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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were The Murder and The Bystander . Modern sources also list Murder Story as a working title. According to modern sources, the story was based loosely on the real-life case of Beulah Louise Overell and George Gollum, who in 1947 were accused of murdering Overell's parents in their yacht off Newport Beach, CA. Police maintained that seventeen-year-old Overell and twenty-one-year-old Gollum bludgeoned the couple to death prior to setting off a crude explosive device on the boat. Suspicion fell on young Overell, who stood to inherit a sizable fortune, after it was revealed that her parents did not approve of her romance with Gollum, a pre-med student. After a lengthy trial, one of the longest then on record, Gollum and Overell were acquitted. In Nov 1947, writer Chester Erskine sold the rights to his story to producers Sam Baerwitz and Joseph Justman of Belsam Pictures, according to news items. Edmond O'Brien was announced as Belsam's probable star and director in Jan 1952.
       After RKO head Howard Hughes acquired the property, he borrowed Otto Preminger from Twentieth Century-Fox to direct. In his autobiography, Preminger states that he at first rejected the script, despite pleadings from Darryl F. Zanuck, Fox's production chief, who reportedly owed Hughes some favors. According to the autobiography, Hughes called Preminger at three in the morning, drove him around town for hours and convinced him to take the job. Preminger claimed that Hughes gave him carte blanche on the production, stipulating only that Simmons be required to wear a long, black wig over her recently cut hair, and that the filming ... More Less

The working titles of this film were The Murder and The Bystander . Modern sources also list Murder Story as a working title. According to modern sources, the story was based loosely on the real-life case of Beulah Louise Overell and George Gollum, who in 1947 were accused of murdering Overell's parents in their yacht off Newport Beach, CA. Police maintained that seventeen-year-old Overell and twenty-one-year-old Gollum bludgeoned the couple to death prior to setting off a crude explosive device on the boat. Suspicion fell on young Overell, who stood to inherit a sizable fortune, after it was revealed that her parents did not approve of her romance with Gollum, a pre-med student. After a lengthy trial, one of the longest then on record, Gollum and Overell were acquitted. In Nov 1947, writer Chester Erskine sold the rights to his story to producers Sam Baerwitz and Joseph Justman of Belsam Pictures, according to news items. Edmond O'Brien was announced as Belsam's probable star and director in Jan 1952.
       After RKO head Howard Hughes acquired the property, he borrowed Otto Preminger from Twentieth Century-Fox to direct. In his autobiography, Preminger states that he at first rejected the script, despite pleadings from Darryl F. Zanuck, Fox's production chief, who reportedly owed Hughes some favors. According to the autobiography, Hughes called Preminger at three in the morning, drove him around town for hours and convinced him to take the job. Preminger claimed that Hughes gave him carte blanche on the production, stipulating only that Simmons be required to wear a long, black wig over her recently cut hair, and that the filming be completed in eighteen shooting days, as required by her contract termination date. As per Preminger's request, the script was quickly rewritten by Frank Nugent and Oscar Millard and cinematographer Harry Stradling was borrowed from Samuel Goldwyn's company for the production.
       Although the CBCS lists Ralph Volkie ( Good Humor man ), Peggy Walker ( TV girl ) and Charles Tannen ( TV broadcaster ) in the cast, those characters were not included in the final film. Modern sources note that Layne Britton worked as a makeup artist on the picture. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1952.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1952.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Dec 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 52
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
4 Feb 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jan 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Dec 52
p. 1629.
New York Times
22 Mar 47
p. 30.
New York Times
25 Apr 53
p. 11.
Variety
3 Dec 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus coordination
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Bystander
The Murder
Release Date:
11 February 1953
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 4 February 1953
Production Date:
18 June--mid July 1952
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2259
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in feet):
8,221
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15993
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

One night, Beverly Hills ambulance driver Frank Jessup and his partner Bill are called to the cliffside estate of Charles and Catherine Tremayne. By the time they arrive, Catherine has already been treated for gas inhalation, which the police believe occurred accidentally, but which the wealthy Catherine suspects was deliberate. As he is leaving the house, Frank notices Catherine's beautiful English stepdaughter Diane playing a melancholy piano piece and assures her that her stepmother will be fine. When Diane becomes hysterical, Frank slaps her face to calm her. Confused, she slaps him back, then apologizes. Later, after getting off work, Frank goes to a nearby diner, unaware that Diane is following him in her sports car. In the diner, Frank tries to call his girl friend, Mary Wilton, a hospital receptionist, but gets no answer. Diane then comes in and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with him. When Mary finally calls him, Frank turns down her dinner invitation, claiming that he is too tired. Frank takes Diane out, and over dinner, she tells him that her father is a well-respected novelist but has not finished a book since her mother's death during the war. Diane then asks Frank, a former race car driver who dreams of owning his own garage, about Mary, and he reveals that Mary has been saving her money to help him. The next day, Diane invites Mary to lunch and, while pretending that she wants to contribute to Frank's garage fund, lets her know that he spent the evening with her. Seeing through Diane's tactics, Mary rejects her offer but admits that her faith in Frank is shaken. ... +


