Cause for Alarm! (1951)

73-75 mins | Drama | 23 February 1951

Director:

Tay Garnett

Producer:

Tom Lewis

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

James E. Newcom

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Actress Loretta Young provides a running voice-over narration for the film, as her character, "Ellen Jones" thinks about the events that are happening in the story. Actors John Hodiak and Will Geer were included in early HR production charts, but neither were in the completed film. Hodiak was to portray "Dr. Ranney Grahame," a role taken over by Bruce Cowling a week after filming began, and apparently reduced after Cowling was cast. A HR news item on 21 Apr 1950 noted that Regis Toomey was to have a featured role, but he was not in the picture. Another news item noted that director Tay Garnett was loaned to M-G-M by Thor Productions.
       According to an M-G-M press release, the studio received special permission from actor William Boyd to use his "Hopalong Cassidy" image and references to his popular television series of the same name. The series, which was initially broadcast from 24 Jun 1949 through 23 Dec 1951, remained in syndication for many years and was one of the medium's first large-scale successes. In Cause for Alarm! , the character played by child actor Bradley Mora, is dressed in a Hopalong Cassidy costume, calls himself "Hoppy" and makes several references to the character's popularity on television.
       Although an 18 Apr 1950 HR news item noted that Cause for Alarm! marked the 100th feature film appearance by character actor Irving Bacon, Bacon had actually appeared in more than three hundred films prior to 1950. Many of the film's exterior scenes were shot in Beverly Hills, CA, north of Wilshire Blvd. Producer and co-screenwriter Tom Lewis was married to ... More Less

Actress Loretta Young provides a running voice-over narration for the film, as her character, "Ellen Jones" thinks about the events that are happening in the story. Actors John Hodiak and Will Geer were included in early HR production charts, but neither were in the completed film. Hodiak was to portray "Dr. Ranney Grahame," a role taken over by Bruce Cowling a week after filming began, and apparently reduced after Cowling was cast. A HR news item on 21 Apr 1950 noted that Regis Toomey was to have a featured role, but he was not in the picture. Another news item noted that director Tay Garnett was loaned to M-G-M by Thor Productions.
       According to an M-G-M press release, the studio received special permission from actor William Boyd to use his "Hopalong Cassidy" image and references to his popular television series of the same name. The series, which was initially broadcast from 24 Jun 1949 through 23 Dec 1951, remained in syndication for many years and was one of the medium's first large-scale successes. In Cause for Alarm! , the character played by child actor Bradley Mora, is dressed in a Hopalong Cassidy costume, calls himself "Hoppy" and makes several references to the character's popularity on television.
       Although an 18 Apr 1950 HR news item noted that Cause for Alarm! marked the 100th feature film appearance by character actor Irving Bacon, Bacon had actually appeared in more than three hundred films prior to 1950. Many of the film's exterior scenes were shot in Beverly Hills, CA, north of Wilshire Blvd. Producer and co-screenwriter Tom Lewis was married to Loretta Young at the time of the film's production. Lewis also produced Young's popular NBC television series Letter to Loretta (later known as The Loretta Young Show ), which ran from 1953 through 1961 and often featured Young in roles similar to "Ellen" in Cause for Alarm! More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Jan 1951.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jan 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
26 Jan 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 50
p. 3, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 50
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 51
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Jan 51
p. 690.
New York Times
30 Mar 51
p. 28.
Variety
31 Jan 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
MAKEUP
Hair styles des
Makeup created by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on a radio play by Larry Marcus (broadcast undetermined).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 February 1951
Production Date:
late April--early May 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 January 1951
Copyright Number:
LP662
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
73-75
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14652
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Housewife Ellen Jones worries about her husband George, who has changed dramatically since being bedridden with a heart condition, and wonders if the tempermental and depressed George will ever return to his former self. Although George, a former Air Force pilot who married Ellen during World War II, is quite ill, he exaggerates his symptoms and accuses her and his best friend, Dr. Ranney Grahame of not helping him. Unknown to either Ran or Ellen, George is secretly writing a letter to the district attorney, warning that Ellen and Ran are trying to kill him. When he has a brief attack, George begs Ellen to get another doctor, but because George has treated all of the other doctors so badly, only Ran will come. Despite George's accusation that Ellen deliberately delayed calling a doctor, Ran dismisses his concerns and suggests that he might want to consult a psychiatrist to help him avoid the morbid thoughts with which he is preoccupied. Later, when Ran and Ellen are alone, he tells her that George must go to the hospital to prevent his depression from worsening. She is distraught, knowing that George only wants her to attend him and seems to take violent dislikes to other people, but promises to talk to George. After chatting outside with Billy, a friendly neighborhood child who dresses like television cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, Ellen is startled to see George at the window. George denies having gotten out of bed, then accuses her of being in love with Ran and wanting him dead. Although hurt, Ellen believes the illness is making George so distrustful, and goes downstairs to make his lunch. ... +


