Boomerang (1947)

Directed by Elia Kazan
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
The true story of a prosecutor’s fight to prove the innocence of a man accused of a notorious murder.
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Cameo Alert – Arthur Miller

This is a pretty good, taut, realistic, gritty film-noirish film from the camera lens of Elia Kazan. Kazan gives us the story of a Connetticut district attorney bumping the legal establishment in Hartford by NOT railroading a suspect who he knows to be innocent despite exhausting pressures to prosecute from local elected officials, businessmen, police, etc… The film, as previously noted, has a semi-documentary feel to it – all due to Kazan’s expertise behind the camera. Whilst the story certainly is engaging, the acting is all high-level here with Dana Andrews doing a fine job as Henry L. Harvey the attorney faced with an ethical dilemma.

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Andrews acting range is not too wide but he delivers here and is more than ably assisted by men(and women) like Ed Begley as a businessman gone bad, Jane Wyatt as his lovely wife(Andrews’s wife that is),Arthur Kennedy as the suspect with seemingly little to say, and a couple of Kazan would-be regulars – Lee J. Cobb doing a phenomenal job as a decent yet hard-headed police chief and Karl Malden as a police detective. Kazan shows us the story from many angles and has the benefit of having a real story as the basis of his film. We see the angles of different political opponents, a jealous/crazy girlfriend, local people who saw the crime of a priest being shot, and the journalists who try to scare up any angle they can. Some scenes are quite jarring like the confession scene. Arthur Miller, the great American playwright is seen briefly in a scene of suspects being lined-up. He was Kazan’s close friend.

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Solid Murder Drama

7/10
Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
11 May 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is another fine Film Noir from the vaults of 20th Century Fox! Made in 1947 “Boomerang” was the brainchild of talented producer Louis deRochemont who began to bring a new semi-documentary style of picture making to cinema. He strove to give a more realistic look to films by shooting in actual locations and eschewing the phony indoor exteriors offered by the studios. “Boomerang” was such a project and was filmed in Connecticut where events in this true story took place.

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Splendidly directed by Elia Kazan and sharply photographed in glorious black & white by Norbert Brodine “Boomerang” does indeed have a newsreel look about it especially with the fine voice of Reed Hadley (uncredited) doing the narration. Previously deRochemont had great success with this type of picture with his production “The House on 92nd Street” two years earlier. Richard Murphy’s taut screenplay for “Boomerang”, from an article in Reader’s Digest, was based on an actual incident in Bridgeport, Connecticut where the murder of a kindly church pastor occurred. The film recounts the efforts of the town council to bring pressure to bear on the frustrated local police department to bring the killer to justice by any and every means possible. Dana Andrews gives his usual stalwart and likable performance as the local D.A. who suddenly finds himself going over to the side of the defense when the only and hapless suspect is coerced into signing a confession for the murder.

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The movie has a wonderful all-involving style to it with beautifully lit and splendidly atmospheric courtroom scenes. And there are uniformly excellent performances throughout from Sam Levene, Robert Keith, Ed Begley, Karl Malden but especially from Arthur Kennedy as the suspected culprit and Lee J. Cobb as the police chief.

A great movie that every noir devotee will want in their collection. Extras include a commentary, a poster gallery and a Trailer. Good one Fox!

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Good Acting Highlights This Story Of Human Foibles

7/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
23 July 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boy, this can be a frustrating story to watch, but the acting was great with a number of well-known people doing their usual excellent jobs. I’m speaking of actors like Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Dana Andrews, Ed Begley, Sam Lavene, Jane Wyatt, Robert Keith and more.

The story shows how people go about doing things for the wrong reasons. It’s tragic when it involves a man’s life. Here, an Episcopal priest gets shot in broad daylight in a New England town (Hartford, Conn., I think.) Amazingly, he runs away and is not caught. Soon, with no clues and no suspects, the public is demanding action. A lot of this looks like a bunch of clichés, but it’s based on a true story.

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It’s an election year so you have one party which is desperate to hand over a killer and satisfy the public. You have the opposite party led by a defense team which doesn’t care if their man’s guilty or not; they just want the guy to go free and make the others look bad. The cops, meanwhile, don’t want to keep looking bad so they’re anxious to pin something on the first suspect that looks really guilty. This sort of thing goes back-and-forth throughout the film. You know the suspect “John Waldron” (Kennedy) is Innocent so it’s frustrating watching him get in deeper and deeper.

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You see two extremes. In the “old days” like when this was filmed, a guy could be brought into the police station and has harassed to the point of making a false confession. Where’s the lawyer? “Ah, you’ll get one later,” says a cop. It looks ridiculous to us today. Now, we are used to the opposite where the accused doesn’t go anywhere or say anything without a lawyer present. It seems too many guilty men go free today but – in this movie’s era and previous to that – too many innocent people were sentenced. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a middle ground where justice always prevails? Even more ridiculous is somebody allowed to bring a gun into the courtroom but, once again, it’s life 60 years ago.

