It’s St. Patrick’s Day in NYC. The cops have their brass polished. Cabbies are prepping themselves for hellish traffic. And on a ledge 15 stories above the ground, Robert Cosick is about to swan dive headfirst to the concrete jungle’s unforgiving bosom. Based on the true story of John Warde, who had downtown NYC enthralled for a half a day in July 1938 as he threatened to jump off the 17th story of the Gotham Hotel, Henry Hathaway’s 14 Hours is a terrific drama that’s as authentically human as it is dramatically gripping. John Warde jumped to his death that day in 1938, but there’s a happier close to 14 Hours, one that had to be inserted following the suicide of a 20th Century-Fox executive’s daughter the day the film premiered. Talk about fantasy reflecting reality. Or the other way around. Whatever.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948)
In 1945, director Henry Hathaway collaborated with the FBI and 20th Century Fox to make The House on 92nd Street. The film was an obvious handjob to the FBI meant to paint them in a positive light while presenting their twisted uptight version of justice. The pseudo-documentary style would be utilized three years later in Hathaway’s Call Northside 777 (as well as numerous other post-war films). It’s based on the true story of a Chicago reporter who proved that an innocent man was rotting in prison for the murder of a cop 11 years before. This film sorta wavers on the fence between documentary and noir tradition of the 1940s, meaning it never dips into bleak territory or wallows in cynicism as it examines the American judicial system. However, it certainly doesn’t trust ol’ Lady Justice either, the crooked bitch that she is.
YOU THINK YOU CAN TRY TO THROW JOSEPH COTTEN OVER THE FALLS AND HE’LL TAKE IT LYING DOWN?! HUH?! COTTEN DON’T THINK SO!!!
Planned as one of Marilyn Monroe’s first starring vehicles, Niagara is an entertaining little tale of infidelity and murder set against the backdrop of the world famous falls. Monroe didn’t have the acting chops to pull off the femme fatale role, so for most of the film she parades around in slinky dresses and tight sweaters, without doing much of anything. There is one scene where she sings along to a record – completely off key and tempo. It’s awkward and painful to watch. At least Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, and Max Showalter (with his terrifying grin) are there to pick up her slack.
KISS OF DEATH (1947)
“Y’know what I do to squealers? I give it to em in the belly.”
Man, it doesn’t get slimier than Tommy Udo. Richard Widmark made his screen debut in this 1947 thriller from director Henry Hathaway (The House on 92nd Street), and goddamn did he make his mark. Kiss of Death made him an instant star. The film is based on the book by Elazar Lipsky, a former assistant district attorney in New York and is loaded with inside detail on how the judicial system works – and it ain’t pretty.