AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
High Wall
Director: Curtis Bernhardt (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1948
Premiere Information:   World premiere in New York: 25 Dec 1947
Production Date:   mid-Jun--late Aug 1947
Duration (in mins):   98-99
Duration (in feet):   8,939
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Robert Taylor (Steven Kenet)  
    Audrey Totter (Dr. Ann Lorrison)  
    Herbert Marshall (Willard I. Whitcombe)  
    Dorothy Patrick (Helen Kenet)  
    H. B. Warner (Mr. Slocum)  
    Warner Anderson (Dr. George Poward)  
    Moroni Olsen (Dr. Philip Dunlap)  
    John Ridgeley (David Wallace)  
    Morris Ankrum (Dr. Stanley Griffin)  
    Elisabeth Risdon (Mrs. Kenet)  
    Vince Barnett (Henry Cronner)  
    Jonathan Hale (Emory Garrison)  
    Charles Arnt (Sidney X. Hackle)  
    Ray Mayer (Tom Delaney)  
    Bobby Hyatt (Richard Kenet)  
    Dick Wessell (Jim Hale)  
    Robert Emmet O'Connor (Joe, the gatekeeper)  
    Celia Travers (Maggie)  
    Mary Servoss (Aunt Martha)  
    Eula Guy (Vera Mercer)  
    Jack Davis (Detective Halloran)  
    Tom Quinn (Detective Schaeffer)  
    Frank Jenks (Drunk)  
    Irving Bacon (Gas station attendant)  
    Kate MacKenna (Middle-aged patient)  
    Russell Arms (Patient)  
    Al Hill (Patient)  
    Erville Alderson (Patient)  
    William Fawcett (Patient)  
    Stanley Price (Patient)  
    Joel Friedkin (Patient)  
    Frank Marlowe (Patient)  
    John Beck (Patient)  
    Henry Sylvester (Patient)  
    Phil Dunham (Patient)  
    Skeets Noyes (Patient)  
    Dorothy Neumann (Mrs. Miller)  
    Helen Eby-Rock (Josephine)  
    Milton Kibbee (Counterman)  
    George Bunny (Customer)  
    Bob Wendal (Customer)  
    Sammy Shack (Customer)  
    Hank Worden (Customer)  
    Georgia Caine (Miss Twitchell)  
    Boyd Davis (Mr. Grant)  
    Henry Hall (Reverend Holmsby)  
    Howard Mitchell (Attendant)  
    Frank Darien (Old man in tub)  
    Guy Beach (Old patient)  
    Ray Teal (Lieutenant of police)  
    Bernard Gorcey (Hirsch)  
    Bert Hanlon (Bored clerk)  
    Selmer Jackson (Inspector Harding)  
    John R. Hamilton (Police surgeon)  
    Lee Phelps (Telephone man)  
    Matt Willis (Admittance clerk)  
    Bob Williams (Deputy)  
    Eddie Dunn (Deputy)  
    Jim Drum (Orderly)  
    Paul Kruger (Orderly)  
    Jack Worth (Orderly)  
    Lisa Golm (Dr. Golm)  
    Grandon Rhodes (Dr. Edermann)  
    Perry Ivins (Cackling patient)  
    Dorothy Vaughn (Harriett)  
    Jean Andren (Nurse)  
    Marta Mitrovich (Girl patient)  
    Dan Quigg (Police clerk)  
    Tay Dunn (Police clerk)  
    Jack Baxley (Bartender)  
    Jack Chefe (Bartender)  
    Abe Dinovitch (Cab driver)  
    Rhea Mitchell    

