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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
After escaping from prison, Glenn Griffin, his brother Hal and a third inmate Sam Kobish randomly select a house in a well-to-do suburb of Indianapolis in which to hide out. The home belongs to the Hilliard family, Dan and Ellie who live there with their 19-year old daughter Cindy and their young son Ralph. They plan on staying only until midnight as Griffin is awaiting his girlfriend who will meet them with some money he had stashed away. When she doesn't arrive, their stay stretches out to several days. Dan Hilliard plays their game knowing that if he makes any attempt to contact the police, his family could be caught in the crossfire. Written by
Humphrey Bogart got his first real notice on the silver screen in The Petrified Forest, repeating a role he did on Broadway. As Duke Mantee, criminal on the run, he held the occupants of a diner hostage for several hours.
Here in The Desperate Hours, Bogey takes over a role that Paul Newman originated on Broadway. Bogart, Dewey Martin and Robert Middleton play three escaped convicts who drive to Indianapolis because Bogart wants to kill the officer that arrested him. Dewey Martin is Bogart's younger brother and Robert Middleton is their brutal partner in the escape.
Given the age difference between Bogart and Paul Newman, I'm sure the role of Glenn Griffin was played quite differently by Newman on stage. Similarly Karl Malden played Dan Hilliard on stage and Fredric March plays him for the screen. March is no hero here, he's just an ordinary family man trapped with his family in a terrible situation.
Rounding out the Hilliard family is wife Martha Scott, daughter Mary Murphy and son Richard Eyer. Martha Scott had appeared with March before as his wife in One Foot in Heaven. She does well here also, but I do wonder where the real Mrs. March was, Florence Eldridge. It seems like a good joint project for both of them.
The Desperate Hours is a good suspenseful thriller that will keep you glued to your seat. These are real people here, not some Hollywood type situation comedy family. You will care about what the eventual outcome will be.
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