Time Limit (1957)

96 mins | Drama | October 1957

Director:

Karl Malden

Writer:

Henry Denker

Cinematographer:

Sam Leavitt

Editor:

Aaron Stell

Production Designer:

Serge Krizman

Production Company:

Heath Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening cast credits vary slightly from the closing credits. On 27 Jul 1956, HR reported that Richard Widmark had paid $100,000 to The Theatre Guild for the film rights to the play Time Limit . The film adaptation of the play marked the first picture for Widmark’s independent production company, Heath Productions, Inc. It also marked the directorial debut of actor Karl Malden. As noted in a 28 Apr 1957 NYT news item, scenes were shot on location at Fort Jay on Governor’s Island, New York, from 7 May--9 May; in addition, an Apr 1957 HR news item states that some scenes were shot at the Conejo Ranch near Agoura, CA. Although a Mar 1957 HR news item adds Stephen Ellis to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Despite reviews praising his work, Malden’s only other feature film directing work was as fill-in director for Delmer Daves on the 1959 Warner Bros. production The Hanging Tree (see above). In his autoboigraphy, Malden stated that he preferred being a good actor to being a fairly good ... More Less

The opening cast credits vary slightly from the closing credits. On 27 Jul 1956, HR reported that Richard Widmark had paid $100,000 to The Theatre Guild for the film rights to the play Time Limit . The film adaptation of the play marked the first picture for Widmark’s independent production company, Heath Productions, Inc. It also marked the directorial debut of actor Karl Malden. As noted in a 28 Apr 1957 NYT news item, scenes were shot on location at Fort Jay on Governor’s Island, New York, from 7 May--9 May; in addition, an Apr 1957 HR news item states that some scenes were shot at the Conejo Ranch near Agoura, CA. Although a Mar 1957 HR news item adds Stephen Ellis to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Despite reviews praising his work, Malden’s only other feature film directing work was as fill-in director for Delmer Daves on the 1959 Warner Bros. production The Hanging Tree (see above). In his autoboigraphy, Malden stated that he preferred being a good actor to being a fairly good director. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Apr 57
p. 264.
Box Office
28 Sep 1957.
---
Daily Variety
18 Sep 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Sep 57
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 1957
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 1957
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 1957
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1957
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1957
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
21 Nov 1957
Part IV, p. 11.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Sep 57
p. 537.
New York Times
28 Apr 1957.
---
New York Times
24 Oct 57
p. 37.
New York Times
12 Apr 1959.
---
Time
28 Oct 1957.
---
Variety
18 Sep 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Time Limit by Henry Denker and Ralph Berkey as produced by The Theatre Guild (New York, 24 Jan 1956).
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 October 1957
Production Date:
3 April--early May 1957 at Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Heath Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 October 1957
Copyright Number:
LP9535
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
96
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18637
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a North Korean prison camp in 1951, an American soldier is shot by Korean soldiers as he tries to escape. A few years later, in his military law offices on Governor’s Island in New York, Col. Bill Edwards is under pressure from his superior, Gen. Connors, to wrap up a seemingly obvious case of treason against the ranking American officer at the prison camp, Maj. Harry Cargill. Bill interviews one of Cargill’s soldiers, Lt. George Miller, who recounts that during nine months of starvation and torture, not one man broke under the strain, but then, in rapid succession, two men died and Cargill became a Communist collaborator. Miller recalls the day that Cargill broke: After once again being placed in the hold by ruthless Col. Kim, Cargill returns to his men and begins spouting Communist doctrine, convincing them that he has gone over to the enemy. Miller continues that they were shocked and horrified, especially after learning later that Cargill had signed a confession about the Americans' use of germ warfare and made radio broadcasts supporting Communism. When Bill questions Miller about the deaths of the two soldiers, Lt. Harvey and Capt. Joe Connors, the general’s son, Miller states that they died of dysentery, and provides a scientific explanation of the illness. Declaring his confusion at Cargill’s treachery, Miller remembers the major reciting at the lieutenant’s graveside, “My brother died that I may live.” Just then, the general enters and, upon learning that Miller was friendly with Joe, invites him to lunch. After Connors leaves, Bill’s aide, Sgt. Baker, chastises his boss for wasting time on the case, which is not only “open and shut” but also has ... +


