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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is another fine Film Noir from the vaults of 20th Century Fox!
Made in 1947 "Boomerang" was the brainchild of talented producer Louis
deRochemont who began to bring a new semi-documentary style of picture
making to cinema. He strove to give a more realistic look to films by
shooting in actual locations and eschewing the phony indoor exteriors
offered by the studios. "Boomerang" was such a project and was filmed
in Connecticut where events in this true story took place.
Splendidly directed by Elia Kazan and sharply photographed in glorious black & white by Norbert Brodine "Boomerang" does indeed have a newsreel look about it especially with the fine voice of Reed Hadley (uncredited) doing the narration. Previously deRochemont had great success with this type of picture with his production "The House on 92nd Street" two years earlier. Richard Murphy's taut screenplay for "Boomerang", from an article in Reader's Digest, was based on an actual incident in Bridgeport, Connecticut where the murder of a kindly church pastor occurred. The film recounts the efforts of the town council to bring pressure to bear on the frustrated local police department to bring the killer to justice by any and every means possible. Dana Andrews gives his usual stalwart and likable performance as the local D.A. who suddenly finds himself going over to the side of the defense when the only and hapless suspect is coerced into signing a confession for the murder.
The movie has a wonderful all-involving style to it with beautifully lit and splendidly atmospheric courtroom scenes. And there are uniformly excellent performances throughout from Sam Levene, Robert Keith, Ed Begley, Karl Malden but especially from Arthur Kennedy as the suspected culprit and Lee J. Cobb as the police chief.
A great movie that every noir devotee will want in their collection. Extras include a commentary, a poster gallery and a Trailer. Good one Fox!
Elia Kazan's 1947 docudrama Boomerang dramatizes the courage and
independence of a Connecticut States Attorney who stood up to political
pressure and fought for dismissal of charges against a defendant
accused of murder because he wasn't convinced of his guilt. The film
(which I first saw as a boy) is based on an actual killing that took
place in 1924 in which a popular parish priest was shot on a main
street in Bridgeport, Connecticut in full public view. In spite of the
public nature of the killing, the murderer escaped and no suspects were
immediately apprehended. Using an unseen narrator to provide background
information, the film achieves a hard-hitting realism, conveying the
feeling that you are watching events as they unfold.
Produced by Louis de Rochemont, well known for films dramatizing real events such as "House on 92nd Street" and "13 Rue Madeline", performances are uniformly excellent, particularly those of Dana Andrews as Henry Harvey, the idealistic States Attorney, Lee J. Cobb as Police Chief Robbie Robinson, Arthur Kennedy as John Waldron, the ex-GI murder suspect, and Ed Begley as the corrupt Commissioner Paul Harris. The film stays fairly close to actual events with the exception that the States Attorney is shown as an unknown lawyer looking to make a name for himself not the nationally known former Mayor and candidate for US Senate.
Boomerang begins with a description of the crime and then in a flashback shows the priest asking his assistant to get help for his unstated problems and threatening to have him confined in a hospital. This thread is left hanging but Kazan tantalizes the viewer, suggesting without offering any evidence that the troubled assistant had a motive to kill the priest. When the investigation stalls, pressure is put on the police to come up with a suspect and Dave Woods (Sam Levene), a local newspaper reporter, runs a series of stories criticizing the City government for its inaction in hopes of achieving political power for the paper's owner.
After innocent people are arrested simply because they wore clothing that resembled what the killer is alleged to have worn the night of the murder, a disheveled veteran, John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy), is arrested in Ohio in possession of a handgun and returned to Connecticut. Several eyewitnesses pick out Waldron as the killer and the bullet is identified as coming from Waldron's gun. When Police Chief Robinson (Lee J. Cobb), finally extracts a confession after grilling Waldron for many hours, the case seems open and shut.
At the preliminary hearing, however, Harvey is guided by the legal code of ethics that the prosecutor's job is not to gain convictions but to see that justice is done and has doubts about the evidence, arguing against a conviction. Most of the film's dramatic moments take place in the courtroom but there is a back story involving municipal corruption, a theme that Kazan would visit again ten years later in "A Face in the Crowd".
The shocking turnaround by the States Attorney does not sit well with party official Paul Harris (Ed Begley) who invested his savings in a corrupt land deal and needs the present government to remain in power to buy that land from him. Fearing economic ruin, he threatens Harvey and insists the prosecutor try to convict Waldron whether or not he is innocent. The prosecutor remains steadfast, however, and the intense courtroom drama keeps us riveted until the surprising outcome is revealed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It belongs to a category of movies popular during the last 1940s,
semi-documentaries, with voice-overs, often, as here, Reed Hadley in
his reassuring baritone. Henry Hathaway doted on the style for a while.
