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Sunday, April 6, 2014

FOURTEEN HOURS (1951)

Sure, it’s another gimmicky suicide watch drama (will he/won't he), but deftly helmed by Henry Hathaway; well-larded with sharp sidebar vignettes to help ride out the main story tension; and phenomenally well cast, not only in the leading roles but by fistfuls of up-and-comers like Grace Kelly, Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter & Ossie Davis. Richard Basehart (37, but looking 27) wisely keeps a rein on the emoting as the sweet-faced would-be jumper on the 15th floor, and he sure catches a break when street cop Paul Douglas is the first guy on the case. You couldn’t find a better ledge companion. The usual gang of upper echelon police, crowd revelers, parents, ex-girl, nosy reporters and even a lunatic preacher soon get in the way. It’s all beautifully organized by Hathaway, and credit to producer Sol C. Siegel on getting such a flavorsome NYC-based cast together for a mid-level pic. But nothing tops the ultra-strict, ultra-succinct Freudian analysis done on the fly by Martin Gabel’s call-a-shrink. (You guessed it . . . it’s all Mom’s fault.)

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