Is The Desperate Hours based on true events?

by Guest6527  |  earlier

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Hello I am curious. When I was in high school, the drama club performed The Desperate Hours. I have since seen the William Wyler classic and it is one of my all-time favorites. However, in high school I recall the ad saying that the play is based on actual events. Is this true? I have researched it to no avail. If it is true, who were the actual escapees and family members involved in this intense situation and did it play out in reality the way it does in the play/movie? Are any of the family members still alive? Any facts you can give me on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

 Tags: based, desperate, events, hours, true



  1. Guest23274281

    Hi There,

    The Desperate Hours is one of my favorite movies as well. As you say, there is not very much information available about the creation of the story or what it is based on.

    Joseph Hayes originally wrote The Desperate Hours as a novel which was described on publication as a novel of nerve-shattering impact. It was a leading best seller for many months and a major book club selection.

    When it aroused heated interest among Broadway producers and various film-makers, he decided to keep control of his own work and dramatized it and then coproduced and in 1955 brought it to the Broadway stage. The reviewer for \”The New Yorker called it the season’s great dramatic hit and perhaps evens a historic one. This is quite as it should be, because it is a very rare thing, an almost perfect melodrama - fast, tight, logical, combining sentiment with gunfire in exactly the right proportions. Walter Kerr wrote that Joseph Hayes has made a lightning-paced thriller out of this novel about an ordinary household invaded by killers. It is a beauty it ran for 212 performances in NYC and won the Tony Award for outstanding play and best director (Robert Montgomery). It then had productions in leading foreign cities around the world including London, Rome, Paris and Stockholm.

    The film version of the play was released in 1955, with Hayes writing his own screenplay and, as you know, William Wyler directs and Humphrey Bogart playing the lead of the escaped prisoner played on Broadway by Paul Newman.

    I can find nothing in the literature (including the intro to my own copy of the play) claiming that the story was based on any true incident.

    However, there was an incident that took place in 1959 (after the Hayes book, play and film were written), of two small-time crooks who did hold the innocent Clutter family prisoner in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, and then, unfortunately, murdered them believing, erroneously, that they had hidden money in their home. The incident was written about in a very well known nonfiction novel and then movie and then TV remake called In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The original film came out in 1967 and is excellent, as is the book it was based on.

    It could be that whoever wrote the ad for your The Desperate Hours production was, in fact, thinking of the Clutter murder, since the circumstances were very similar.

    If you are interested, I definitely recommend both Truman Capote's book and the original film that was made of it.

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