One night, Beverly Hills ambulance driver Frank Jessup and his partner Bill are called to the cliffside estate of Charles and Catherine Tremayne. By the time they arrive, Catherine has already been treated for gas inhalation, which the police believe occurred accidentally, but which the wealthy Catherine suspects was deliberate. As he is leaving the house, Frank notices Catherine's beautiful English stepdaughter Diane playing a melancholy piano piece and assures her that her stepmother will be fine. When Diane becomes hysterical, Frank slaps her face to calm her. Confused, she slaps him back, then apologizes. Later, after getting off work, Frank goes to a nearby diner, unaware that Diane is following him in her sports car. In the diner, Frank tries to call his girl friend, Mary Wilton, a hospital receptionist, but gets no answer. Diane then comes in and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with him. When Mary finally calls him, Frank turns down her dinner invitation, claiming that he is too tired. Frank takes Diane out, and over dinner, she tells him that her father is a well-respected novelist but has not finished a book since her mother's death during the war. Diane then asks Frank, a former race car driver who dreams of owning his own garage, about Mary, and he reveals that Mary has been saving her money to help him. The next day, Diane invites Mary to lunch and, while pretending that she wants to contribute to Frank's garage fund, lets her know that he spent the evening with her. Seeing through Diane's tactics, Mary rejects her offer but admits that her faith in Frank is shaken. That night, Mary is about to go out with Frank when he lies again about his date with Diane. Disgusted, Mary rejects Frank and goes out with Bill, a longtime admirer. Later, at the diner, Diane finds Frank, who chastises her for speaking to Mary. When Diane suggests that he drive her car in an upcoming race, however, Frank forgives her and agrees to talk further about her idea. Diane then convinces her parents to hire a chauffeur and, while kissing him on a moonlit drive, persuades Frank to accept the job. Soon after, Diane informs Frank that she has talked to her stepmother about investing in his garage, and he presents Catherine with a written proposal. Although Catherine is suspicious of Diane's motives, she tells Frank that she will consider the offer. Catherine then calls her lawyer, Arthur Vance, for advice, but learns that he is out of town. Later, Diane meets secretly with Frank and tells him that Catherine threw his proposal in the trash. Diane also confides her fear that if Catherine were to find out about their romance, she would fire him and lock her up. Frank tries to reassure Diane that Catherine has no power over her, but Diane insists that Catherine will take her anger out on her beloved, weak father if she is defied. In the middle of the night, Diane then comes to Frank's room and tells him that Catherine tried to kill her by turning on her gas fireplace. Frank refuses to believe Diane's story and orders her back to bed. The next day, Frank stops by Mary's apartment and states that he is leaving his job and Diane. After making a date with Mary for that night, Frank returns to the Tremaynes and starts to pack. Having anticipated his move, Diane cries and begs him to run away with her, showing him her own packed suitcase. Admitting that he loves her, Frank agrees to stay for a few more days so that she can think seriously about the situation. The following day, with Frank gone, Catherine prepares to drive herself to Santa Barbara. As she is about to leave, Charles asks for a lift, and after Catherine puts the car in drive and steps on the gas, the vehicle screeches backward over the cliff. Catherine and Charles are killed in the crash, and following some investigation, both Frank and Diane are arrested for murder. Diane, who stands to inherit all of Catherine's wealth, has suffered a nervous breakdown, however, and is incarcerated in a prison hospital. To help Diane, Vance hires Fred Barrett, a renowned defense lawyer. Just before the trial is to start, Fred convinces Frank and Diane to marry so that he can propose that Diane's suitcase was in Frank's room because they were planning to elope. During the trial, Barrett skillfully deflates expert testimony regarding the car's transmission and steering mechanism, which appears to have been tampered with, and paints Frank and Diane as innocent lovebirds. Frank and Diane are acquitted, but once back at the estate, Frank tells Diane he is divorcing her. Diane finally talks about the jealousy and loneliness she felt when her father married Catherine and the grief she suffered upon seeing their crushed bodies. Despite Diane's remorse, Frank insists he is returning to Mary. After Diane bets Frank her sports car that Mary will not take him back, Frank goes to Mary, who rejects him in favor of Bill. Diane, meanwhile, visits Barrett's office and insists on confessing to the murders, detailing how she asked an unsuspecting Frank to explain the car's transmission. Reminding Diane about the double jeopardy rule, Barrett tears up the confession. Upon returning home, Diane finds Frank packing for Mexico and asks if she can go, too. Frank says no, but agrees to let her drive him to the bus station. After Frank gets in, Diane shifts into reverse, jams her foot on the gas pedal and sends the car over the cliff. +

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.