Thematically the tension arises from a familiar bundle of oppositions:
crime control vs. due process. It's a tension that has given us some of
our most enjoyable trial movies, including "Young Mister Lincoln."
Lately, that is, since Watergate, a third model of the justice system
has appeared: namely one in which a secret, conspiratorial hand causes
corruption and systemic disorganization -- "True Believer," "All the
President's Men," and so on, almost without end. We are stuffed with
paranoia like Strassbourg geese.
But "Boomerang" belongs to a different period, when a DA could take his mission seriously -- "not to prosecute, but to see that justice is done." It's kind of neat, too. Relaxing in its own fairly isometric way. We can bring ourselves to believe that Dana Andrews will do the right thing, even though he's misled into temptation at the beginning of the case. Isn't it nice to believe in the justice system?
I won't repeat the story here, just add a few comments. The acting, first of all, is up to professional par. Dana Andrews is convincing as the self-doubting and totally human DA. My only problem with his performance is that he pronounces "bullet," as "BOO-lit." (Stop it at once.) Jane Wyatt has an attractive open face and a voice that suggests good breeding. I'm glad to see that no one has jumped on her role as perpetuating a stereotype.
Yes, she loves her husband, cuddles up to him, brings him milk and a sandwich -- but she is also quite on top of things too. Before a brawl can erupt in her living room she interrupts the proceedings with a tray and a query -- "BEER, Gentlemen?" Andrews is tortured by his friends who urge him to win the case and run for governor, while other facts have led him to believe Arthur Kennedy's prisoner may be innocent. In other words, if he convicts, he may become governor. If he loses, he's a bum. Wyatt is massaging his shoulders and he glumly asks, "Remember those sandwiches we bought in the deli downstairs while I was in law school? It would be almost fun to do it again, wouldn't it?" But that's clearly not Wyatt's idea of a good time. She pauses in her massage, looks thoughtfully down at him, and replies, "We were both a little younger then, Henry." Of course she's speaking for him as well.
Ed Begley, a Connecticut native by the way, debuts here, I think. And he's great. A blustering greedy small-time bureaucrat who's going to lose his shirt if the case against Kennedy is dismissed or lost. Boy, can Begley sweat and act nervous. Arthur Kennedy provides an ambiguous character in his murder suspect. Everything seems stacked against him, but he doesn't play it easy. He's not merely a poor put-upon veteran who is a saint in real life. He's angry, bitter, has had an unpleasant meeting with the murder victim, and was packing a .32 revolver when picked up. He exclaims defiantly that he left town "when I wanted to and because I wanted to." In a moment of exhaustion he tells Andrews that he spent all those years in the army and he's not a kid anymore. He didn't want to drive a truck or deliver milk, he wanted to try something new and different. But this is as far as he goes in asking for understanding.
We watch his interrogation now, from our 21st-century perspective, see him deprived of sleep for days, harassed and threatened with beating by the police, and think, "Wow, it's a good thing we don't treat prisoners like that anymore." But we can if we want to, and we sometimes do. The so-called mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was captured in Afghanistan and, according to former FBI agents, was probably put through the same process as Kennedy in order to get information. Not torture. You don't need torture, as the Chinese taught us during the Korean war. Just keep the prisoner awake and handcuffed behind his back, so someone else has to unzip his trousers in order for him to use the toilet.
In supporting roles, Lee J. Cobb, as the cop who changes his mind, is excellent, and so is Karl Malden, who has less to do. I've always loved Sam Levene, no matter what part he's appeared in, and this one, the cynical wisecracking reporter was made for him. There's not a bad performance in the bunch, although I wish Ed Begley had gotten a few sympathetic scenes. Even the judge wears a suitably wry smile at one point as he directs Andrews, "Proceed." Incidentally, the playwright Arthur Miller and the director, Kazan, were friends at the time. Miller lived near where the film was being shot and was given the part of an atmosphere person. In the police line-up, he's the tall man in the dark coat on the far left.
This is a fascinating crime and legal drama, all the more surprising because it's true. Andrews takes what appears to be a water-tight case against a suspicious and friendless vagrant and dismisses it by reexamining the evidence against Kennedy. His plea, nulla prosequi, doesn't mean that Kennedy is innocent, just that the state does not plan to prosecute him now. (If the state did, and lost, double jeopardy would apply.) The fact is that Andrews doesn't show that Kennedy didn't do it. He just demonstrates that there is plenty of room for reasonable doubt, usually the defense's job. It took guts for him to do that, to play by the rules, to see that justice was done.
An admirable film bout an admirable character.
The young ARTHUR KENNEDY was one of our best dramatic actors and proves
it in BOOMERANG! by giving a realistic punch to his performance as an
innocent man caught in a murder trap. The only man who can save him is
attorney DANA ANDREWS, who does a fine job of pointing out weaknesses
in the case and destroying the false witnesses.