Summary: At Brattle Press, publisher Willard I. Whitcombe learns that Steven Kenet, a former bomber pilot and the husband of his secretary, Helen, has returned home after a two-year absence and followed Helen to Whitcombe's apartment, where she has gone to pick up a manuscript. At the same time, Steven, who now has the body of his dead wife in his car, drives into a shallow river, attempting to kill himself. He is stopped, however, by the police, who determine that because of recent brain surgery, Steven, who has no memory of Helen's death, needs a psychological exam. At the Hamblin County Psychiatric Hospital, when the police hand Steven his war medal and a photograph of him with his son, the six-year-old Richard, Steven becomes despondent. Soon after, the doctors at the hospital, including Dr. Ann Lorrison, observe a blood clot in Steven's brain and note that such clots can cause emotional and physical changes and memory loss. When Steven will not consent to surgical removal of the clot, Assistant District Attorney David Wallace guesses that Steven wants to use his infirmity as a defense in his murder trial, and insists that the doctors ask Steven's mother for her consent. Ann and Wallace go to Steven's house, but find his mother dead and Richard alone and in shock. Although Ann gains temporary custody of Richard, she tells Steven that his son will go to a county orphanage unless he has the operation, which will allow him to be judged sane and gain control of his finances. Steven agrees to the surgery, which indeed cures him, but fails to restore his memory of what happened the night Helen died. Although he is permitted to visit Richard, he refuses, out of fear of facing the boy. While Steven is undergoing the final tests before being released to the court, Whitcombe is rebuffing blackmail attempts by his elevator operator, Henry Cronner, who knows how Helen died. When Cronner offers the information to Steven instead, Whitcombe kills him before he can divulge the information. Cronner's offer, however, has made Steven realize that regaining his memory might prove his innocence, so he takes a truth serum, sodium pentothol, from Ann and recounts the events of the evening of Helen's death: On the night that she died, Steven finds her at Whitcombe's house, clearly having an affair with her boss, and starts to attack her out of jealousy but blacks out and wakens to find her dead. Back in the present, Ann watches Steven fall asleep, and is startled when she later finds him hiding in her car. Steven forces her to drive him to Whitcombe's, where he re-enacts the murder night's activities. He also remembers seeing a suitcase there that night, but notes that it had been removed by the time he awakened, suggesting that someone else had been in the room. Ann decides not to turn Steven in, and they leave the apartment looking just as it did that night, causing Whitcombe to panic when he comes home. After receiving word that he has been made a partner in his firm, Whitcombe visits Steven and baits him into attacking him by telling him that he killed Cronner and Helen. As a result of the attack, Steven is placed in permanent seclusion. When Ann visits him, Steven tells her what has happened, grabs her keys and escapes to prove his innocence, prompting a city-wide manhunt. The next day, Ann finds him outside Whitcombe's apartment and tells him she loves him. Together they trap Whitcombe, inject him with sodium pentathol and convince the police to listen as Whitcombe confesses that he murdered Helen, who threatened to ruin him if he did not marry her. Later Ann brings Steven, whose name is now cleared, home to see Richard, and they embrace. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Curtis Bernhardt (Dir)
  Al Raboch (Asst dir)
Producer: Robert Lord (Prod)
Writer: Sydney Boehm (Scr)
  Lester Cole (Scr)
Photography: Paul Vogel (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Leonid Vasian (Art dir)
Film Editor: Conrad A. Nervig (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Joseph W. Holland (Assoc)
Music: Bronislau Kaper (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Charles E. Wallace (Sd)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
  A. Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Peter Ballbusch (Montage eff)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hairstyles des by)
  Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel High Wall by Alan R. Clark (New York, 1936) and the play of the same name by Bradbury Foote (production undetermined).
Authors: Alan R. Clark
  Bradbury Foote

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 14/1/1948 dd/mm/yyyy LP1444 Yes

PCA NO: 12701
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Mystery
Sub-Genre: Psychological
Subjects (Major): Amnesia
  Fathers and sons
Subjects (Minor): Air pilots
  Attempted suicide
  Brain surgery
  Confession (Law)
  District attorneys
  Elevator operators
  Publishers and publishing
  Truth serum
  War injuries

Note: This film marked director Curtis Bernhardt's and screenwriter and producer Robert Lord's first assignments at M-G-M. High Wall was the last screenplay that Lester Cole wrote before his testimony at a Nov 1947 House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearing into suspected Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry. After challenging the right of the committee to demand information about his political affiliations, Cole was cited for contempt of Congress, imprisoned for one year and blacklisted by Hollywood. According to an Oct 1947 NYT article, High Wall star Robert Taylor testified at a HUAC hearing that he suspected that Cole was a Communist. The NYT article also notes that Morrie Ryskind, another writer who testified before the committee, "asserted that Lester Cole was unquestionably a Communist." While High Wall marked Cole's last screen credit under his real name, he later wrote screenplays under assumed names. (For more information on the HUAC hearings, see the entry above for Crossfire ). Actors Van Heflin and Janet Leigh starred in a 7 Nov 1949 Lux Radio Theatre version of the story. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   20 Dec 1947.   
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jun 47   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Aug 47   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Dec 47   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Dec 47   p. 3.
Independent Film Journal   5 Jul 41   p. 36.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   20 Dec 1947.   
New York Times   23 Oct 1947.   
New York Times   9 Dec 1948.   
Variety   17 Dec 47   p. 8.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.