Written by John Paxton
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Charlie Dunnigan...Paul Douglas
Robert Cosick...Richard Basehart
Virginia Foster...Barbara Bel Geddes
St. Patrick's Day in New York City. The fifteenth floor of the Rodney Hotel. The Ledge.
That's where young and jittery Robert Cosick has taken his perch while he works through a few familial issues in his mind and kicks around the idea of suicide. Flatfoot traffic cop Charlie Dunnigan is the first on the scene and his straight-shooting colloquial nature quickly builds a rapport with the frightened young man, so much so that even when the place is swarming with high-level fuzz and professionals duly qualified to deal with these kinds of situations, Robert wants nothing to do with anyone else.
Coached by his brash sergeant, an over-educated psychiatrist, and his own innate gift of gab, Dunnigan finds himself in the unlikely position of having to save this boy's life--a far cry from writing traffic tickets and directing taxis in and out of hack stations.
I'm a bit of a sucker for these old-school suspense yarns, with their kooky characters and archaic tough guy attitudes. I went into this movie having never heard of it, and having read only the single line synopsis supplied by Turner Classic Movies, so I really wasn't sure what to expect. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was damn near blown away.
Despite the fact that the entire movie essentially takes place in a few singular locations stacked one atop the other (the street, the hotel room, the ledge), there's no shortage of characters here. In fact, it seems to be a cast of millions, from the aggravated cab drivers stuck in traffic and taking bets on what time Robert will make the jump, to the philosophical Romeo using the madcap scene to make time with some pretty little onlooker, and the reporters out for a story with the old "If it bleeds, it leads" mentality. But the real selling point is Paul Douglas as Officer Dunnigan, the kind of police officer you don't often see depicted in the media anymore. A good, honest cop just trying to do a little good in the world. As much as I like a Vic Mackey, the world still needs a Dunnigan.
There's not much action here, to be honest. It's a very character-driven and dialogue-driven tale. But the characters and dialogue are so spot-on that your nerves will be rattled and you'll be biting your nails in suspense. It's amazing what a little emotional investment can do. As the son of a suicide, I've automatically got a morbid fascination with the subject (although, to be fair, if it was a movie about a man threatening to hang himself, I probably wouldn't be able to stomach it), and it was refreshing to see it treated in a tasteful, serious, and believable way.
Highly recommended, Hipsters.