Night And The City at The American Cinematheque

Written by Joe D on April 25th, 2008

What a pleasure to see this great film projected in glorious 35mm B&W! One of the most beautiful noirs of all time splashed across the silver screen, Richard Widmark running like a cornered rat in a checkered suit through the alleys and back streets, under the bridges, along the waterfront, through the dives, the clip joints, the crooked nooks and crannies of London’s underbelly. Beautiful! Some of the coolest locations, so atmospheric, fog, magic hour photography, this film is a textbook of urban atmosphere.


Julie Dassin- Master of Cinematic Atmosphere

The noir guy (Alan K. Rode) gave a spiel at the beginning of the show, he spoke about Dassin’s uneasy relationship with Hollywood and how he formed a love/hate alliance with Darryl Zanuck. This film was produced by 20th Century Fox under Zanuck’s aegis. Mr. Z shipped Dassin off to London to escape the Commie witchhunts then igniting in Hollywood. Darryl also persuaded Dassin to put Gene Tierney in the film so she could get away from an exploding marriage and have something to do to occupy her mind. Zanuck told Dassin to write her into the script and he did, it’s pretty obvious, after a stellar opening of Widmark being chased through the seamy streets of London, he makes it home to a long dialouge scene with Tierney, not a great 2nd scene, obviously inserted to give Tierney a part.

Widmark and Tierney- tacked on love interest
I’m sure in the original script Widmark’s love interest was the fat club owner’s chick Helen, who he screws royally.

Widmark and Googie Withers aka Helen- original love object?

Also Hugh Marlow was tacked on as Gene Tierney’s other love interest, the patient good guy neighbor, waiting for Widmark to dump her so he can be there in the wings, rush out and pull her off the railroad tracks or whatever. His character Really does not belong in this movie. But forget all this fol de rol, this is a great movie! The wrestler Gregorius and Mike Mazurki have an epic battle that is unique in all of Cinema! It’s terrific!

Battle Royale- Gregorious (Stanislaus Zbyszko) Vs. Mike Mazurki!
And you can feel the noose inexorably tightening about Widmark’s neck, no matter what mad desperate genius scheme he comes up with, and he comes up with some brilliant twists and turns to avoid destruction. Probably one of the best hustlers ever to hit the screen! He makes Sidney Falco look like a chump! There is a montage of the word spreading across London ” Get Widmark! Big Reward!” that is pure cinematic bliss, locations, action, characters, genius. Like something out of Dickens or a scene from Fritz Lang’s “M”. Beautiful! Watching this film I was reminded of Mike Hodges “Get Carter” an English noir from 1971. I wonder if Mr. Hodges is a fan of Night and The City? Hats Off to The American Cinematheque for showing this masterpiece in all it’s silver nitrate glory! There was a big crowd on another Thursday night in Hollywood, the Center Of The Noir Universe!