One of the best of its kind, it's done in brisk, documentary style popular in the early forties. Well worth viewing, beautifully directed and acted by a fine cast.
Jane Wyatt does a nice job, as does Ed Begley and Sam Levene. Based on a true incident, the murder of a popular parish priest in Connecticut, the film is powerful in its demonstration of our justice system and how it sometimes works, but sometimes fails because of behind the scenes dishonesty related to political shenanigans.
***SPOILERS*** Based on a Richard Oursler article in Readers Digest
about the real life murder of popular Catholic priest Father George A.
Lambert, Wyrley Brich, Eli Kazan's "Boomerang!" doesn't go into who
murdered Father Lambert, the killer was ever apprehended, but in the
story of the Innocent man accused of killing him ex-GI and town drifter
John Waldron, Arthur Kennedy. With the murder investigation of Father
Lambert going nowhere the local Stamford political machine, run by
power-broker T.M Wade( Taylor Holmes), goes full-blast in attacking the
city administration of reform Mayor Swayze, Walter Greaza,in hopes of
getting it's man elected mayor.
The murder of Father Lambert turns out to be a political football between the two warring political parties instead of a police affair and investigation. After Waldron is arrested in Ohio and sent back to Conn. to stand trial State Prosecutor Henry Harvey, Dana Andrews, is put on the case. Waldron mentally pounded for three straight days by the police not allowing him to sleep breaks down and confesses to the Lambart murder making his conviction a forgone conclusion.
As prosecutor Harvey looks closely at the evidence against Waldon he realizes that the man may very well be innocent. If convicted he'll, Harvey, have to live for the rest of his with the thought that he sent a innocent man to his death. Harvey later finds out that a lot is riding on Waldon's conviction and it has nothing to do with the murder of Father Lambart. A non-conviction will effect the re-election chances of Mayor Swayze. Harvey is also running the risk of destroying a promising political career in state politics, he's already being groomed to be the states governor, by getting Waldon off even if he's innocent.
Well paced and honest film about big city politics with a stellar performance by Dana Andrews who didn't let his career ambitions get in the way of his sense of justice. Also in "Boomerang!" is Jane Wyatt as Prosecutor Harvey's wife Madge. Madge was tricked into an under-the-table deal by the city's Commissioner of Public Works Mac McCreery, Ed Begley, McCreery was terrified that if Mayor Swayze didn't get re-elected and agree, as he promised him, to have the city of Stamford buy his real-estate property it would in the and financially ruin McCreery and possibly land Madge behind bars.
Powerful ending sequence in a Stamford courtroom that has all the drama and tension of that of a very good fictitious movie screenplay but in this case all that happened in the movie also happened in real life.
The names are changed and updated, the story takes place post World War
II instead of World War I. But Boomerang is the story of how the man
who eventually became United States Attorney General, Homer Cummings,
used his prosecutorial office to prove the INNOCENCE of an arrested
murder suspect. How often do you see that happen?
In fact Boomerang is a primer for those people who wonder how the Supreme Court under Earl Warren could render such decisions as Escobedo and Miranda which set a few ground rules about interrogating a suspect. Today poor Arthur Kennedy who plays the veteran accused of murdering a priest in cold blood might have lawyered up and never given the confession in the first place.
Under a different name Cummings is played by Dana Andrews with Jane Wyatt as his wife. Lee J. Cobb and Karl Malden play the investigating police detectives who do a thorough job and apparently have gotten their man. What the crime consisted of was person unknown in the evening hours on one of the town's main streets firing a pistol into the back of the head of a popular clergyman in the town. Several witnesses do see it, but none are close enough to really be sure.
One witness nearly sinks Kennedy, but when Andrews questions Kennedy before the trial and he tells her that waitress Cara Williams is mad because he dumped her, that sets Andrews thinking about his case. His examination of her on the stand is devastating.
The film was directed by Elia Kazan who got the New York Film Critic's Award for this and his work on Gentleman's Agreement. This was a banner year obviously for Mr. Kazan. Boomerang got one Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay for Richard Murphy.
After over 60 years Boomerang holds up very well and should be required viewing for those attorneys who wish to become prosecutors. It ain't all about another notch in the belt.
This film is one of Elia Kazan's early efforts as a director.
He presented this story in the semi documentary style pioneered by
Louis DeRochemont in his "March of Time" short subjects and brought to
length status in Henry Hathaway's "The House on 92nd Street".
In filming this true story, Kazan took his cast and crew to a small Connecticut town similar to the one that the story occurred in. This concept was very effective.
Dana Andrews plays Henry L. Harvey, a Connecticut States Attorney who is prosecuting a particularly sensitive case in which a local revered priest was murdered and a homeless drifter was arrested for the crime after an exhaustive search in which the local police was criticized by both the media and local politicians. When Harvey begins to have some doubts, his case "Boomerangs".
