Ransom! (1956)

101-102 mins | Melodrama | 20 January 1956

Director:

Alex Segal

Producer:

Nicholas Nayfack

Cinematographer:

Arthur E. Arling

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title for the film was Fearful Decision . Actor Leslie Nielsen, as "Charlie Telfer," provides voice-over narration at the beginning of the film, introducing the Stannard family's life. Although Ransom! does not actually depict the child’s kidnapping, a 14 Jul 1954 letter from Joseph I. Breen found in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library states that the Breen office declined approval for the initial script for Ransom! because the depiction of kidnapping was against the code, especially the kidnapping of a child. Breen was also concerned that no punishment was served to the kidnappers. After producers wrote appeals to the effect that the main theme of the film is not the kidnapping, but the character "David G. Stannard”s dilemma in securing the boy's return, the Breen office finally gave its approval in 1955, with few suggested changes.
       Oct and Nov 1955 HR news items add the following actors to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Carl Saxe, Walt Flannery, Bill McLain, Harry Monti, Lew Smith , Max Cutler, Gene Coogan, Franklin Farnum , Willy Bloom, Ann Grey, Beatrice Grey, Sally Cleaves, Peggy O'Connell, Herb Ellis, Joe Murphy, Dick Dial, Fred Perce, Guy Buccolo, Bill O'Brien, King Mojave, John Pedrini and Benkie Bancroft.
       In 1996, writers Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum’s original teleplay Fearful Decision was used as the basis for another film entitled Ransom , directed by Ron Howard and starring Mel Gibson and Rene Russo. The 1996 Ransom was similar to the 1956 film but included some scenes surrounding the kidnapping and ... More Less

The working title for the film was Fearful Decision . Actor Leslie Nielsen, as "Charlie Telfer," provides voice-over narration at the beginning of the film, introducing the Stannard family's life. Although Ransom! does not actually depict the child’s kidnapping, a 14 Jul 1954 letter from Joseph I. Breen found in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library states that the Breen office declined approval for the initial script for Ransom! because the depiction of kidnapping was against the code, especially the kidnapping of a child. Breen was also concerned that no punishment was served to the kidnappers. After producers wrote appeals to the effect that the main theme of the film is not the kidnapping, but the character "David G. Stannard”s dilemma in securing the boy's return, the Breen office finally gave its approval in 1955, with few suggested changes.
       Oct and Nov 1955 HR news items add the following actors to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Carl Saxe, Walt Flannery, Bill McLain, Harry Monti, Lew Smith , Max Cutler, Gene Coogan, Franklin Farnum , Willy Bloom, Ann Grey, Beatrice Grey, Sally Cleaves, Peggy O'Connell, Herb Ellis, Joe Murphy, Dick Dial, Fred Perce, Guy Buccolo, Bill O'Brien, King Mojave, John Pedrini and Benkie Bancroft.
       In 1996, writers Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum’s original teleplay Fearful Decision was used as the basis for another film entitled Ransom , directed by Ron Howard and starring Mel Gibson and Rene Russo. The 1996 Ransom was similar to the 1956 film but included some scenes surrounding the kidnapping and capture of the criminals. The 1996 film also included several subplots not in the teleplay or the 1956 picture.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Jan 1956.
---
Christian Science Monitor
17 Jan 1956.
---
Cue
28 Jan 1956.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jan 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Jan 1955.
---
Film Daily
5 Jan 56
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1955
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1955
p. 11,12.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1955
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 56
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Jan 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1955
p. 1,12.
Motion Picture Daily
3 Jan 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Jan 56
p. 729.
New York Times
25 Jan 56
p. 28.
New Yorker
4 Feb 1956.
---
Saturday Review
28 Jan 1956.
---
Variety
11 Jan 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Edwin Parker
Saul Gorss
Charles Anthony Hughes
Jack Daly
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost for Donna Reed by
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hair styles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the teleplay "Fearful Decision" by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum on The U.S. Steel Hour (ABC, 22 Jun 1954).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Fearful Decision
Release Date:
20 January 1956
Production Date:
23 September--early November 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 December 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
Duration(in mins):
101-102
Length(in feet):
9,163
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17828
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Wealthy businessman David G. Stannard enjoys a content home life in the quiet town of Freeport with his wife Edith and their only son Andy. One morning, David is so touched by Andy's mischievousness when the boy steals the household bed slats to make a fort that he agrees to come home early from his work at Stannard Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturing to help his son finish the project. Later, after David returns home to find Andy missing, he and Edith learn from schoolteacher Mrs. Partridge that Dr. Paul Y. Gorman's nurse picked up Andy at school at 11:00 that morning. When Dr. Gorman tells David and Edith neither he nor his nurse has seen the boy, David calls police chief Jim Backett to report what he now believes is a kidnapping. Upon hearing her husband’s suspicions, Edith sobs uncontrollably in her David's arms. Attempting to conceal any police involvement from the kidnappers, Backett orders his men to use special police phone boxes located through out the town to contact him instead of police radio as they search for the boy. Later, at the Stannard home, Backett explains to the couple that they will be kept uninformed of police strategy to ensure that when the criminals contact them for ransom, the desperate parents will not reveal any information. Soon after, telephone workmen install a second outgoing line and set up monitoring system on the first line to enable the police to trace the kidnapper's call. Meanwhile, Dr. Gorman gives Edith sedatives to calm the nervous mother. After Backett catches reporter Charlie Telfer lurking in the kitchen, Charlie promises not to publish the story until after the first contact with the ... +


