The title of this 1951 drama tells you how long a distressed man (Richard Basehart) stands on a 15th-floor window ledge intending to jump. But it doesn’t tell you the outcome.
Henry Hathaway’s film is based on a New Yorker article telling of a real suicide in 1938 (when John William Warde leapt 17 floors to his death from the ledge outside a room in the Hotel Gotham), but in 1951 Hollywood was still looking for happier ways to end its stories, and Fourteen Hours derives considerable suspense from our hope that they managed to find one.
Paul Douglas plays the traffic cop leading the efforts to tempt the man back down, Vertigo’s Barbara Bel Geddes plays the troubled man’s estranged fiancée, and Grace Kelly makes her screen debut as an anxious bystander. The film also marks the film debut of John Cassavetes and Joyce Van Patten.
It’s tensely shot on location in Manhattan, as was typical during Hathaway’s flush of realist noirs.
The film was shelved for six months because the daughter of Fox exec Spyros P. Skouras leapt to her death on the very day the film was previewed. By the time of its eventual release, some Spyros-mandated compromises were made to the film’s storyline.
Barbara Bel Geddes
Christine Hill Cosick
Paul E. Cosick
Deputy Police Chief Moskar
Howard Da Silva
Mrs Louise Ann Fuller