The story is riveting from start to finish and the style Kazan uses adds even more credibility to it. (Kazan used on location filming a few years later in making "Panic in the Streets" and it was just as effective even though the story was fictional).
The acting is first rate. Supporting Andrews is Arthur Kennedy as the suspect, Lee J Cobb as the chief of police, Sam Levine as a reporter who knows all, and Robert Keith as a political leader (his son Brian, who later became a bigger star than his father, has a bit).
"Boomerang!" is a film made during the time when Hollywood was growing up. It's a provocative story about our judicial system that even when viewed today makes you think. And it's done to perfection
'Boomerang!' is one of those thrillers based on real events, presenting
a corrupt view of small town America, where politicians seek votes over
justice, and might doesn't always equal right.
With a cast including Dana Andrews, Lee J Cobb, and Arthur Kennedy, the story unfolds when the local priest is shot dead in the street and a wandering hobo is arrested and then grilled for hours until he confesses. Politically he is groomed for conviction, but the DA (Andrews) wants to know more. Meanwhile, political officials seek to let the alleged killer off on account of his being someone who'd served his country.
Corruption is rife both in the courtroom and without, and the viewer is drawn into this complex web not really knowing what the truth is. An interesting twist at the end almost ties things up but leaves some questions still unanswered.
Good performances, tense construction of character and storyline and some fine black and white photography mark this out as a minor classic of its type.
Very good drama, employing documentary elements, about attorney Homer
Cummings' pursuit of justice on behalf of a man wrongly accused of the
murder of an episcopalian minister. Cummings went on to become Attorney
General of the U.S.
Given the sloppy cases put on by prosecutors today with the only goal in mind being a win, given the intense political influences often in play in bringing cases to trial, Boomerang comes off like a fable about the way justice should work. Harvey, the prosecutor in this case (actually Cummings) refuses to bend to political pressure and rely on sloppy police work to win an indictment in the case of the accused man, beautifully portrayed by Arthur Kennedy.
The interrogation techniques shown in this film were pre-Miranda, but I believe interrogations like this still exist.
Elia Kazan did his usual great job of directing this stark drama and the cast is uniformly excellent: Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Kennedy, Ed Begley, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Sam Levene.
Toward the end of the film, Dana Andrews opens a book and reads a quote stating in part that the role of the prosecutor is to see that justice is done. In my experience and observation, it appears that most prosecutors have never read this statement. Maybe that's why Homer Cummings became U.S. attorney general and they haven't.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Boy, this can be a frustrating story to watch, but the acting was great
with a number of well-known people doing their usual excellent jobs.
I'm speaking of actors like Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Dana Andrews,
Ed Begley, Sam Lavene, Jane Wyatt, Robert Keith and more.
The story shows how people go about doing things for the wrong reasons. It's tragic when it involves a man's life. Here, an Episcopal priest gets shot in broad daylight in a New England town (Hartford, Conn., I think.) Amazingly, he runs away and is not caught. Soon, with no clues and no suspects, the public is demanding action. A lot of this looks like a bunch of clichés, but it's based on a true story.
It's an election year so you have one party which is desperate to hand over a killer and satisfy the public. You have the opposite party led by a defense team which doesn't care if their man's guilty or not; they just want the guy to go free and make the others look bad. The cops, meanwhile, don't want to keep looking bad so they're anxious to pin something on the first suspect that looks really guilty. This sort of thing goes back-and-forth throughout the film. You know the suspect "John Waldron" (Kennedy) is Innocent so it's frustrating watching him get in deeper and deeper.
You see two extremes. In the "old days" like when this was filmed, a guy could be brought into the police station and has harassed to the point of making a false confession. Where's the lawyer? "Ah, you'll get one later," says a cop. It looks ridiculous to us today. Now, we are used to the opposite where the accused doesn't go anywhere or say anything without a lawyer present. It seems too many guilty men go free today but - in this movie's era and previous to that - too many innocent people were sentenced. Wouldn't it be nice to have a middle ground where justice always prevails? Even more ridiculous is somebody allowed to bring a gun into the courtroom but, once again, it's life 60 years ago.
Also involved in the story is an overzealous press (what else is new?), promises of government posts, a scorned woman lying her butt off, a man who has put all his money into a business project and what happens in the case affects him, and the usual "good guy" who won't sell out his principles. Speaking of that, about at the one-hour remark, we see a quote from the "Lawyer's Code Of Ethics." I had to laugh; I don't know one lawyer who subscribes to that! From the above, you get the gist of the story. I won't say more for fear of spoilers. Suffice to say, it's a wonderfully-acted film with some good direction by some young director named Elia Kazan! If you watch, be prepared to have your blood pressure go up and down. It's a very manipulative movie, but that helps make it interesting.
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