Thursday, October 18, 2012

Night and the City (1950)



“Harry, do you know what you're doing? You're killing me. You're killing me and yourself.” 

            I have a whole list of films that if I were to ever become a film teacher I would show to my class. I have everything from silents to Pre-Codes to war films to cheesy sixties films. Most importantly I would show my class Film Noirs. There are so many Noirs from the forties are my absolute favorite especially Laura, Leave Her to Heaven, The Blue Dahlia, This Gun for Hire, Out of the Past, and The Killers. I have added a new Film Noir to my list with Night and the City. I am guessing it is not a very well known Noir unless you are a fan of the genre or are a Gene Tierney fan because this film should be shown in film classes. Night and the City should actually be one of the top examples of a Film Noir even though there is no femme fatale and no one dies from a gun. The cinematography and the direction are Noir perfection.
            Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is being chased through a section of London. He manages to get away from his pursuer making it inside his girlfriend Mary’s (Gene Tierney) apartment. He sees she is not around and starts going through her bag looking for money. Mary catches him and he covers for himself saying he was looking for cigarettes. She tells him she has been worried about being away for three days never telling her where he is. Harry replies that he was in Birmingham for a business opportunity opening a racetrack. He asks Mary for three hundred pounds (the film takes place in England) to get the racetrack started and asks her for some. She refuses she helps him out enough. Mary knows he was being chased for money and gives him two pounds towards paying some of the money back. She tells Harry they used to be happy and that he has gotten himself into too many things.
            Harry and Mary work for a man named Phil Nosseross and his wife Helen. They run a nightclub where Mary sings and entertains. On the side they run a con business. Harry is part of that con to get money out of people. He winds up at a Greco-Roman wrestling match when he hears an old Greek man named Gregorius yelling at his son Kristo that what he is watching is not wrestling and is really made at what his son is running. Harry comes up with an idea on the spot. He goes out into the lobby where Gregorius is walking out and yells at the man at the ticket counter that he is appalled by what is seeing it is not wrestling. Of course he does this to catch Gregorius’s attention. He manages to get the old wrestler on his side and plans to take over wrestling in all of London.
            Harry needs four hundred pounds to get the business started. He goes to Phil. The man knows Harry is no good but Helen convinces her husband to match Harry’s two hundred pounds if he can come back with.  Harry goes all over town asking everyone he knows for the two hundred pounds. No one will give it to him they think it is just another scam he is running. He finally gets the money from Helen who wants to open a place of her own and needs Harry’s help. When Harry goes to Phil. Phil walks to his closet to get a fur he had just bought his wife but it is not there. At that moment he knows where Harry got the money.
            As soon as Harry opens his gym and business things begin to go wrong for him. He quickly has a price put on his head and he runs and hides throughout London to get away from Kristo.
            The entire cast was perfect. Richard Widmark played Harry so well you can believe he was a good man who just wanted to be somebody but got himself mixed up in things out of his control. Gene Tierney looked beautiful and acted amazing in her few scenes. I think he got top billing because she was one of 20th Century’s biggest stars. Whatever the reason Tierney commands your attention when she comes on screen with her acting and her beauty. The actor who played Phil reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock if Hitchcock was a dirty disgusting old man.
            The location shots were cool to see. I stayed in London for a month for a study abroad program three years ago. I had a good time seeing all the sites again like Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, and St. Paul’s.
            Jules Dassin’s direction was flawless. One reviewer on IMDB wrote that the direction and cinematography take away from the viewer paying attention to the story. I fully agree with this reviewer. You get so lost in the direction and the cinematography and even the acting that it often becomes a bit tedious to pay attention to the story. I mean this in a good way because the film all around is just brilliant. Dassin’s direction is one of the best I have ever seen in a film I loved watching his angles and camera work.
            Night and the City should be shown more in film classes. It should just be ranked as one of the best Film Noirs. Night and the City is so sadly underrated. If I were to ever be a film teacher Night and the City would most definitely be a film I would show.