Directed by: Elia Kazan
Screenplay by: Richard Murphy
Tagline: “It comes back at you again and again!”
Boomerang! is a 1947 drama based on the true story of a vagrant who was accused of murder, only to be found innocent through the efforts of the prosecutor. It stars Dana Andrews, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyatt.
The film was directed by Elia Kazan, based on a story (written by Fulton Oursler, credited as "Anthony Abbot") in Reader's Digest, and was shot largely in Stamford, Connecticut after Kazan was denied permission to film in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the actual events occurred.
A priest is shot dead on a Bridgeport, Connecticut street at night. The police, led by Chief Robinson (Cobb), fail to immediately find the murderer. It soon becomes a political hot potato, with the police accused by the public and community leaders of incompetence, and the city's reform-minded administration comes under attack. Robinson and the prosecutor Henry Harvey (Andrews) come under intense pressure by political leaders to find the killer or bring in outside help.
After strenuous efforts fail to yield a suspect, a vagrant ex-serviceman, John Waldron (Kennedy), is apprehended. He is grilled for two days by police until, deprived of sleep, he confesses. The evidence seems solid, and a gun in his possession is believed to be the gun used in the shooting.
Harvey, however, is unconvinced. He investigates the evidence and the witnesses, then risks his reputation and incurs the wrath of the police and the public in proposing that the defendant is innocent, while he and his wife (Wyatt) are also being threatened by a businessman named Harris. In court, even though he's the prosecutor, Harvey lays out the flaws in the case before the judge. The charges are dismissed.
A sub-plot involving Paul Harris and a property under consideration for sale to the city — at a price Harris desperately needs to keep himself afloat — also features prominently in the story. Harris tries to blackmail Harvey by threatening to destroy his wife, a City Council member, unless he supports the sale and sits idle, allowing Waldron to be convicted. When a reporter uncovers the double-dealing and threatens to expose Harris, Harris commits suicide.
The film is based on an actual murder case in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1924. While walking near the Lyric Theatre in downtown Bridgeport, the Rev. Hubert Dahme ("Father George Lambert" in the film) was fatally shot behind the left ear by a gun fired at close range. Those in the theatre were so shocked that no one called for an ambulance for 10 minutes. Two hours later, the priest was pronounced dead at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport. A vagrant and discharged soldier, Harold Israel, was indicted for the murder. Israel confessed to the crime, and a .32 revolver in his possession was said by the police to be the murder weapon. Fairfield County, Connecticut state's attorney Homer Cummings mounted a thorough investigation and found Israel innocent. Cummings ("Henry Harvey" in the film) later became Attorney General of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt. The Morning Record was the name used in the film for the Bridgeport Post.
The staff at Variety gave the film a positive review, writing: "Boomerang! is gripping, real-life melodrama, told in semi-documentary style. Lensing was done on location at Stamford, Conn, the locale adding to realism. Based on a still-unsolved murder case in Bridgeport, Connecticut, [the] plot is backed up with strong cast... All the leads have the stamp of authenticity. The dialog and situations further the factual technique. Lee J. Cobb shows up strongly as chief detective, harassed by press and politicians alike while trying to carry out his duties. Arthur Kennedy is great as the law's suspect."