A young man, morally destroyed by his parents not loving him and by the fear of being not capable to make his girlfriend happy, rises on the ledge of a building with the intention of committing suicide. A policeman makes every effort to argue him out of that.Written by
Tiziana Totaro <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Huge and familiar cast can't rescue mechanical jumper-on-a-ledge drama
On St. Patrick's Day, Richard Basehart orders a room-service breakfast in a Manhattan hotel. He isn't very hungry, though. While the waiter fumbles for change, Basehart scrambles out onto the window ledge where he'll spend the next 14 hours threatening to jump. That it's St. Patrick's Day has little to do with much of anything except to make us wonder how he could light his cigarettes, using matches no less, several stories up in the air in a midtown canyon on March 17.
Alerted by a hair-raising shriek from a woman across the way, traffic cop Paul Douglas is the first on the scene. He strikes a rapport with Basehart and tries to talk him down (or rather in), but when the bumbling police arrive in force, under Howard Da Silva's command, he's dismissed. But Basehart wants him back. As the 14 hours tick by, an assortment of people traipse in and out of his room: his shrew of a mother (Agnes Moorehead), his defeated father (Robert Keith), his former fiancee (Barbara Bel Geddes).
Down in the street and in the surrounding buildings things happen, too: cabbies make book on when he'll jump, a young couple meets and falls in love. Grace Kelly's screen debut circles the plot like a remote satellite: she's on her way to finalize her divorce but, caught up in the drama of the would-be jumper, changes her mind. (Why that plot strand didn't end up on the cutting room floor remains a puzzle.) Meanwhile (as in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival of the same year), a three-ring media circus gets underway.
There's enough going on in Henry Hathaway's movie to keep you watching, but your heart stays well south of your throat. The big-town microcosm stays strictly by the numbers and resolutely conventional. There are plenty of characters, but not much glue to stick them together. (Screenwriter John Paxon's best days Murder My Sweet, Cornered, Crossfire were behind him.)
Basehart made something of a speciality of the clean-cut misfit (He Walked by Night, Tension) but he never gnaws close to the root of his crisis it wasn't written for him. Bel Geddes, Moorehead and especially Kelly try to cope with the sketched-in roles they're given. That leaves the ever reliable and amiable Douglas to bring some warmth and characterization to this impersonal and mechanical movie. He succeeds, even though the perverse Paxon, who omits the obligatory sequence when the crowd starts chanting `Jump! Jump! Jump!,' gives the line to Douglas instead. And of course, according to the mainstream logic of the screenplay, that kick in the pants is just what Basehart needed, as though he were an unruly kid screaming for attention.
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