WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES DECEMBER 3, 2020 15
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
Woodhaven offi cer’s attempted heroics became a Hollywood fi lm
PRESENTED BY THE WOODHAVEN CULTURAL AND
Officer Charles Glasco was writing traffic
tickets and looking forward to the end of
a long day and getting back to his home on
87th Street in Woodhaven.
At Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, he found
hook-and-ladder trucks, ambulances and crowds
lining the streets pointing up to the top of the
Hotel Gotham. There, on a ledge 17 floors above
the sidewalk, stood a young man clearly in distress.
There was a woman at the window, trying
to coax him inside and the sergeant on the scene
told Glasco that it was his sister.
The sergeant also said that he had threatened to
jump if he saw any police officers. It was a deadly
situation, but Officer Glasco had an idea.
A friendly Irishman with a gift for speaking
and making friends, Glasco suggested that he
pose as a civilian to try and win the young man
over. Minutes later, Glasco entered Room 1714 to
try and save a young man’s life.
The man on the ledge was 26-year-old John
William Warde, of Southampton, Long Island, a
slender young man with a troubled past. A bank
teller with a reputation for being moody or peculiar,
Warde had survived two recent attempts at
taking his own life, and had spent several months
in a State Hospital.
Officer Glasco, now wearing a jacket he borrowed
off a bellboy in the lobby, came to the window
and began to engage John William Warde in
conversation. He told him that he’d been out of
work for as long as he could remember and that
this was his first day on his new job.
Glasco’s engaging personality got the young
man speaking and over the next few hours, they
would discuss the merits of night versus day
picnics, their favorite baseball teams, physical
fitness and more.
Glasco brought him glasses of water and gave
him cigarettes, hoping to get close enough to
grab the young man and pull him to safety, but
Warde was careful to stay more than an arm’s
length away. It was a heroic effort under difficult
circumstances, and the longer Glasco could keep
Warde speaking, the greater chance there was
he’d come back inside.
On the street below the crowds lined the sidewalk,
three and four deep, into the evening hours,
gasping each and every time Warde moved or
looked like he was going to jump.
Nets were rigged a few floors below in hopes of
whipping them up over his head to entrap him, but
the plan failed as they got tangled on the ledges
below. Finally, just after 10:30 p.m., 11 hours after
the drama began, with Officer Glasco inside the
hotel room, John William Warde stepped off the
ledge and into eternity.
The dramatic and very public suicide made
headlines all around the world. Ten years later,
the story was the subject of a long article in the
New Yorker called “The Man on the Ledge.” And
two years later, the story got the Hollywood
“Fourteen Hours,” a 1951 film noir from Twentieth
Century Fox starred Paul Douglas as “Office
Charlie Dunnigan” and Richard Basehart as the
Offi cer Charles Glasco of Woodhaven. His experience trying to save a suicidal man’s life inspired
“Fourteen Hours,” a Hollywood noir-classic starring Paul Douglas and Richard Basehart which also
served as the fi lm debut of Grace Kelly. Courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society
young man on the ledge, “Robert Cosick.” The
film also stars Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie
from “Dallas”) as an estranged fiancé and Agnes
Moorehead (Endora from “Bewitched”) as an
overwrought, hysterical mother.
The movie also featured a few secondary stories,
one featuring Jeffrey Hunter (who would play Jesus
in King of Kings, and the Captain in the first
pilot for Star Trek) and another featuring the
film debut of Grace Kelly. It was on the set of this
movie that the future Princess of Monaco would
be noticed by Gary Cooper, who cast her as his
bride in the western he was getting ready to shoot,
the classic High Noon.
The Hollywood version follows the real-life
drama fairly close, but deviates in several key areas.
We won’t spoil that for you here; it’s a terrific
film that shows up pretty frequently on TCM.
As for Officer Glasco, he was lauded for his
valiant attempt to save this troubled young man’s
life. He would be promoted to Sergeant, but didn’t
speak much to his family about the incident. He
lived the rest of his life in Woodhaven, just down
the block from St. Thomas the Apostle, and passed
away on Feb. 3, 1976.
* * *
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