Cast & Crew
Lee J. Cobb
On Main Street in a small city in Connecticut, Father George M. Lambert, a much-loved, civic-minded minister, is shot in the head and killed during his nightly after-dinner stroll by a man in a dark coat and light hat. The town's newly elected reform government, which has made some inroads in city planning, is severely criticized by the newspaper The Morning Record for failing to find the killer, despite having seven witnesses to the crime. The whole community is outraged as The Record , owned by T. M. Wade, an opposition figure, ruthlessly attacks the police and city government for their amateurism. Supporters of the government, including banker Paul Harris, anger State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey by suggesting that the FBI be brought in. When the commissioner angrily confronts Chief of Police Harold F. "Robby" Robinson, an honest but cynical policeman, Robby decides to quit, but Henry convinces him to stay on, as he has gotten civic leaders to agree to back him for two weeks without interference. After the seven witnesses agree that the murderer was wearing a dark coat and light hat, a composite drawing of the suspect is circulated, and suspects throughout New England are picked up and forced to appear in police line-ups. Finally, the Ohio State police locate a man who matches the description and owns a gun of the same caliber used in the slaying, and who also left the Connecticut city a few days earlier. The man, John Waldron, is extradited, and when the witnesses pick him out of a line-up, he is booked. During a tough interrogation, Waldron, a disgruntled ex-serviceman, tells a number of lies to police, who learn that he had lived in the city for at least two months and had met and spoken with Father Lambert. Furthermore, Waldron left town after breaking up with a waitress, Irene Nelson, who is now bitter toward him. Once Robby learns that the bullet that killed Lambert came from Waldron's gun, he presses more intensely, despite his inner doubts about Waldron's guilt, until Waldron, in a daze, signs a confession. At the coroner's inquest, Waldron says he was forced to sign the confession, yet the testimony of witnesses leads the coroner to refer the case to the district court. Henry then questions Waldron in his cell to learn what his defense will be. When Waldron, who had a good war record, states that he left town because he did not want the unskilled jobs available, and hoped to start a small business somewhere else, Henry is moved, but Waldron accuses Henry of wanting to see him hanged and lashes out. At the indictment hearing, Henry reviews the evidence against Waldron, which seems overwhelming, then surprises everyone by saying that he believes Waldron to be innocent. The judge, in his chambers, warns Henry that he will take steps to have him disbarred and prosecuted for malfeasance of office if his motives are political. Robby turns away from Henry in disgust, and "Mac" McCreery, a reform politician, who has been grooming Henry for the governor's race, asks Henry if one man's life is worth more than the community. When Henry answers that it is, Mac warns that he will have to fight the whole town. Henry then is confronted by Harris, who argues that the party needs a conviction to win the election and reveals that he owns the Sunset Realty Company, which controls land planned for a recreation area. If the party does not win, he states, the new government will not purchase the land, and Harris will stand to lose all his money. As Henry is making a call to report Harris' actions to the proper authorities, Harris pulls a gun, then reveals that Henry's wife Madge, as chairman of the project, has unwittingly given $2,500 to help buy the land, a transaction that, however innocent in intent, would not look good in the newspapers. Henry then finds that Madge loaned the money for the playground when cash was needed. At court the next day, Henry asks to reserve his plea until he has laid evidence before the court. After he questions the witnesses, who assert they saw Waldron, he reveals that he recreated the crime seven times with his men and that none of them could identify the one portraying the murderer. When Irene asserts that she is certain she saw Waldron pass her café window, Henry relates that when he stood in the same spot in the steam-filled room, he could not make out his assistant as he passed by the window. Henry then reveals that Irene had applied for the reward offered for evidence and sternly warns her about the penalty for perjury. After Irene states that she is now unsure whether she saw Waldron, a cashier at a movie theater, which Waldron said he attended the night of the murder, testifies that she did not sell Waldron a ticket. Henry then casts suspicion on this witness, when she also states that she has never seen the man whom Henry sent the previous week to buy a ticket. Henry goes on to show that Waldron's confession was suggested to him when he was in a state of exhaustion. Henry also notes that part of the bullet was left in the deceased's brain and that five independent experts contend that the bullet could not have been fired by Waldron's gun. Admitting that everything he had previously stated is inconclusive, Henry has the judge put bullets in Waldron's gun, then has an assistant point it at him in the same position from which it must have been fired at Father Lambert. The gun fails to fire, and Henry reveals that it has a faulty mechanism and cannot shoot from that angle. A gunshot is then heard in the courtroom, and Harris, who has received a note from Dave Woods, a reporter who has found out about the realty company, slumps over, having shot himself. Afterward, Wade admits defeat, and Robby apologizes to a grateful Henry. The murderer is never found, but suspect Jim Crossman, a troubled man whom Father Lambert had urged to enter a sanitarium after hearing his confession, is chased by police for speeding and dies in a car crash.