In a North Korean prison camp in 1951, an American soldier is shot by Korean soldiers as he tries to escape. A few years later, in his military law offices on Governor’s Island in New York, Col. Bill Edwards is under pressure from his superior, Gen. Connors, to wrap up a seemingly obvious case of treason against the ranking American officer at the prison camp, Maj. Harry Cargill. Bill interviews one of Cargill’s soldiers, Lt. George Miller, who recounts that during nine months of starvation and torture, not one man broke under the strain, but then, in rapid succession, two men died and Cargill became a Communist collaborator. Miller recalls the day that Cargill broke: After once again being placed in the hold by ruthless Col. Kim, Cargill returns to his men and begins spouting Communist doctrine, convincing them that he has gone over to the enemy. Miller continues that they were shocked and horrified, especially after learning later that Cargill had signed a confession about the Americans' use of germ warfare and made radio broadcasts supporting Communism. When Bill questions Miller about the deaths of the two soldiers, Lt. Harvey and Capt. Joe Connors, the general’s son, Miller states that they died of dysentery, and provides a scientific explanation of the illness. Declaring his confusion at Cargill’s treachery, Miller remembers the major reciting at the lieutenant’s graveside, “My brother died that I may live.” Just then, the general enters and, upon learning that Miller was friendly with Joe, invites him to lunch. After Connors leaves, Bill’s aide, Sgt. Baker, chastises his boss for wasting time on the case, which is not only “open and shut” but also has personal significance to the general. After Bill dismisses Baker, Cargill arrives and tersely confesses to all the charges against him, including one Bill knows he did not commit. Bill demands to know why he confessed to something he did not do, and urges the major to help mount his own defense, but Cargill remains silent. Before allowing him to leave, Bill plays Cargill’s treasonous radio broadcast, noting the major’s building anxiety. After Cargill leaves, Bill works on the case all night, hoping to solve the mystery of why the formerly exemplary officer “broke,” and in the morning, Bill’s secretary, Cpl. Jean Evans, protects him from Baker’s intrusions. Bill then visits Cargill’s wife, who lets him in reluctantly but agrees to talk upon realizing that Bill believes in her husband. She reveals that Cargill has not discussed the prison camp with her, and has indeed barely talked to her at all in the time he has been back from Korea. At Bill’s questioning, she finally remembers one quote from a letter Cargill wrote her, which she hopes may be useful: “He who kills one man kills a whole world. How many worlds have I killed?” Back in Bill’s office, Cargill is waiting for their next appointment. Before letting him in, Bill discusses the case with Jean, fretting over the differences between the traitor depicted in his files and the sensitive soul described by Mrs. Cargill. Jean points out that each witness described dysentery in the exact same words, which suggests that they each memorized a statement to recite. Just then, Gen. Connors returns to rebuke Bill once again for prolonging the case, calling for an immediate court-martial. After Bill politely refuses, Baker verbally attacks the waiting Cargill for putting Bill’s job in jeopardy through his refusal to speak. Jean agrees, urging Cargill to tell the truth, but Cargill responds that sometimes the truth can be more vicious than a lie. He tells her that any man’s mind will “turn to water” when enough pressure is applied to it, after which he will be called a coward. Bill returns, and although he pushes Cargill to explain why he suddenly became a collaborator after months of resistance, the major remains silent. Later, Bill calls Miller back and, bringing Jean, Baker and Cargill into the office with them, has the boy repeat his testimony about the dysentery deaths. When Miller falters over some of the words, Bill prompts him by reading from the records, proving that Miller is reciting by rote. Realizing he has been caught lying, Miller breaks down, revealing the truth about Connors’ death: After Harvey is killed by the guards while trying to escape, the rest of the men discover that Connors tipped off Kim, under torture, that Harvey was planning to escape. The men decide to kill the “stool pigeon,” despite Cargill’s entreaties not to, and draw straws to choose a murderer. Miller draws the short straw, and despite Connors’ screams for mercy, strangles him. Back in the office, Miller weeps that he had no choice, and Bill destroys the record of his confession, instructing him that no charges will be filed against him. Cargill still refuses to explain his own treason, insisting that his story can only hurt the rest of the men who survived Kim’s constant torture. As Miller becomes hysterical, the general enters and hears the lieutenant condemn his son, until Bill punches Miller to keep him quiet. Connors, however, insists on knowing the truth about Joe, and when Cargill will not speak, excoriates the major as a liar and coward. Unable to stand by, Bill breaks in and reveals the truth to Connors, who sadly denounces his son. Cargill argues with Connors' assessment, stating that there must be a time limit on being a hero. Joe, he says, was a hero for hundreds of days and a coward for only one, so why must he be judged for that one day? Finally, Cargill reveals his own “cowardice”: After Joe’s death, Kim told him to capitulate or all his men would be killed, and unable to sacrifice his men, Cargill submitted. More gently, Connors defends the military code of honor, pointing out that every military leader is faced with the responsibility of sacrificing some men for the greater good, and cannot rely on his emotions but only on the code, “our bible.” He leaves, calling for Bill to recommend a court-martial, but instead Bill files a recommendation that all changes be dropped. He tells Cargill that this will not save him from a trial, but that he will personally stand as his defense lawyer. As Cargill leaves, relieved that finally at least one person understands his choice, Bill sends his regards to Mrs. Cargill. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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