Monday, October 4, 2021

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR OCTOBER ON TCM

 

Montreal-born Gerald Mayer (Bright Road) directed this taut hostage drama from a story by Hugh King (The Threat) and actor (Armored Car Robbery) turned writer (Tootsie) Don McGuire. The disturbing screenplay is by John Monks Jr. (The House on 92nd Street).

The post-war years saw changes in audience habits due to television and the venerable studios were seeing that shift play out in their own business. As Dore Schary came to prominence at MGM, grittier and more socially conscious films, particularly from the B unit was changing the look of the studio output. Fans could still count on colourful entertainment such as The Band Wagon, Knights of the Round Table, and Dangerous When Wet, but more and more there were political dramas such as The Sell-Out, contemporary dramas like Executive Suite, and Rogue Cop

Dial 1119 finds itself among those latter gloomier films. Studios often used their B unit to try out new ideas or personnel and the lower budget often spurs creativity. This 75-minute thriller is not cast with "names" but with recognizable actors for those who frequented films at the time and enjoy movies from the era today.

Marshall Thompson

News travels quickly in 1950. When a disturbed young killer played by Marshall Thompson escapes from an asylum it is with determination and a frightening goal. The news is relayed through police bulletins and special breaking news radio reports and then on television screens including one in the Oasis Bar. The Oasis is a crumby joint as attested by its owner played by William Conrad but the television over the bar gives it that something extra.

Keefe Brasselle, James Bell, Virginia Field, Leon Ames, Andrea King

The clientele at the Oasis this night includes regulars. Virginia Field is a barfly, James Bell is a disgruntled newspaperman, Keefe Brasselle works at the bar and worries about his wife back at the maternity ward. Andrea King is a lonely woman who decided to take a smarmy Leon Ames up on his offer of a weekend out of the city.

Sam Levene, Richard Rober

Tension is prevalent inside the bar and out on the street, particularly between Sam Levene, the police psychiatrist who had the killer's sentence commuted to treatment instead of "the chair" and the police captain played by Richard Rober who only sees that more lives were lost because the State didn't execute a killer.

Spectators are crowding the streets surrounding the bar, drawn by the drama which they cannot see yet can still hear over the radio plus read about in special editions of newspapers. They also have the novel opportunity to see the television people in action. Dick Simmons plays a glib announcer who turns the life and death drama into a spectacle for an audience. You have to give the people what they want.


The connection between an event and the coverage of an event is the most off-putting aspect of this story. In the years since this movie's release, the lines have blurred more and more between real life and its telecast. Entire generations have had their perspective warped by the media and the two sides of the coin feed off of each other in a vicious circle. This circle is certainly not an entirely new phenomenon (see Ace in the Hole), but in the 21st century, it has become even more pervasive and dangerous.

Dial 1119 is an engrossing hostage drama that holds your attention while posing some interesting questions regarding crime, punishment, and coverage. Fans of the cast have an opportunity to see some familiar faces excelling in unfamiliar situations.

TCM is screening Dial 1119 at 6:00 am (Eastern time) on Thursday, October 14th. The films of the day turn a spotlight on mentally maladjusted characters in such titles as M, Night Must Fall, and Cast a Dark Shadow.










12 comments:

  1. CAST A DARK SHADOW is kinda fun.

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    1. Dirk as "Teddy" Bare is evil, but oh-so-lazy and not as smart as he thinks he is.

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  2. When I see the name LEON AMES I usually think of LITTLE WOMEN(49) first. He played the dad to JANET LEIGH, JUNE ALLYSON, ELIZABETH TAYLOR and MARGARET O'BRIEN. Then I think of PEYTON PLACE(57) where he played wealthy MR. HARRINGTON (first name is LESLIE), the dad of RODNEY HARRINGTON (BARRY COE). PLUS he played the dad to DORIS DAY and BILLY GRAY in ON MOONLIGHT BAY and its sequel BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. Leon Ames had a very long and versatile career. He certainly made an excellent and memorable movie dad.

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  3. LEON AMES was in four DISNEY movies. They are THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR, SON OF FLUBBER, THE MONKEY'S UNCLE and THE MISADVENTURES OF MERLIN JONES. TOMMY KIRK was in all of these movies. Sadly, Tommy's passing was last week at the age of 79. Tommy gave a great performance in OLD YELLER with DOROTHY MCGUIRE and KEVIN CORCORAN. Tommy and Kevin played brothers in other Disney movies too including SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON in which DOROTHY MCGUIRE played their mother again. JAMES MACARTHUR played a brother in that one. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. I imagine The Absent-Minded Professor was the first time I saw Leon Ames in a movie. Murders in the Rue Morgue from 1932 would have been the earliest of his movies that I have seen and I usually re-watch it around Halloween.

      Tommy Kirk, probably due to the Hardy Boys, always felt like some old pal I knew in my childhood.

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  4. As you note, Dial 1119 is a low-budget B, but I remember it as well done, tightly paced, and an excellent performance from Marshall Thompson, who always managed to stand out in his roles. Good recommendation!

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    1. Thanks. I think it is a worthwhile movie that those unfamiliar with will give a chance. I love watching Marshall Thompson's talent blossom through those MGM years.

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  5. What a great cast of future TV favorites! I watched Marshall Thompson in Daktari long before I discovered he acted in movies (including the surprising good It! The Terror from Beyond Space). William Conrad later became Cannon (and, of course, Matt Dillion on the radio). Leon Ames played The Colonel on Mister Ed. In real life, he and his wife were held hostage in their home before the police freed them.

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    1. Whoa! What a horrifying flashback for Mr. and Mrs. Ames. I am glad to read that it ended so successfully.

      I love It! The Terror from Beyond Space. I remember Thompson from Daktari, and my kid sisters used to watch him in George (the St. Bernard). He continually impresses me in movies.

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  6. I saw LEON AMES in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE which starred LANA TURNER. These shows are before my time but he was in LIFE WITH FATHER and FATHER OF THE BRIDE. CLASSIC TV FAN

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    1. It seems to me that I enjoy the shows before my time as much as the shows of my time.

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