Boomerang (1947 film)

Last updated
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Elia Kazan
Screenplay by Richard Murphy
Based onThe Perfect Case
1945 article in The Reader's Digest
by Anthony Abbot
Produced by
Narrated by Reed Hadley
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
Edited by Harmon Jones
Music by David Buttolph
Color process Black and white
20th Century Fox
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 5, 1947 (1947-03-05)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.14 million [1]
Box office$2.25 million (rentals) [2] [3]

Boomerang! is a 1947 American crime semidocumentary film based on the true story of a vagrant accused of murder who is found not guilty through the efforts of the prosecutor. It stars Dana Andrews, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyatt, with voiceovers by Reed Hadley.


The film was directed by Elia Kazan and adapted from a 1945 Reader's Digest story written by Fulton Oursler (credited as Anthony Abbot) based on an actual 1924 crime. The film was shot mostly in Stamford, Connecticut, after Kazan was denied permission to film in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the crime and trial occurred. [4]

The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival. [5]


Episcopal priest Father Lambert is shot dead on a Bridgeport, Connecticut street at night. The police, led by Chief Robinson, fail to immediately find the murderer. The case soon becomes a political hot potato, with the police accused of incompetence and the city's reform-minded administration attacked by the political machine that it had displaced. Robinson and prosecutor Henry Harvey face severe pressure by political leaders, the press and the public to find the killer or otherwise seek outside help.

Strenuous local efforts yield nothing. However, vagrant military veteran John Waldron is arrested in Ohio and meets the general description of the murder suspect. He is extradited to Connecticut and identified in a lineup. Waldron is interrogated for two days by police until, suffering from severe sleep deprivation, he confesses. A gun that was in his possession is believed to be that which was used in the shooting, and witness testimony and other circumstantial evidence seem solid enough to guarantee conviction.

Harvey questions Waldron and investigates the evidence and the witnesses. He develops serious doubts about Waldron's guilt. In court, Harvey states that a prosecutor must seek justice, not merely attempt to convict. He presents the flaws in the case before the judge and indicates that he intends to dismiss the charges. Suspecting that Harvey's plea is driven by political motives, the judge warns him that he will hold his actions to the highest scrutiny. Chief Robinson thwarts a lynch mob trying to seize Waldron outside of the court building.

Harvey is threatened by reform party kingpin and real estate swindler Paul Harris, who seeks to blackmail him based on Harvey's wife's innocent contribution to a community fund for park land that Harris secretly owns. Harvey threatens to physically remove Harris from his home.

At a preliminary hearing, Harvey presents detailed evidence that would lead to Waldron's exoneration. Meanwhile, a reporter conducts his own investigation into possible wrongdoing. In court, the reporter secretly threatens to reveal Harris' double dealing, and Harris commits suicide in the courtroom.

Waldron is exonerated and the narrator explains that the murder was never solved and that the character of Henry Harvey had represented Homer Cummings, who rose from state prosecutor to become the United States attorney general. [4]



Factual basis

The film is based on an actual 1924 murder case that occurred in Bridgeport, Connecticut. While walking near the Lyric Theatre in downtown Bridgeport, the Rev. Hubert Dahme (Father George Lambert in the film) was fatally shot behind the left ear by a gun fired at close range. Those in the theater were so shocked that none thought to call for an ambulance until ten minutes had passed. Two hours later, the priest was pronounced dead at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport. [4] Harold Israel, a vagrant and discharged soldier, was indicted for the murder. Israel confessed to the crime, and a .32 revolver was found in his possession that police believed had been used in the murder. Fairfield County state's attorney Homer Cummings conducted a thorough investigation and cleared Israel of the crime. Cummings (Henry Harvey in the film) later became United States attorney general under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Morning Record was the name used in the film for the Bridgeport Post (now the Connecticut Post ). [4]

Filming locations

Almost all of the film was shot in Stamford, Connecticut except for the courtroom scene shot in the Westchester County Superior Court in White Plains, New York. [6]

Stamford locations: [6]

The film premiered at the Palace Theatre in Stamford on March 5, 1947, with Kazan and Andrews in attendance. Kazan later directed the 1947 Oscar-winning Gentleman's Agreement , also starring Jane Wyatt, which takes place in nearby Darien, Connecticut and was partly filmed in the area. [4]

In the film, the police interrogation of John Waldron continues after Waldron exercises his right to counsel by requesting a lawyer. This practice would later be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1981 landmark case of Edwards v. Arizona . [7]


Critical response

In a contemporary review for The New York Times , critic Bosley Crowther discussed the filmmaking, writing that the "style of presentation has resulted in a drama of rare clarity and punch". [8]

Variety published a positive review, writing: "Boomerang! is gripping, real-life melodrama, told in semi-documentary style. Lensing was done on location at Stamford, Conn, the locale adding to realism. Based on a still unsolved murder case in Bridgeport, Conn, plot is backed up with strong cast ... 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." [9]

Awards and honors



The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Boomerang! was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the November 10, 1947 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater with Dana Andrews and Jane Wyatt, on the January 14, 1949 broadcast of the Ford Theatre with Andrews and on Hollywood Sound Stage with Tyrone Power and Wyatt on February 28, 1952. [11]

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  1. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 244, ISBN   978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 222, ISBN   978-0-8108-4244-1.
  3. "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "'Boomerang!,' shot in Stamford, to be screened in Bridgeport", The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, October 13, 2009
  5. "Festival de Cannes: Boomerang!". Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  6. 1 2 Russell, Don, "'Roles' in movies are nothing new for city: Kazan used Stamford in the '40s", editorial page column in The Advocate , Stamford edition, page A10, April 25, 2007
  7. "Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477 (1981)". Justia Law. Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  8. Crowther, Bosley (March 6, 1947). "'Boomerang!' a Factual-Style Film of Connecticut Slaying, Opens at the Roxy Theatre—Dana Andrews Heads the Cast". The New York Times. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  9. "Review: 'Boomerang!'". Variety. March 5, 1947. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  10. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  11. The Screen Guild Programs Archived May 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine web site. Last accessed: February 19, 2011.