Slender Thread The (1965)
This first film directed by Sydney Pollack is a realistic suicide hotline drama inspired by a Shana Alexander article for which Stirling Silliphant wrote a screenplay. It earned Academy Award nominations for its B&W Art Direction-Set Decoration and Costume Design. Sidney Poitier plays Alan Newell a student that works at the new suicide prevention center for Dr. Joe Coburn played by Telly Savalas. The story begins when Alan receives a call from Inga Dyson (Anne Bancroft) who’s just taken enough pills to kill herself within an hour and a half (e.g. the film’s length). Therefore Alan’s challenge is to keep her on the phone (line – the slender thread) to try to convince her to stay alive and tell him where she is; absent that it’s a race against time to trace the line and find her before she succumbs to the overdose.
Steven Hill plays Inga’s fisherman husband Mark who’s just found out that his wife’s nine year old son is not his biologically. His inability to deal with this fact leads to their estrangement and to an unsuccessful suicide attempt by Inga. All of this detail is learned via flashback sequences during the telephone conversation between Inga and Alan whose demeanor spans a range of emotions as (the clock ticks and) his frustration grows because of her determination to end her life. Edward Asner plays a police detective who drives around trying to find her and Dabney Coleman is among many others who appear in the cast.