Tagline – It comes back at you again and again!
Starring – Dana Andrews (State’s Atty. Henry L. Harvey), Jane Wyatt (Madge Harvey), Lee J. Cobb (Chief Harold F. ‘Robbie’ Robinson), Cara Williams (Irene Nelson), Arthur Kennedy (John Waldron).
Released – March, 1947
Directed By – Elia Kazan
Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Description – This film is based on a real incident that took place in the state of Connecticut and is portrayed in semi-documentary style.
A kindly neighborhood priest, Father Lambert, is murdered while taking his nightly walk. There are seven witnesses, but the only description is that of a man in a dark coat and a light hat. The community is both horrified and outraged demanding that the killer be found.
The killing soon becomes a political issue as the newly elected reform government is severely criticized by opposition leader T. M. Wade, who owns the local newspaper, The Morning Record, as being incompetent and amateurish in the investigation.
Chief of Police Harold F. Robinson and State’s Attorney Henry L. Harvey face enormous pressure to bring the killer to justice. The towns civic leaders, pushed by the newspaper, want the police department to ask the F. B. I. to help. Chief Robinson manages to stall them off for two weeks in order to continue with his investigation.
Additional questioning of the witnesses brings forth no new information. The killer was a man in a dark coat and a light hat. Investigators use a composite artist to try and put a face on the killer, and distribute the sketch to all the surrounding states.
Word comes from Ohio that a man matching the description in the sketch, and owning a handgun that matches the one used in the murder, has been located. The man, John Waldron, had also left Connecticut a few days earlier.
Waldron is extradited to Connecticut, appears in a line-up, and is identified by the witnesses. He is a disgruntled ex-serviceman who had been in the Connecticut city for a couple of months before the murder and had been seen speaking to Father Lambert. Waldron claims that he left the state after breaking up with girlfriend, Irene Nelson, who is a local waitress.
The gun Waldron owns matches the murder weapon and, after harsh interrogation, signs a confession.
But, State’s Attorney Harvey, who would have to prosecute Waldron, is still not convinced of his guilt. Harvey begins to investigate on his own, speaking again with the witnesses and going over the evidence.
He has put his reputation on the line and is facing the wrath of both the police department and the public who want a conviction in this case and believe they have their man.
When the court date arrives, Harvey, although the prosecutor, begins to point out the flaws in the case. Having recreated the crime, using his associates to be in the locations of each of the seven witnesses, Harvey discovered that not one could have accurately recognized the killer.
Harvey also proves that other accounts were false, including the belief that Waldron’s gun was the murder weapon. Harvey presents the gun to the trial judge, asks him to load the gun, and then point the gun toward Harvey’s head just the way the murderer would have done to the priest and pull the trigger.
The gun fails to fire due to a mechanical problem that prohibited the gun from firing from the angle used when the priest was killed.
The charges against John Waldron are dropped. However, the question remains, just who did kill Father Lambert, and why?
NOTABLE: Boomerang received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay.
Boomerang provided the film debut’s for actors Ed Begley and Barry Kelley.
Personal Note: As a resident of Connecticut, I had only been vaguely familiar with this incident until viewing this film and researching further.
On February, 1924, Father Hubert Dahme was shot and killed at the corner of High and Main Street in Bridgeport, CT.
Nearly the entire film was shot in Stamford, CT, as the city of Bridgeport refused to allow filming to take place at the actual locations. Probably, because they did not want the negative publicity of the murder to reflect any further on their city.
Connecticut State’s Attorney Homer Cummings (Henry Harvey in the film), after thorough investigation, found that vagrant and discharged veteran Harold Israel could not have committed the murder.
Cummings’ actions saved the life of an innocent man. Although Cummings was to prosecute the case, he told the court during the trial that, “it is just as important for a state’s attorney to use the great powers of his office to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty.”
Homer Cummings would later be appointed to the position of Attorney General of the United States by President Franklin Roosevelt.