Wealthy businessman David G. Stannard enjoys a content home life in the quiet town of Freeport with his wife Edith and their only son Andy. One morning, David is so touched by Andy's mischievousness when the boy steals the household bed slats to make a fort that he agrees to come home early from his work at Stannard Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturing to help his son finish the project. Later, after David returns home to find Andy missing, he and Edith learn from schoolteacher Mrs. Partridge that Dr. Paul Y. Gorman's nurse picked up Andy at school at 11:00 that morning. When Dr. Gorman tells David and Edith neither he nor his nurse has seen the boy, David calls police chief Jim Backett to report what he now believes is a kidnapping. Upon hearing her husband’s suspicions, Edith sobs uncontrollably in her David's arms. Attempting to conceal any police involvement from the kidnappers, Backett orders his men to use special police phone boxes located through out the town to contact him instead of police radio as they search for the boy. Later, at the Stannard home, Backett explains to the couple that they will be kept uninformed of police strategy to ensure that when the criminals contact them for ransom, the desperate parents will not reveal any information. Soon after, telephone workmen install a second outgoing line and set up monitoring system on the first line to enable the police to trace the kidnapper's call. Meanwhile, Dr. Gorman gives Edith sedatives to calm the nervous mother. After Backett catches reporter Charlie Telfer lurking in the kitchen, Charlie promises not to publish the story until after the first contact with the kidnappers. Within hours, Backett has checked on twenty kidnapping suspects, but all have alibis for the time of the abduction. Soon after, the self-centered Mrs. Partridge barges into the Stannard home and, after disingenuously consoling the family, warns Charlie against running a story which insinuates that she or the school are responsible for the kidnapping. After a hysterical Edith threatens the insolent woman with fire poker, David subdues his wife and orders Mrs. Partridge out. He then receives a call from the kidnapper and negotiates monetary demands while the police trace the call. Rushing to the phone booth from which the call was placed, the police find it empty. Meanwhile, David's brother and partner in the business, Al Stannard, is working with bank personnel to liquidate David's assets to raise the ransom. Later, while Al and David go over the financial paperwork, Charlie tries to bribe the Stannards’ butler Jessie Chapman into letting him take a picture of the child's bedroom, but the dutiful servant refuses. Having agreed to an exclusive interview on the afternoon of the second day, David tells Charlie that Stannard television program host George Portalis will be wearing a white dinner jacket on the evening show to indicate to the kidnappers that the $500,000 ransom sum has been raised. Relying on their extensive experience with kidnapping, Charlie and Backett warn David that he has only a two-to-one chance of getting the boy back regardless whether he pays the ransom. Backett continues that although the police realize that people refusing to pay ransoms would destroy the kidnapping racket, they cannot insist that parents withhold payment when the whole community would hold them in contempt for such an action. After the evening news reports the kidnapping, spectators gather outside the Stannard home. That night when the money arrives, David decides he will not pay the ransom. He believes that once the criminals have the funds they will have no reason to keep Andy alive, but Al is outraged at his brother's seemingly immoral behavior and Stannard employee Langly reminds him that negative publicity will hurt the company. Unswayed by his detractors, David goes to the television station and, with the $500,000 on a desk in front of him, addresses the kidnappers on live television. He states that he will not pay the ransom money and that every bit of the funds will be devoted to a reward for hunting down the kidnapper. David then insinuates that even the kidnapper’s cohorts will turn on him for the reward and suggests that if the kidnappers free the boy immediately, he and Edith will show them mercy if they should come to trial. Fourteen hours after the broadcast, Al shows his brother the newspapers, which condemn David for his controversial decision, and asks David to change his mind. Meanwhile, Backett asks David for a letter to the mayor exonerating him of influencing David's decision while Sheriff Jake Kessing insists that real leads will result only after the ransom money is delivered. Irate that they have turned against the grieving father and moved by David’s resolve, Charlie orders the policemen out of the house. When a heavily sedated Edith learns of David's decision, she accuses him of putting their son’s life in jeopardy because of his selfish need for control. As David breaks down, Edith begs on her knees for him to pay the kidnappers the ransom, but he refuses. Desperate, Edith flees the house, screaming to the crowds to help her, but Charlie brings her back inside. An exhausted David finally collapses in a chair, while Chapman tries to comfort his boss with words of prayer. Soon after, Backett brings David Andy's blood stained t-shirt, which was found in a stolen vehicle, and informs him that they are searching the area for Andy's body. Upon Edith’s request, Al and his wife Elizabeth arrive shortly thereafter to take Edith to live with them. Driven to stop the kidnapping racket, a determined David arranges a trust containing the reward money with the condition that if his son’s kidnappers are not brought to justice, the funds will go the next case of similar nature. Later, as David weeps at Andy’s fort, he suddenly hears his son's voice and sees Andy running to him. After embracing the boy, David walks him into the street, where Edith takes the boy and father in her arms.

+

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.