Boomerang! (1947)

87-88 mins | Drama | February 1947

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writer:

Richard Murphy

Producer:

Louis de Rochemont

Cinematographer:

Norbert Brodine

Editor:

Harmon Jones

Production Designers:

Richard Day, Chester Gore

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Perfect Case . The following written prologue appears after the on-screen credits: "The story you are about to witness is based on fact. In the interests of authenticity, all scenes, both interior and exterior, have been photographed in the original locale and as many actual characters as possible have been used." The film opens with a voice-over by an unidentified narrator describing the small-town Connecticut locale and introducing "Father Lambert." According to files in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Script Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the basis of the film, the Reader's Digest story "The Perfect Case" by Anthony Abbot, was a fictionalized treatment of a factual case involving the 1924 murder of a Catholic priest, Father Hubert Dahme, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Harold Israel was arrested for the murder and later acquitted through the efforts of prosecuting attorney Homer L. Cummings, who was later appointed Attorney General during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. As in the film, the case was never solved.
       The Reader's Digest story was a condensed version of a longer story by Abbot published in the Rotarian magazine in Dec 1945. Abbot was the pen name for Reader's Digest staff writer Fulton Oursler. Cummings' statement before the inquest board was first published in the Nov 1924 issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and later in 1925 in the American Law Review . In Aug 1946, just before Boomerang! commenced principal photography, Oursler was threatened with a plagiarism suit by Fred Stanton, the ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Perfect Case . The following written prologue appears after the on-screen credits: "The story you are about to witness is based on fact. In the interests of authenticity, all scenes, both interior and exterior, have been photographed in the original locale and as many actual characters as possible have been used." The film opens with a voice-over by an unidentified narrator describing the small-town Connecticut locale and introducing "Father Lambert." According to files in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Script Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the basis of the film, the Reader's Digest story "The Perfect Case" by Anthony Abbot, was a fictionalized treatment of a factual case involving the 1924 murder of a Catholic priest, Father Hubert Dahme, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Harold Israel was arrested for the murder and later acquitted through the efforts of prosecuting attorney Homer L. Cummings, who was later appointed Attorney General during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. As in the film, the case was never solved.
       The Reader's Digest story was a condensed version of a longer story by Abbot published in the Rotarian magazine in Dec 1945. Abbot was the pen name for Reader's Digest staff writer Fulton Oursler. Cummings' statement before the inquest board was first published in the Nov 1924 issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and later in 1925 in the American Law Review . In Aug 1946, just before Boomerang! commenced principal photography, Oursler was threatened with a plagiarism suit by Fred Stanton, the author of "My Favorite Detective Mystery: The Laughing Lady Mystery," which appeared in the Apr 1941 issue of True Detective magazine. Stanton's article was a factual account of the Dahme case. The disposition of Stanton's suit has not been determined.
       Cummings cooperated with Twentieth Century-Fox during preproduction, requesting only that his name not be revealed until the end of the film. He later expressed satisfaction with the completed film. Israel was paid $18,000 by the studio, but insisted his name not be used under any circumstance in connection with the film. Nellie Adams Trafton, the waitress at the Star Lunch diner in the Dahme case ("Irene Nelson" in the film), later threatened to bring a libel suit against Twentieth Century-Fox over the portrayal of the waitress in the film. The studio paid her $1,200, and no further information as to whether she pursued her claim has been found.
       Studio files indicate that producer Louis de Rochemont, well known for producing the March of Time documentary series, brought the story to the attention of director Kazan. Writer Robert Murphy completed a treatment of The Perfect Case in late Dec 1945 and, working with Kazan, wrote a first draft script by early Apr 1946. Executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck contributed to the screenplay by suggesting the entirely fictionalized aspect of the threat made against "Harvey" by "Harris." Kazan's major story contribution was in insisting that the character "Jim Crossman" be clearly designated as the murderer of "Father Lambert."
       Zanuck considered Lee J. Cobb for the part of "Dave Woods," then later as "Harris." Actors John Hodiak and John Ireland were considered for the role of "Chief 'Robby' Robinson," the role Cobb eventually played in the film. Walter Huston, Fredric March and Joseph Cotten were considered for "Henry Harvey." Frank Latimore was considered for the role of "John Waldron." Boomerang! marked the return to the screen of veteran character actor Taylor Holmes, who last appeared in Make Way for a Lady (1936). According to a HR news item, John Payne and Margo Woode were to be the leads in the film, which was to be filmed at the location of the Dahme case, Bridgeport, CT. Protests by city residents forced relocation to Stamford, CT, where residents participated in many scenes in the film. Production notes for the film reveal that the courtroom sequence in Boomerang! was filmed in the Westchester County Court at White Plains, N. Y., where Harry K. Thaw was tried for the murder of Stanford White in 1910.
       Richard Murphy received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for the film. Dana Andrews reprised his role for a Screen Guild Theatre radio adaptation of Boomerang! on 10 Nov 1947, co-starring Richard Widmark. A second broadcast, also starring Andrews, aired on 10 Sep 1950. The Screen Guild Players presented a broadcast of Boomerang! in Feb 1953, starring Tyrone Power. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Feb 1947.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jan 47
p. 3.
Film Daily
24 Jan 47
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 46
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 47
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 47
p. 4.
Life
24 Mar 47
pp. 87-88.
Motion Picture Daily
24 Jan 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Feb 47
p. 3446.
New York Times
29 Sep 1946.
---
New York Times
6 Mar 47
p. 36.
Newsweek
17 Mar 1947.
---
Time
10 Mar 1947.
---
Variety
29 Jan 47
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orch arr
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "The Perfect Case" by Anthony Abbot in The Reader's Digest (Dec 1945).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Perfect Case
Release Date:
February 1947
Premiere Information:
London opening: 26 January 1947
Los Angeles opening: 28 February 1947
Production Date:
mid September--November 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
5 March 1947
Copyright Number:
LP968
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87-88
Length(in feet):
7,911
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11999
SYNOPSIS