Housewife Ellen Jones worries about her husband George, who has changed dramatically since being bedridden with a heart condition, and wonders if the tempermental and depressed George will ever return to his former self. Although George, a former Air Force pilot who married Ellen during World War II, is quite ill, he exaggerates his symptoms and accuses her and his best friend, Dr. Ranney Grahame of not helping him. Unknown to either Ran or Ellen, George is secretly writing a letter to the district attorney, warning that Ellen and Ran are trying to kill him. When he has a brief attack, George begs Ellen to get another doctor, but because George has treated all of the other doctors so badly, only Ran will come. Despite George's accusation that Ellen deliberately delayed calling a doctor, Ran dismisses his concerns and suggests that he might want to consult a psychiatrist to help him avoid the morbid thoughts with which he is preoccupied. Later, when Ran and Ellen are alone, he tells her that George must go to the hospital to prevent his depression from worsening. She is distraught, knowing that George only wants her to attend him and seems to take violent dislikes to other people, but promises to talk to George. After chatting outside with Billy, a friendly neighborhood child who dresses like television cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, Ellen is startled to see George at the window. George denies having gotten out of bed, then accuses her of being in love with Ran and wanting him dead. Although hurt, Ellen believes the illness is making George so distrustful, and goes downstairs to make his lunch. As soon as Ellen leaves the room, George continues his letter, embellishing it with details that further incriminate Ellen. After lunch, George says that he is feeling better and asks Ellen to mail a letter that contains some insurance papers he has worked on for his office. Because Mr. Carston, the mailman to whom Ellen gives the letter, has seen George at the window, Ellen immediately goes to his room and begs him not to risk his health. George swears that the mailman was mistaken, then relates a strange story from his childhood about a time he beat up a neighbor boy who tried to touch one of his toys. Later, when his mother made him apologize and give the child the toy, George relates that he deliberately dropped and broke the toy rather than letting the other boy have it. This story and his expression of satisfaction that the destroyed toy would always be his frightens Ellen. George then confesses what he wrote in the letter and reveals that the medicine he supposedly spilled the day before, requiring her to re-order the prescription too soon, will seem incriminating. He then threatens to kill her and grabs a gun he has been hiding under the blankets. As she pleads, he suddenly has a heart attack and dies, still grasping the gun. Stunned and afraid when the phone rings and it is the pharmicist inquiring about the prescription, Ellen does not tell him about George's death and is almost incoherent in her explanation. Now fearful that everything she has done will seem incriminating, just as George had predicted, Ellen realizes that she must get the letter back and rushes through the neighborhood, trying to find Carston. Although Carston is initially willing to give her the letter, which she says should not have been mailed, he refuses to relinquish it when he realizes that was from George, rather than her, and tells her that only a supervisor in the downtown office can give it to her. When Ellen returns to the house, George's indulgent aunt, Clara Edwards, is inside, having unlocked the door with a key that she found with a neighbor's help. Ellen is extremely agitated and Clara only agrees to leave without seeing George after Ellen tells her that the visits upset him. Ellen then changes clothes so she can be presentable at the post office and decides to get the gun out of George's hand. It is stiff and she has to pull it out, discharging a bullet. As she is about to leave, Mr. Russell, a public notary, arrives and tries to force his way in to see George, indicating that George had demanded he come that day, no matter what his wife said. Russell does finally leave, but Ellen now fears that he will be another witness against her. At the main post office, the superintendent says he can give her the letter back, but policies about forms and other types of scrutiny that would require George's signature upset Ellen so much that she leaves empty-handed. When she arrives home, Ellen remembers that Ran was supposed to stop by again and calls him not to come. Because he is out making house calls, he does not get the message and arrives almost immediately. She tries to get him to leave by saying that another doctor has been there, but he guesses that George is dead. After Ellen breaks down and tells him everything, Ran finds the gun and the bullet hole in the floor. He then tries to calm her down and tell her that George's mind was going. When the bell rings, she fears that it is the police, but it is only Carston, who returns the letter, admonishing that there was postage due on the thick letter and it could not be delivered. Ellen cries hysterically after Carston leaves and is comforted by Ran, who burns the letter. Calm now, she hopes that someday she can forget what has happened. +

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.