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When his son Andy is kidnapped and held for ransom, David Stannard liquidates his assets to meet the half-million dollar demand. A casual remark by newspaper reporter Charlie Telfer makes him change his mind. Despite the pleas from his wife Edith and brother Al, and the resultant condemnation of the press and public, Stannard goes on a nation-wide television program, displays the money and warns the kidnapper that not one cent will be paid for ransom; instead the money will be used to track down the kidnapper if Andy isn't returned unharmed. The police then find the boy's blood-stained shirt. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Vacuum-cleaner heir and magnate David G. Stannard (Glenn Ford) is accustomed to getting his way. He will do anything to hold sway over his stuffed-shirt brother under the boardroom-portrait gaze of their late father, the family patriarch. David's marriage to Edith Stannard (Donna Reed) is surface-solid but fissured deep. Will it come apart when their only child, Andy, is kidnapped for ransom?
For son Andy doesn't return home as expected from school one day. By the time the day is over, David has mobilized all the men who count: the police chief, the family doctor (to watch over the potentially hysterical Edith), his brother and business associates (to assemble the ransom), the technicians who operate the switches at the phone company (to trace the kidnapper's call when it comes). The kidnapper, belatedly by phone, has demanded $500,000. And Edith, helpless woman, has already cracked under the strain and been put to bed, sedated.
Now David alone must decide what to do. The host of a TV program which David's company sponsors is standing by to go on the air in a white dinner jacket, a pre-arranged signal to the kidnapper that the ransom is ready. But here's a twist--the police chief and even an insouciant reporter who has invaded the Stannard residence (a young Leslie Nielsen) inform David that paying a kidnapper in no way improves the odds for getting the victim back unharmed!
It just shows potential future kidnappers that crime in fact pays. Criminologically, like begets like. David can strike a blow for fathers everywhere by standing up to the son-stealers of this world and refusing to pay. After a bedside visit to Edith in which he tells her nothing, and after much solitary agony, he appears on the TV show himself with the ransom money spread before him. He says to the kidnapper: Nothing doing. You get not one penny. If you don't free my son, all this will bankroll my unceasing efforts to hunt you down. Will your accomplices be able to resist its lure as bribe or reward for turning you in?
Now the wait is on. Which way will the kidnapper jump? Will Andy come home to his father or go home to his Maker? Meanwhile, just about everyone around David turns against him. The public. David's brother, with his yes-men. The sheriff. Most of the media. And especially Edith, who wakes up and twigs to what David has chosen to do. Even the police chief, who as much as egged him on, begins to play cover-his-arse. David's only stalwarts turn out to be his Negro (this is the 50's) butler, played by Juano Hernandez, and Charlie Telfer, the reporter, who has found his mettle. And, beyond Chapman's prayerful faith which likens this situation to that of the Biblical David and Absalom, they can't help.
David Stannard, a master of men, a veritable king, is completely isolated. He is making the gamble of a lifetime. If it pays off, patriarchy will be restored, in the form of a living male heir and possibly a reunited family. If it doesn't ... what?
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