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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 51,160 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 331 user | 155 critic | 8 from Metacritic.com

A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

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, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »

Writers:

(from the novel by), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
...
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Evelyn Varden ...
...
...
Billy Chapin ...
Sally Jane Bruce ...
Gloria Castillo ...
Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn ...
Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

It's the Great Depression. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, the robbery because he is unable to provide for his family, Ben Harper kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his adolescent son John and his infant daughter Pearl not to tell anyone, including their mother Willa, who Ben believes is too idealistic, of where he hid the money, namely in Pearl's favorite toy, a doll that she carries everywhere with her. Ben, who is captured, tried and convicted, is sentenced to death. But before he is executed, Ben is in the state penitentiary with a cell mate, a man by the name of Harry Powell, a self-professed man of the cloth, who is really a con man and murderer, he who swindles lonely women, primarily rich widows, of their money before he kills them. The authorities are unaware of these crimes, Harry who is incarcerated on a thirty day sentence for car theft. Harry does whatever he can, unsuccessfully, to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben. ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | preacher | children | money | doll | See All (284) »

Taglines:

The Hands Of ROBERT MITCHUM in "The Night of the Hunter" See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

La noche del cazador  »

Box Office

Budget:

$795,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Later on in life, Robert Mitchum, who was usually indifferent to such matters, said that Charles Laughton was his favorite director and indicated that this was his favorite of the movies in which he had acted. See more »

Goofs

The "movie money" used as the stolen $10,000 is actually Mexican revolutionary currency of 1914-15 with clearly readable "El Estado de Chihuahua" on the bills. See more »

Quotes

Rachel Cooper: John - ain't you going to say hello to your pa?
John Harper: He's not my pa!
Rachel Cooper: No, and he ain't no preacher neither!
See more »

Connections

Version of Night of the Hunter (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Bringing in the Sheaves
(1880) (uncredited)
Lyrics by Knowles Shaw (1874)
Music by George A. Minor (1880)
Sung by all at a picnic
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Suffer the little children
24 September 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Charles Laughton had only one choice to pay the role of psycho-reverend- conman for his adaption of Night of the Hunter and it was Robert Mitchum. When he's on the screen Mitchum fills it with malevolence.

It's an unusual part for Mitchum. Usually he's terse and laconic in films, but as Harry Powell he's just full of words. Of course he doesn't mean anything he says, but he's just a fountain of speech in Night of the Hunter. Mitchum as he did later on in Thunder Road drew from his hobohemian background of the open road to get his characterization of the Reverend Harry Powell.

Powell who marries and murders women after robbing them blind has more than 25 to his credit in the backwoods of the Ohio river country in West Virginia and Kentucky during the Depression years. But he gets arrested for stealing a car and gets 30 days in jail. Mitchum gets thrown in the same cell as Peter Graves who robbed a bank and killed two people. Graves before he's caught gave the loot to his son Billy Chapin with a promise not even to tell their mother because she's not too swift. How right he's proved to be.

After Graves is hung, Mitchum finishes his sentence with the intention of wooing and marrying widow Shelley Winters. She falls for his line as does her little girl Sally Jane Bruce. But young Billy spots Mitchum for a phony from the gitgo.

The children are in for a lot of heartbreak and tragedy before the film concludes. One of the things I like best about Night is the Hunter is the way Laughton graphically demonstrates the life and poverty of rural America during the Depression. The film is all seen through the eyes of the children as they begin their Huck Finn like odyssey down the Ohio river, escaping from Mitchum.

According to Lee Server's biography of Mitchum, Laughton while great with the adults had no patience at all with the kids. After a while he let Mitchum actually direct Chapin and Bruce in their scenes.

Lillian Gish gives one of her great performances in the sound era of her career as the farm woman who eventually takes in the kids as she does for a few others. She's there to be a contrast to Mitchum. Her actions speak her faith a lot louder than Mitchum's phony ramblings.

Another role I like in this is that of Evelyn Varden. She and husband Don Beddoe employ Shelley Winters at their drug store and she's all full of concern in a showy pharisee like way for the kids. She's totally taken with Mitchum, but when he's unmasked as a phony her rage is something to see on screen.

Sad that Charles Laughton didn't do more behind the camera than this one film. He and Robert Mitchum formed a mutual admiration society that lasted until Laughton passed on inn 1962.

Still Night of the Hunter is a testament to that mutual admiration.


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