The Clay Pigeon
Richard O. Fleischer made his feature-film directorial debut with the well-crafted melodrama Clay Pigeon. Inspired by a true story, the film stars Bill Williams as Jim Fletcher, whose wartime experiences in a Japanese POW camp have left him with profound emotional problems. Awakening from a coma in a naval hospital, Jim is astonished to learn that he's been accused of murder. Not quite certain of his own guilt or innocence, he escapes from the hospital in search of his best friend, another ex-POW named Ted Niles (Richard Quine). En route, he is forced to kidnap Martha Gregory (Barbara Hale, Williams' real-life wife), the widow of the murdered man. Martha despises Jim at first, but is won over to his side when it becomes obvious that someone has set Jim up as a fall guy. Clay Pigeon was the first RKO film produced under the new Howard Hughes regime.