Desperate Hours, The (1956): Wyler Directs Bogart’s Last Film, Starring Fredric March

Based on the novel and play by Joseph Hayes, “The Desperate Hours” is a well directed family-in peril thriller. This was the last screen role of Humphrey Bogart, who might have been too old (57) to play it compellingly.

Three escaped convicts, headed by Glenn Griffin (played by Bogart), and including Robert Middleton and Dewey Martin, seek a hideout until they can reach their contacts. To that extent, they choose the suburban home of the prosperous Dan Hilliard (Fredric March) and his family.

The cynical, brutal Griffin, knowing he can manipulate the family into cooperating with him, orders March, his wife (Martha Scott), and their children (Richard Eyer and Mary Murphy), to behave normally, as if nothing happened.

Son Eyer, upset that his father won’t resist Bogart, sees him as a cowardly man. Soon, under pressures, other familial tensions come to the fore.

The authorities are alerted when Hilliard, at Griffin’s demand, draws money for the convict’s getaway from the bank. Pushed to the breaking point, Hilliard proves to himself and to his son than he can be tough and merciless when needed.

Paul Newman played Bogart’s part in the original Broadway production, but he was not a bankable star at the time. There’s a good deal of irony in the fact that Bogart began and then ended his career playing criminals and gangsters.

Stay away from the 1991 remake with Mickey Rourke in the Bogart role, and Anthony Hopkins in Fredric March’s.


Running time: 112 Minutes
Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed by: William Wyler
Written by: Joseph Hayes