Lee J. Cobb
Lucia Backus Seger
E. J. Ballantine
Robert Keith Jr.
W. D. Flick
R. A. Klune
Charles Le Maire
Louis De Rochemont
Darryl F. Zanuck
Best Writing, Screenplay
Boomerang opens with the shocking murder of an elderly priest (Wyrley Birch) as he takes an after-dinner stroll through his neighborhood, greeting members of his community. The local police soon arrest a local vagrant (Arthur Kennedy), and the public attorney, Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), is called in to convict him and throw him in jail. Even though the vagrant is coerced into a confession, Harvey feels he's innocent. This leads to Harvey launching a private investigation that could mean the end of his political aspirations.
Boomerang's plot is based on the real-life February 4, 1924 murder of a Catholic priest, Father Hubert Dahme, although the killing happened in Bridgeport, Ct., rather than Stamford, where the movie is set; Stamford was pragmatically substituted because the town of Bridgeport wouldn't issue permits for filming. The real-life Connecticut Attorney General who saved a drifter named Harold Israel from execution was Homer Cummings, who was later selected as U.S. Attorney General under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The only participant in the actual case who objected to the film was a waitress (played by Cara Williams in Kazan's version) who successfully sued 20th Century Fox for libel. She received a whopping $1,200 for her trouble.
Kazan wasn't particularly interested in the narrative, although he handles it effectively throughout the picture. He was more concerned with finding a way to bring documentary techniques to traditional Hollywood filmmaking, and Boomerang's producer, Louis de Rochemont, was the perfect collaborator for such an experiment. De Rochemont was the man behind the March of Time newsreel series, so he knew a thing or two about shooting on-the-run. He gave Kazan a great deal of freedom with his camera, turning what could have been an everyday whodunit into something of a benchmark in movie history.
Still, Kazan wasn't completely happy with the film's performances. "Unfortunately," he said during an interview in the 1970s, "a lot of Boomerang is the same studio machinery - brought outdoors. Most of the actors were stage actors, like Jane Wyatt. She plays an oversweet version of what a wife should be. Dana Andrews was actorish. He was not like a real lawyer, right?"
Later in the same interview, he revealed quite a bit of frustration with Andrews. "There was very little you could do with Dana," he said. "He could learn three pages in five minutes. He had a fantastic memory, even though he'd been up late drinking the night before. He'd come to work, dress up, and we'd roll him out. His style was okay in the movie, because he was playing a lawyer, and essentially there wasn't supposed to be too much going on inside of him. But unfortunately that kind of acting leaves you with the feeling that there was nothing really personal at stake."
Kazan would have the type of film actor he was looking for four years later when he directed Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Yet even with the director's reservations, Boomerang is still an engrossing picture that hits harder and moves faster than most from the period.
Most of the mainstream critics seemed to agree with the Variety review articulating the majority view: "Boomerang! is gripping, real-life melodrama, told in semi-documentary style...All the leads have the stamp of authenticities. The dialog and situations further the factual technique. Lee J. Cobb shows up strongly as chief detective, harassed by press and politicians alike while trying to carry out his duties. Arthur Kennedy is great as the law's suspect."
Kazan was voted Best Director for Boomerang by both the National Board of Review and by the New York Film Critics and the screenplay by Richard Murphy was nominated for an Oscar®.
Producer: Louis de Rochemont
Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Richard Murphy; Anthony Abbot (article)
Cinematography: Norbert Brodine
Art Direction: Richard Day, Chester Gore
Music: David Buttolph
Film Editing: Harmon Jones
Cast: Dana Andrews (State's Attorney Henry L. Harvey), Jane Wyatt (Madge Harvey), Lee J. Cobb (Chief Harold F. 'Robbie' Robinson), Cara Williams (Irene Nelson, Coney Island Café waitress), Arthur Kennedy (John Waldron), Sam Levene (Dave Woods, 'Morning Record' reporter), Taylor Holmes (T.M. Wade), Robert Keith (Mac McCreery), Ed Begley (Paul Harris).
by Paul Tatara
ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003
Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays.
