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A wealthy couple tries to cope with the press and the police when their son is kidnapped.
Wealthy businessman David G. Stannard enjoys a content home life in the quiet town of Freeport with his wife Edith and their only son Andy. One morning, David is so touched by Andy's mischievousness when the boy steals the household bed slats to make a fort that he agrees to come home early from his work at Stannard Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturing to help his son finish the project. Later, after David returns home to find Andy missing, he and Edith learn from schoolteacher Mrs. Partridge that Dr. Paul Y. Gorman's nurse picked up Andy at school at 11:00 that morning. When Dr. Gorman tells David and Edith neither he nor his nurse has seen the boy, David calls police chief Jim Backett to report what he now believes is a kidnapping. Upon hearing her husband's suspicions, Edith sobs uncontrollably in her David's arms. Attempting to conceal any police involvement from the kidnappers, Backett orders his men to use special police phone boxes located through out the town to contact him instead of police radio as they search for the boy. Later, at the Stannard home, Backett explains to the couple that they will be kept uninformed of police strategy to ensure that when the criminals contact them for ransom, the desperate parents will not reveal any information. Soon after, telephone workmen install a second outgoing line and set up monitoring system on the first line to enable the police to trace the kidnapper's call. Meanwhile, Dr. Gorman gives Edith sedatives to calm the nervous mother. After Backett catches reporter Charlie Telfer lurking in the kitchen, Charlie promises not to publish the story until after the first contact with the kidnappers. Within hours, Backett has checked on twenty kidnapping suspects, but all have alibis for the time of the abduction. Soon after, the self-centered Mrs. Partridge barges into the Stannard home and, after disingenuously consoling the family, warns Charlie against running a story which insinuates that she or the school are responsible for the kidnapping. After a hysterical Edith threatens the insolent woman with fire poker, David subdues his wife and orders Mrs. Partridge out. He then receives a call from the kidnapper and negotiates monetary demands while the police trace the call. Rushing to the phone booth from which the call was placed, the police find it empty. Meanwhile, David's brother and partner in the business, Al Stannard, is working with bank personnel to liquidate David's assets to raise the ransom. Later, while Al and David go over the financial paperwork, Charlie tries to bribe the Stannards' butler Jessie Chapman into letting him take a picture of the child's bedroom, but the dutiful servant refuses. Having agreed to an exclusive interview on the afternoon of the second day, David tells Charlie that Stannard television program host George Portalis will be wearing a white dinner jacket on the evening show to indicate to the kidnappers that the $500,000 ransom sum has been raised. Relying on their extensive experience with kidnapping, Charlie and Backett warn David that he has only a two-to-one chance of getting the boy back regardless whether he pays the ransom. Backett continues that although the police realize that people refusing to pay ransoms would destroy the kidnapping racket, they cannot insist that parents withhold payment when the whole community would hold them in contempt for such an action. After the evening news reports the kidnapping, spectators gather outside the Stannard home. That night when the money arrives, David decides he will not pay the ransom. He believes that once the criminals have the funds they will have no reason to keep Andy alive, but Al is outraged at his brother's seemingly immoral behavior and Stannard employee Langly reminds him that negative publicity will hurt the company. Unswayed by his detractors, David goes to the television station and, with the $500,000 on a desk in front of him, addresses the kidnappers on live television. He states that he will not pay the ransom money and that every bit of the funds will be devoted to a reward for hunting down the kidnapper. David then insinuates that even the kidnapper's cohorts will turn on him for the reward and suggests that if the kidnappers free the boy immediately, he and Edith will show them mercy if they should come to trial. Fourteen hours after the broadcast, Al shows his brother the newspapers, which condemn David for his controversial decision, and asks David to change his mind. Meanwhile, Backett asks David for a letter to the mayor exonerating him of influencing David's decision while Sheriff Jake Kessing insists that real leads will result only after the ransom money is delivered. Irate that they have turned against the grieving father and moved by David's resolve, Charlie orders the policemen out of the house. When a heavily sedated Edith learns of David's decision, she accuses him of putting their son's life in jeopardy because of his selfish need for control. As David breaks down, Edith begs on her knees for him to pay the kidnappers the ransom, but he refuses. Desperate, Edith flees the house, screaming to the crowds to help her, but Charlie brings her back inside. An exhausted David finally collapses in a chair, while Chapman tries to comfort his boss with words of prayer. Soon after, Backett brings David Andy's blood stained t-shirt, which was found in a stolen vehicle, and informs him that they are searching the area for Andy's body. Upon Edith's request, Al and his wife Elizabeth arrive shortly thereafter to take Edith to live with them. Driven to stop the kidnapping racket, a determined David arranges a trust containing the reward money with the condition that if his son's kidnappers are not brought to justice, the funds will go the next case of similar nature. Later, as David weeps at Andy's fort, he suddenly hears his son's voice and sees Andy running to him. After embracing the boy, David walks him into the street, where Edith takes the boy and father in her arms.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1956||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
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User Ratings & Review
Thought-provoking "Father Knows Best"
Will Fox 2019-07-02
So sad, so rare a belief today. But, thanks to TCM's sagacious schedulers, we can see, learn and celebrate this rare, iconic man with true integrity....
I had seen this film a few years ago and was so looking forward to watching it again. The story was very good, with lots of excitement and suspense. Glenn...
TCM Watcher 2019-05-31
The movie tries to be so dramatic in virtually every scene to the point where it makes the viewer nauseous. Couldn't wait for this thing to be over...