14 Hours (1951)

It’s business as usual in a New York City hotel one morning. A room service waiter has come to a certain room on one of the hotel’s higher levels to deliver breakfast.

Much to the waiter’s surprise and dismay, he finds that the recipient of said breakfast (Robert Cosick) is standing on the ledge just outside of his window and is threatening to jump.

Reporters flock to the hotel, and a crowd grows, awaiting what may be the terrible truth of the man’s fate.

(Image: moovidadb)
(Image: moovidadb)

Conversing with Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas), a cop, the man struggles with whether or not to take his own life.

Meanwhile, the perspectives of observers around the city (including Grace Kelly, in her first film role) and the man’s family (including fiancé Barbara Bel Geddes and mother Agnes Moorehead) are also shown.

14 Hours is a tense noir-drama directed by Henry Hathaway for 20th Century Fox.

This film features wonderful atmospheric building from the beginning. Everything is very grim and gloomy, which suits the sad premise of a man contemplating suicide.

The film’s opening has no dialogue at all for a few minutes – just the sounds of the city, and then a shrill scream. This immediate tension sets the mood for the rest of the film.

The pace of the action is slow, but deliberately so. It successfully keeps the viewer in suspense, focusing on both the man on the ledge himself and a variety of reactions from both “insiders” and “outsiders” to the situation.

Believable performances are given across the board. The viewer never finds themselves thinking of these people as actors – not even Grace Kelly, who is remembered by the average viewer more for her beauty and elegance than for her performances. This makes it very easy to get caught up in the story.

Particularly great is Agnes Moorehead, portraying the frenzy of a worried mother. She is in hysterics over the prospect of her son’s death, but she is driven by self-serving motivations more than anything else. Complicated family relations are revealed as the film progresses, and Moorehead’s character is one of the film’s most captivating.

14 Hours makes a commentary not only on depression, but also on society. As an enormous crowd grows around the hotel, the viewer is left wondering why they want to watch this man die. “Rubbernecking” is a phenomenon that has become even more prevalent in today’s society, where we have access to every minute detail of dramatic deaths and crimes. I am not immune to this: I’ve found myself caught up in my fair share of true crime research and Investigation Discovery shows. The film provokes a lot of thought on the troubling nature of our shocked interest in such harrowing situations.

The film gets wrapped up in an ending that is seriously tense. [MILD SPOILER] Everything works out for the best, predictably, but the moments leading up to that resolution are insanely gripping. [/MILD SPOILER]

14 Hours is a fantastic film. Check it out for young Ms. Kelly in her first role, but you’ll stick around for the powerful story. The score: 4/5

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5 thoughts on “14 Hours (1951)

  1. This is part of the Fox Film Noir series, but yet I’ve never seen it, nor even made the slightest attempt to purchase it…and I don’t know why! After reading your review, I may change my mind…I love the noir films directed by Henry Hathaway, and that might be the selling point for me right there. The fact that a man on a ledge is (I’m assuming) the entirety of the story makes me curious to find out why it’s considered a ‘noir’ film.

    Thanks, Lindsey, for the cool review AND for prompting me to dig into my wallet once again!

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    1. I think it would have had a more noir-ish tone had the original ending been preserved. (I’m not sure if you read the spoiler, but if you did, head over to Wikipedia and read about why the original ending got canned.) I’ve seen it categorized as a straight drama as well, so you can decide for yourself where you’d place it once you get around to watching it. :)

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      1. I purposely skipped the spoiler, only because I truly have no idea how it ends, or even how it might end (well, he jumps or he doesn’t, I guess). I’ll be watching it soon, and after I do, I’ll check out that Wikipedia entry…thanks for letting me know!

        And I just added a fun Marilyn photo to my ‘Film Essays’ link…check it out next time you visit!

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