23 Paces to Baker Street

23 Paces to Baker Street is a 1956 American DeLuxe Color mystery thriller film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring. It was released by 20th Century Fox and filmed in Cinemascope on location in London. The screenplay by Nigel Balchin was based on the novel Warrant for X, original UK title The Nursemaid Who Disappeared by Philip MacDonald. The film focuses on Philip Hannon (Van Johnson), a blind playwright who overhears a partial conversation he believes is related to the planning of a kidnapping. When the authorities fail to take action because they believe his story is the product of a writer's fertile imagination, Hannon searches for the child with the help of his butler and ex-fiancée, using his acute sense of hearing to gather evidence and serve as guidance. The plot of the film bears some resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window of 1954, which also features a disabled protagonist witnessing a crime, which the police refuse to take seriously, therefore placing him in danger and culminating in a final standoff with the killer in the protagonist's darkened apartment.

23 Paces to Baker Street
Theatrical release lobby card
Directed byHenry Hathaway
Produced byHenry Ephron
Screenplay byNigel Balchin
Based onWarrant for X
1938 novel
by Philip MacDonald
StarringVan Johnson
Vera Miles
Cecil Parker
Music byLeigh Harline
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Edited byJames B. Clark
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
May 18, 1956
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1 million (US rentals)[2]

Plot synopsis

Philip Hannon (Van Johnson) is a blind man who lives in London flat with a spectacular view over the Thames river between Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Station, with his trusted butler Bob Matthews (Cecil Parker); he works as a playwright. One day, he overhears part of a conversation in his local pub that possibly involves a plot to commit a crime. He tries to contact inspector Grovening (Maurice Denham) who offers no help, so he teams up with his butler and his ex-fiancée, Jean (Vera Miles), who is over from America, to bring the kidnappers to justice. Their sleuthing soon leads them to a nanny agency with dire repercussions.



In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther observed, "a large part of this picture is curiously casual and slow, as Van Johnson, as the blind man, bores the mischief out of everybody with his hazy suspicions...for that matter, he bores the audience, too. Lots of unimpressed fellows were ho-humming in the balcony at Loew's State yesterday...matters do start popping about half or two-thirds of the way along, when it is finally discovered, through various coincidences, that something has been cooking all the time. But you have to depend on Mr. Johnson — and Nigel Balchin, the screenwriter — to give you the details after they've been discovered. This is not a good way to get people interested in a mystery show...it would be a more exciting picture if it got going with a little more snap, established a more compelling mystery and built up some genuine suspense."[3]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p250.
  2. 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.
  3. The New York Times review
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