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The incredible true story behind Boomerang!, airing twice in the next 30 days


sewhite2000
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Boomerang! is an early film from director Elia Kazan at a point in his career when he appeared to be under exclusive contract to 20th Century Fox. The same year it was released, Kazan also directed Gentleman's Agreement for the studio, which was that year's Best Picture Oscar recipient and has gone on to be much better remembered in the annals of film history. But TCM is airing this more obscure film twice in the next 30 days, smack dab in the 8 pm ET slot on Jan. 21 and early in the morning during 31 Days of Oscar on February 4. I haven't seen it before but am definitely planning to check it out, especially after learning what I'm about to relate below.

 

There's an article in the current issue of Smithsonian magazine that details the true-life events that led to the motion picture being made. In 1924, a man named Homer Cummings, who would one day be appointed attorney general of the United States by Franklin Roosevelt, but was at the time a county prosecutor in Connecticut, was prosecuting a charge of murder of a Catholic priest against a man named Harold Israel. During the proceedings, Cummings decided he really didn't have much of a case. Eyewitness testimony was shaky at best, though probably could have held up with an aggressive prosecution effort. Instead, after wrestling his conscience, Cummings, in an extraordinary move in the history of jurisprudence, presented facts that actually bolstered the defense because he believed it was the right thing to do, ultimately requesting the judge drop the charge, which he did. It is, I think, beyond all human imagining that any prosecutor in the entire United States in 2017 would ever tell a judge the charges of a case should be dropped because the prosecutor believes the defendant is innocent. It was obviously a different world back then.

 

Cummings remained in correspondence with Israel and his wife for the remainder of his life and despairing to hear of their continued economic troubles, helped arrange for Israel to sell the rights of his life story to 20th Century Fox when he became aware the studio was interested in making a movie based on the case. Thanks to Cumming's efforts, Israel was paid $18,000 by Fox, an amount that translates to $222,000 in 2017 dollars.

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I get Smithsonian. It was a very interesting article. And the film is very good.

 

The priest's murder took place in the city where I was born, Bridgeport CT. The case is still open. The movie was filmed in Stamford CT, as I recall. Recently, one of the local theaters showed it, but I couldn't get to see it.

 

One clarification on the article:  the author states that the murder took place at Main Street and High Street. While this is true, you will not find High Street on any recent maps. The street no longer exists, as the area was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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Thank you for this write-up about the factual origins for the movie BOOMERANG!, sewhite. I have to admit this comes as more than a mild surprise to me.

 

Ya see, in the past and couple of times before, I've watched Dana Andrews' prosecuting attorney character in this movie attempting to actually seek true justice and by consequence suffer the political repercussions of his actions, and I remember thinking each time as I watched it something to the effect of, "Yeah sure. Like THAT is ever going to happen in REAL life! Geez, how much suspension of disbelief am I supposed to give this flick anyway, huh?!"

 

(...and so it's sometimes nice to know that occasionally my overdeveloped sense of cynicism isn't always warranted)

 

;)

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