On Main Street in a small city in Connecticut, Father George M. Lambert, a much-loved, civic-minded minister, is shot in the head and killed during his nightly after-dinner stroll by a man in a dark coat and light hat. The town's newly elected reform government, which has made some inroads in city planning, is severely criticized by the newspaper The Morning Record for failing to find the killer, despite having seven witnesses to the crime. The whole community is outraged as The Record , owned by T. M. Wade, an opposition figure, ruthlessly attacks the police and city government for their amateurism. Supporters of the government, including banker Paul Harris, anger State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey by suggesting that the FBI be brought in. When the commissioner angrily confronts Chief of Police Harold F. "Robby" Robinson, an honest but cynical policeman, Robby decides to quit, but Henry convinces him to stay on, as he has gotten civic leaders to agree to back him for two weeks without interference. After the seven witnesses agree that the murderer was wearing a dark coat and light hat, a composite drawing of the suspect is circulated, and suspects throughout New England are picked up and forced to appear in police line-ups. Finally, the Ohio State police locate a man who matches the description and owns a gun of the same caliber used in the slaying, and who also left the Connecticut city a few days earlier. The man, John Waldron, is extradited, and when the witnesses pick him out of a line-up, he is booked. During a tough interrogation, Waldron, a disgruntled ex-serviceman, tells a number ... +