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Also involved in the story is an overzealous press (what else is new?), promises of government posts, a scorned woman lying her butt off, a man who has put all his money into a business project and what happens in the case affects him, and the usual “good guy” who won’t sell out his principles. Speaking of that, about at the one-hour remark, we see a quote from the “Lawyer’s Code Of Ethics.” I had to laugh; I don’t know one lawyer who subscribes to that! From the above, you get the gist of the story. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers. Suffice to say, it’s a wonderfully-acted film with some good direction by some young director named Elia Kazan! If you watch, be prepared to have your blood pressure go up and down. It’s a very manipulative movie, but that helps make it interesting.

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It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Wade.

7/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
26 October 2010
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boomerang is directed by Elia Kazan, based on a story written by Fulton Oursler (Anthony Abbot), with the screenplay written by Richard Murphy. It stars Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Ed Begley & Karl Malden. Plot is based around a true story, a case that even today remains unsolved, where a priest was shot and murdered in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1924. A vagrant and ex-serviceman (here played by Kennedy) was indicted for the murder. The evidence at first glance seemed solid, but the state attorney (Andrews here) on prosecution duties wasn’t convinced and set about deconstructing the evidence. Much to the shock of his superiors and others with vested interests.

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Gripping melodrama told in semi-documentary style and filmed on location in Stamford, Connecticut (Kazan was refused permission to actually film in Bridgeport). As a crime story it’s as solid as it gets, dripping with realism and filling out the plot with may notable points of reference. Political pressures, police procedural, corruption, unstable witnesses, bitter dames and of course an innocent man on trial for his life (we know the latter since it’s based on facts and Kazan lets us in on it early on). It’s all in there for a taut, suspenseful and noirishly well told story. The acting is top dollar, both from the leads and an impressive supporting cast. While even tho more time should have been afforded the “dodgy dealings” aspects, it slots into place nicely enough to still leave us splendidly agitated at the no resolution outcome. It’s all in the build up and execution. 7/10

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They never really solved the murder of Father Dahlme

8/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
27 September 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

History is loaded with homicides that never were solved, some of which have become part of global history (such as the 1888 Whitechapel or “Jack the Ripper” Murders, or the 1892 Fall River or “Lizzie Borden Case). The murder in Bridgeport, Connecticut of Father Dahlme in 1924 is a relatively forgotten case, except it was made into this film that was an early directing experience of Elia Kazan. Starring Dana Andrews, Jane Wyatt, Ed Begley Jr., Robert Keith, Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Karl Malden, Philip Coolidge, Cara Williams, the film was a “B” feature that was lucky enough to have top character actors and even some filming in Connecticut (but not Bridgeport – actually it was shot in Stamford).

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Father Dahme was a popular figure in Bridgeport who was shot on the main street while lighting his pipe on a dark night. But there were at least half-a-dozen witnesses to the shooting. Unfortuntately the killer wore a dark coat and light hat (which many American males had as parts of their wardrobes) and evaded capture quickly. Pressure was put on the local government to find the killer (the political issue deals with the new “reform” party being confronted by the outed old party – represented by newspaper owner Taylor Holmes – is well handled in the film). Finally a suspect, an unemployed war veteran (Kennedy), is arrested in Ohio. A trail of circumstantial evidence seems strong enough to bring charges against Kennedy, completed by the so-called confession (signed) that he gave them.

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The case is presented to the State Attorney (Andrews), but he is noticing how weak the individual links are. With the use of his staff and friends he tests out various points, and finds that while the witnesses in most cases are probably honest in their testimony (one exception is Cara Williams, who has a grudge against Kennedy), they might be mistaken. So is some more important ballistics tests.

Andrews proceeds to surprise everyone by pulling the rug out of his case. The Judge warns him about disbarment and possible trial for malfeasance in office. Chief of Detectives Cobb is furious that his men are being considered forcing that confession. And banker-politician Begley turns out to show a sneaky and vicious streak demanding Andrews change back to prosecuting Kennedy for his own reasons.

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It is an exciting story, and follows the main points of the mystery correctly. This is understandable because the screenplay was based on an article in “Reader’s Digest” the previous year by “Anthony Abbott” (Fulton Oursler) the creator of the “Thatcher Colt” mysteries, which were popular in the 1930s (several of which were turned into films, such as THE PRESIDENT’S MYSTERY PLOT). The result is Kennedy is released from prison, and while the film admits some people in Bridgeport believe he was guilty, two other suspects (both of whom die violently in different ways) are shown as potential alternate perpetrators.*

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The odd performance of the prosecutor turned out to demonstrate his integrity to the public. It was Homer Cummings, a Democrat from Connecticut who was former Democratic National Chairman, and who (from 1933 – 1939) was Attorney General of the U.S. under Franklin Roosevelt. This is quite a fascinating conclusion to the film (and to history) but not so unusual. The Massachusetts prosecutor of Lizzie Borden was William H. Moody, who would end up Attorney General of the U.S. and later a U.S. Supreme Court Justice under Theodore Roosevelt (Lizzie, by the way, sent him a letter of congratulations!).

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Altogether a well-done “B” feature, and one with point as a civics lesson. In fact, with it’s view of just what should be expected from our public prosecutors seeking true justice, BOOMERANG makes a nice companion film to TWELVE ANGRY MEN, which looked at what to really expect from our juries.

(*If you check the WIKIPEDIA article on “Homer Cummings” you will find that the suspect who was the basis of Arthur Kennedy’s character died in 1961. Apparently nothing criminal was associated with him afterward.)

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