Ransom! (1956): Segal’s Kidnapping Thriller, Starring Glenn Ford and Donna Reed

One of the first movies to deal with the growing crime of kidnapping and how various agencies, including the family and the police, deal with it, Ransom! is a gripping psychological thriller, made at the height of Glenn Ford’s career.

Ransom!
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Theatrical release poster

Written by Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume, the story is based on a popular episode of The United States Steel Hour, titled “Fearful Decision,” which aired in 1954 and starred Ralph Bellamy.

Directed by stage and television veteran Alex Segal, the film stars Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, and Leslie Nielsen (in his debut film)

Ron Howard made a loosely based remake starring Mel Gibson, titled Ransom (without the exclamation mark).

It all begins when one day, happily married Dave (Ford), a rich exec, and his wife Edith (Reed) have miscommunicated with the other about the location of their son Andrew (Bobby Clark).

The principal Mrs. Partridge (Mabel Albertson) of Andy’s school informs the parents that Andy was picked up by a nurse and taken to Dr. Gorman’s (Alexander Scourby) office for treatment of viral infection.

However, when Dave phones Dr. Gorman, he finds out that Andy has not been at his office and soon realizes that their son has been kidnapped.

Police chief Jim Backett (Robert Keith) directs the installation of traces on the four phone lines into the house, and creates a dummy line created for all outgoing calls (so that the main number remain free).

They are all eagerly waiting for the kidnappers to call with a ransom demand when newspaper reporter Charlie Telfer (Leslie Nielsen) arrives in the house. Backett attempts to throw him out, but Telfer, who is a friend of Backett’s, manages to stay around for the kidnapper’s phone call.

Cast
Glenn Ford as Dave Stannard
Donna Reed as Edith Stannard
Leslie Nielsen as Charlie Telfer
Juano Hernandez as Chapman
Robert Keith as Police Chief Backett
Richard Gaines as Langly
Mabel Albertson as Mrs. Partridge
Alexander Scourby as Dr. Gorman
Bobby Clark as Andy Stannard
Ainslie Pryor as Al Stannard
Lori March as Elizabeth Stannard
Robert Burton as Sheriff Kessing
Juanita Moore as Shirley Lorraine
Charles Herbert as Butchie Ritter

Credits:

Directed by Alex Segal
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum, based on “Fearful Decision” 1954 TV play by Cyril Hume
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography Arthur E. Arling
Edited by Ferris Webster
Distributed by MGM

Release date: January 24, 1956

Running time: 102 minutes
Budget $1,003,000
Box office $2,172,000

TCM showed the movie on January 27, 2021.