On Main Street in a small city in Connecticut, Father George M. Lambert, a much-loved, civic-minded minister, is shot in the head and killed during his nightly after-dinner stroll by a man in a dark coat and light hat. The town's newly elected reform government, which has made some inroads in city planning, is severely criticized by the newspaper The Morning Record for failing to find the killer, despite having seven witnesses to the crime. The whole community is outraged as The Record , owned by T. M. Wade, an opposition figure, ruthlessly attacks the police and city government for their amateurism. Supporters of the government, including banker Paul Harris, anger State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey by suggesting that the FBI be brought in. When the commissioner angrily confronts Chief of Police Harold F. "Robby" Robinson, an honest but cynical policeman, Robby decides to quit, but Henry convinces him to stay on, as he has gotten civic leaders to agree to back him for two weeks without interference. After the seven witnesses agree that the murderer was wearing a dark coat and light hat, a composite drawing of the suspect is circulated, and suspects throughout New England are picked up and forced to appear in police line-ups. Finally, the Ohio State police locate a man who matches the description and owns a gun of the same caliber used in the slaying, and who also left the Connecticut city a few days earlier. The man, John Waldron, is extradited, and when the witnesses pick him out of a line-up, he is booked. During a tough interrogation, Waldron, a disgruntled ex-serviceman, tells a number of lies to police, who learn that he had lived in the city for at least two months and had met and spoken with Father Lambert. Furthermore, Waldron left town after breaking up with a waitress, Irene Nelson, who is now bitter toward him. Once Robby learns that the bullet that killed Lambert came from Waldron's gun, he presses more intensely, despite his inner doubts about Waldron's guilt, until Waldron, in a daze, signs a confession. At the coroner's inquest, Waldron says he was forced to sign the confession, yet the testimony of witnesses leads the coroner to refer the case to the district court. Henry then questions Waldron in his cell to learn what his defense will be. When Waldron, who had a good war record, states that he left town because he did not want the unskilled jobs available, and hoped to start a small business somewhere else, Henry is moved, but Waldron accuses Henry of wanting to see him hanged and lashes out. At the indictment hearing, Henry reviews the evidence against Waldron, which seems overwhelming, then surprises everyone by saying that he believes Waldron to be innocent. The judge, in his chambers, warns Henry that he will take steps to have him disbarred and prosecuted for malfeasance of office if his motives are political. Robby turns away from Henry in disgust, and "Mac" McCreery, a reform politician, who has been grooming Henry for the governor's race, asks Henry if one man's life is worth more than the community. When Henry answers that it is, Mac warns that he will have to fight the whole town. Henry then is confronted by Harris, who argues that the party needs a conviction to win the election and reveals that he owns the Sunset Realty Company, which controls land planned for a recreation area. If the party does not win, he states, the new government will not purchase the land, and Harris will stand to lose all his money. As Henry is making a call to report Harris' actions to the proper authorities, Harris pulls a gun, then reveals that Henry's wife Madge, as chairman of the project, has unwittingly given $2,500 to help buy the land, a transaction that, however innocent in intent, would not look good in the newspapers. Henry then finds that Madge loaned the money for the playground when cash was needed. At court the next day, Henry asks to reserve his plea until he has laid evidence before the court. After he questions the witnesses, who assert they saw Waldron, he reveals that he recreated the crime seven times with his men and that none of them could identify the one portraying the murderer. When Irene asserts that she is certain she saw Waldron pass her café window, Henry relates that when he stood in the same spot in the steam-filled room, he could not make out his assistant as he passed by the window. Henry then reveals that Irene had applied for the reward offered for evidence and sternly warns her about the penalty for perjury. After Irene states that she is now unsure whether she saw Waldron, a cashier at a movie theater, which Waldron said he attended the night of the murder, testifies that she did not sell Waldron a ticket. Henry then casts suspicion on this witness, when she also states that she has never seen the man whom Henry sent the previous week to buy a ticket. Henry goes on to show that Waldron's confession was suggested to him when he was in a state of exhaustion. Henry also notes that part of the bullet was left in the deceased's brain and that five independent experts contend that the bullet could not have been fired by Waldron's gun. Admitting that everything he had previously stated is inconclusive, Henry has the judge put bullets in Waldron's gun, then has an assistant point it at him in the same position from which it must have been fired at Father Lambert. The gun fails to fire, and Henry reveals that it has a faulty mechanism and cannot shoot from that angle. A gunshot is then heard in the courtroom, and Harris, who has received a note from Dave Woods, a reporter who has found out about the realty company, slumps over, having shot himself. Afterward, Wade admits defeat, and Robby apologizes to a grateful Henry. The murderer is never found, but suspect Jim Crossman, a troubled man whom Father Lambert had urged to enter a sanitarium after hearing his confession, is chased by police for speeding and dies in a car crash. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.