couple of days, and this morning I found myself unable to remain in bed as late as I had wanted, what with all the coughing and congestion. I turned on the television to see what was on TCM, and was disappointed to see that Limelight (1952) had just ended. Up next was a crime drama from Fox called Fourteen Hours (1951), starring Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Bel Geddes, and very early appearances from Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter and Grace Kelly (both in their film debuts). I never heard of the film, but was sufficiently intrigued within the first five minutes to stay tuned for the next hour and a half.
The film is based on a true incident wherein a man, John Warde, threatened to commit suicide by jumping off the ledge of a New York hotel. In this film adaptation, Richard Basehart plays the troubled young man, Robert Cosick. I don’t recall seeing any of his other work, but I was very impressed with his desperately agitated performance. Paul Douglas, too, stands out as the Irish traffic officer who spends much of the standoff’s fourteen hours trying to get Cosick to relent and find some reason to go on living.
Grace Kelly makes her film debut as Mrs. Louise Ann Fuller, a woman who is delayed on her way to a divorce attorney’s office because of the mayhem in the street below the hotel. A very young Debra Paget is one of the spectators in the crowd amassing in the street, and finds herself romantically connecting with Jeffrey Hunter (also in his film debut). Barbara Bel Geddes really shines while on screen, even though she is introduced in the film’s final twenty minutes. As Virginia, she and the suicidal Cosick have a kind of nervous chemistry, and it’s easy to see how fragile their relationship must have been (and probably will continue to be).
I liked this film in the way that I liked Union Station (1950). It’s a grade “B” drama, but it features some strong performances from several lesser-known actors. Both films take what they can and really work with the material as fully as possible, without appearing too deliberate or stylized.