Richard Basehart did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning NBR, for portraying Robert Cosick in Fourteen Hours.
Richard Basehart plays the man who we first meet as he's already on the ledge apparently waiting to jump off. The film's star I suppose is Henry Hathaway's direction which presents the sort of communal experience in related to the event with almost as much importance as the even itself. The film often wavers from the men though it always come back to him, and the one person he agrees to negotiate with. The man being a random beat cop Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas), who just happens to be one of the first ones to speak to the man. Might as well get the negative out of the way first. Basehart is an actor I've found okay at best in the other films I've seen him in, as the fact that he got his start on stage is immediately apparent. He does have a tendency, in this film as well, to oversell even the most basic lines with the expression of someone making sure those seated in the back rows will hear. It is not that all his line deliveries are bad, but they tend to feel off because of this broad approach which is not necessary on film.
There is much dependent on Basehart's performance, even with the film's wavering focus, particularly in terms of keeping the central tension alive. It must be believed that the man on the ledge, Robert, could jump at any time. Basehart is convincing in this regard as he makes the man's distress absolutely palatable. Basehart importantly never lets up in this, as even in his calmer moments, he still keeps the tense manner in his physical manner, showing the way Robert is almost seized in the anguish that has brought him to this point. Basehart effectively utilizes this throughout the film to maintain the question of whether or not Robert will jump. Basehart, despite this underlying quality always, manages to find nuance with this, and it easy to see how the role could easily been overplayed the whole time. Basehart carefully defines Robert when he can through the moments we are given throughout the story depending on whoever Robert might be interacting with at any given point.
Basehart works very well with Paul Douglas, as the two gradually strike up the right sort of chemistry. There is always a certain gap between them, yet the slow warmth that is created, in moments where Basehart relaxes just over so much are rather affecting. In order to try to get Robert off though they allow others to see him including his parents. Basehart is excellent when his overbearing mother appears as he shows Robert only become even more constrictive and emotional, suggesting he is even more likely to jump than before. When he meets his father, who attempts to reconcile with his son, Basehart conveys the way the initial fierce reaction of fear slowly assuages to a certain understanding. Through these interactions though Basehart is able to allude to the confused state of the man, who is mentally unstable from his upbringing, and is creates the sense of his past that has lead him to this point. It is unfortunate that film decides to have a doctor explain this all this to us, a la Psycho, since Basehart's performance fulfills that need to begin with. Obviously the part is limited in a certain regard, Basehart only moves a few feet throughout the film, yet he makes use of this. I find again his physical performance to be the most remarkable aspect in not only revealing the man's anguish, but as well creating the pressure of certain sequences. Basehart keeps essentially this suspicion in his body language, making that even passing a glass of water a tense moment. Again the center of it are his scenes with Douglas, and through them Basehart believably shows the gradual shift in Robert as he slowly comes back from literally the edge. It's a strong performance by Basehart, even with his overly enthusiastic of line deliveries, that might not carry the film but instead offers its honest emotional center.