Written and Posted by Sarah
Dan Duryea starred in the 1952 drama, Chicago Calling. This was B-movie, set in a typical working man's neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the first film that he made after after his contract with Universal Studios was ended. Duryea played William Cannon, a down and out photographer whose wife and young daughter leave him at the beginning of the film. They are involved in a car wreck near Chicago, and the young daughter is severely injured.
The two hour film is spent with Duryea waiting for a call from his wife. His telephone is being turned off, however, so he spends twenty-four hours trying to raise $53.00 to pay his phone bill. Along the way, Duryea meets up with an orphan boy named Bobby (Gordon Gebert) who tries to help any way that he can.
I'm not going to put up a blow-by-blow synopsis, so if you're interested in that you can find it by CLICKING HERE. (This will open a window to the TCM site.)
Dan Duryea plays a very sorry character in this film and proves his dramatic acting ability. Little Gordon Gebert is fabulous! It's hard to know which character to watch, since both actors played their parts so well. My favorite scene is when Bill takes Bobby home after the baseball game and tucks him into bed. It's such a sweet little "speech" explaining that it's wrong to steal --- no matter what the circumstances. This is made even better coming from an actor that spends most of his on-screen appearances as a thief, blackmailer, swindler or worse.
The film is quite sad, but is a marvelous showcase for Dan Duryea's talent. You'll have a lump in your throat when he finally receives the call from his wife --- let alone at the finale on the railroad tracks.
The film was a disappointment at the box office and actually failed to make enough money to recoup costs. The role turned out to be Dan Duryea's favorite, though, and here is the reason (in his own words from a 1965 interview):
"I took no salary [for "Chicago Calling"] but just a percentage of any profits. There weren't any, but I have no regrets. The role made my wife cry, and [that] was a tremendous complement from one whose judgement I revere."