In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership.
After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film.
1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans.
It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter.
It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life.
Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism.
Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict.
After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro.
Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003
It's been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Wade.- Harry O'Shea
I know.- T. M. Wade
The working title of this film was The Perfect Case. The following written prologue appears after the on-screen credits: "The story you are about to witness is based on fact. In the interests of authenticity, all scenes, both interior and exterior, have been photographed in the original locale and as many actual characters as possible have been used." The film opens with a voice-over by an unidentified narrator describing the small-town Connecticut locale and introducing "Father Lambert." According to files in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Script Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the basis of the film, the Reader's Digest story "The Perfect Case" by Anthony Abbot, was a fictionalized treatment of a factual case involving the 1924 murder of a Catholic priest, Father Hubert Dahme, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Harold Israel was arrested for the murder and later acquitted through the efforts of prosecuting attorney Homer L. Cummings, who was later appointed Attorney General during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. As in the film, the case was never solved.
The Reader's Digest story was a condensed version of a longer story by Abbot published in the Rotarian magazine in December 1945. Abbot was the pen name for Reader's Digest staff writer Fulton Oursler. Cummings' statement before the inquest board was first published in the November 1924 issue of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and later in 1925 in the American Law Review. In August 1946, just before Boomerang! commenced principal photography, Oursler was threatened with a plagiarism suit by Fred Stanton, the author of "My Favorite Detective Mystery: The Laughing Lady Mystery," which appeared in the April 1941 issue of True Detective magazine. Stanton's article was a factual account of the Dahme case. The disposition of Stanton's suit has not been determined.
Cummings cooperated with Twentieth Century-Fox during preproduction, requesting only that his name not be revealed until the end of the film. He later expressed satisfaction with the completed film. Israel was paid $18,000 by the studio, but insisted his name not be used under any circumstance in connection with the film. Nellie Adams Trafton, the waitress at the Star Lunch diner in the Dahme case ("Irene Nelson" in the film), later threatened to bring a libel suit against Twentieth Century-Fox over the portrayal of the waitress in the film. The studio paid her $1,200, and no further information as to whether she pursued her claim has been found.
Studio files indicate that producer Louis de Rochemont, well known for producing the March of Time documentary series, brought the story to the attention of director Kazan. Writer Robert Murphy completed a treatment of The Perfect Case in late December 1945 and, working with Kazan, wrote a first draft script by early April 1946. Executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck contributed to the screenplay by suggesting the entirely fictionalized aspect of the threat made against "Harvey" by "Harris." Kazan's major story contribution was in insisting that the character "Jim Crossman" be clearly designated as the murderer of "Father Lambert."
Zanuck considered Lee J. Cobb for the part of "Dave Woods," then later as "Harris." Actors John Hodiak and John Ireland were considered for the role of "Chief 'Robby' Robinson," the role Cobb eventually played in the film. Walter Huston, Fredric March and Joseph Cotten were considered for "Henry Harvey." Frank Latimore was considered for the role of "John Waldron." Boomerang! marked the return to the screen of veteran character actor Taylor Holmes, who last appeared in Make Way for a Lady (1936). According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, John Payne and Margo Woode were to be the leads in the film, which was to be filmed at the location of the Dahme case, Bridgeport, CT. Protests by city residents forced relocation to Stamford, CT, where residents participated in many scenes in the film. Production notes for the film reveal that the courtroom sequence in Boomerang! was filmed in the Westchester County Court at White Plains, N. Y., where Harry K. Thaw was tried for the murder of Stanford White in 1910.
Richard Murphy received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for the film. Dana Andrews reprised his role for a Screen Guild Theatre radio adaptation of Boomerang! on November 10, 1947, co-starring Richard Widmark. A second broadcast, also starring Andrews, aired on September 10, 1950. The Screen Guild Players presented a broadcast of Boomerang! in February 1953, starring Tyrone Power.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States Winter February 1947
Re-released in United States on Video April 2, 1996
Shot in 49 days in 1946.
Released in United States Winter February 1947
Re-released in United States on Video April 2, 1996
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)