Thursday, May 02, 2013

Night and the City (1950) (GB version)

Night and the City. Theatrical release poster. Image from Wikipedia.

Suurkaupungin laki / Natten och staden. GB © 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. PC: Twentieth Century Productions, Ltd. EX: Darryl F. Zanuck. P: Samuel G. Engel. D: Jules Dassin. Asst D: George Mills, Percy Hermes. SC: Jo Eisinger – contribution: William E. Watts – based on the novel (1938) by Gerald Kersh. DP: Max Greene; cameraman: Austin Dempster. AD: C. P. Norman. Miss Tierney's gowns: Oleg Cassini. Miss Withers's gowns: Margaret Furse. M: Benjamin Frankel, conducted by Muir Mathieson (GB version). [US version: Franz Waxman; orchestra: Edward Powell, Eric Rogers, Bernard Mayers, Cyril J. Mockridge]. Song: "Here's to Champagne" (comp., lyrics Noel Gay). S: Peter Handford, Roger Heman – Western Electric Recording. ED: Nick DeMaggio, Sidney Stone. Wrestling advisors: Mike Mazurki, Micky Wood. Miss Tierney's singing voice: Maudie Edwards.
    C: Richard Widmark (Harry Fabian), Gene Tierney (Mary Bristol), Googie Withers (Helen Nosseross), Hugh Marlowe (Adam Dunn), Francis L. Sullivan (Phil Nosseross), Herbert Lom (Kristo), Stanislaus Zbyszko (Gregorius), Mike Mazurki (The Strangler), Charles Farrell (Mickey Beer), Ada Reeve (Molly ), Ken. Richmond (Nikolas).
    Shooting schedule: late July until late October, 1949, London Film Studios, Shepperton, England.
    Helsinki premiere: 12.11.1965 Adams, distributor: O.Y. Fox Films A.B. – telecast: 30.11.1968 MTV1 – PCA 14096 – VET 32403 – K16 – 8537 ft / 95 min.
    A BFINA print viewed at Cinema Orion (Carte blanche à Tapani Maskula), 2 May 2013
    Remake: Suurkaupungin yöt (Night and the City, US 1992), D: Irwin Winkler, C: Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange.

Chased into exile by the black list Jules Dassin continued his American film noir series (Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves' Highway) with a story from the underworld of London.

The underworld protagonist, Harry Fabian, is "an artist without an art", always looking for the big chance, always busy with a new get-rich-quick scheme. Everybody knows him in the neighbourhood. "Put it on my account" he says as he picks a fresh carnation for his lapel.

This time he enters the world of wrestling matches. It is soon evident that he is out of his league there, but he never gives up trying. "All my life I've fought to be somebody". "Just give me this break".

At the center of the movie is Richard Widmark's heartbreaking, tragi-comical performance as Harry Fabian. He tries to use psychology, trying to win people's sympathy and trust, and he is good at that, but always only finally to betray them.

He never realizes that he has won the true love of Mary (Gene Tierney), and when he finally tries to convince Mary to betray him in order to collect the 1000£ reward for herself, it is the last straw for Mary.

Great performances by Francis L. Sullivan and Googie Withers as the underworld magnate and his frustrated wife.

Memorable characterizations by Stanislaus Zbyszko and Herbert Lom as Gregorius the old master of Greco-Roman wrestling and his criminal son Kristo.

Memorable scenes: – The fight between the old Gregorius and the brutal The Strangler (Mike Mazurki). Gregorius wins, only to die of a heart attack. – The death of Gregorius and the grief of Kristo and Fabian. – The ginger ale of the rookie policeman stains Helen's bar licence, exposing it as a fake (the licence having been provided by Fabian).

The movie is an expressionistic vision of the desperate pursuit of instant success and the agony of escape until "I can't run anymore". Shot by Max Greene, it's a visually strong and exciting movie.

The print screened was the British version with a fine score by Benjamin Frankel (not Franz Waxman). I don't know whether there are other differences between the British and the American version.

The print seems complete. The interiors, the close-ups, and the medium shots seem fine, but the grading of the exteriors (the low contrast as if made for tv) in this print does not always do justice to the cinematography.

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