IMDb > The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Night of the Hunter
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The Night of the Hunter (1955) More at IMDbPro »

Photos (See all 40 | slideshow) Videos (see all 3)
The Night of the Hunter -- Robert Mitchum stars in an unforgettable role as a psychopathic preacher in relentless pursuit of two children who have their dead father's stolen fortune hidden in a doll. Shelley Winters co-stars.
The Night of the Hunter -- Three Reasons Criterion trailer
The Night of the Hunter -- Criterion trailer


User Rating:
8.1/10   63,898 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Up 5% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Davis Grubb (from the novel by)
James Agee (screen play)
View company contact information for The Night of the Hunter on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 November 1955 (Argentina) See more »
The scenes...the story...The stars BUT ABOVE ALL - THE SUSPENSE! See more »
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. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
2 wins See more »
(185 articles)
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User Reviews:
Overrated in the extreme See more (391 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Robert Mitchum ... Harry Powell

Shelley Winters ... Willa Harper

Lillian Gish ... Rachel Cooper

James Gleason ... Birdie Steptoe
Evelyn Varden ... Icey Spoon

Peter Graves ... Ben Harper

Don Beddoe ... Walt Spoon

Billy Chapin ... John Harper
Sally Jane Bruce ... Pearl Harper
Gloria Castillo ... Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn ... Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)

Corey Allen ... Young Man in Town (uncredited)
Paul Bryar ... Bart the Hangman (uncredited)
Cheryl Callaway ... Mary (uncredited)

Michael Chapin ... Ruby's Boyfriend (uncredited)
Mary Ellen Clemons ... Clary (uncredited)

Kathy Garver ... Child (uncredited)

James Griffith ... District Attorney (uncredited)

John Hamilton ... Townsman Who Greets Rachel (uncredited)
Kay Lavelle ... Miz Cunninghan (uncredited)

Gloria Pall ... Burlesque Dancer (uncredited)
George Wallace ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Charles Laughton 
Robert Mitchum (some Billy Chapin scenes) (uncredited)
Terry Sanders (uncredited)
Writing credits
Davis Grubb (from the novel by)

James Agee (screen play)

Charles Laughton  screenplay contributor (uncredited)

Produced by
Paul Gregory .... producer
Original Music by
Walter Schumann (music by)
Cinematography by
Stanley Cortez (photography by)
Film Editing by
Robert Golden (film editor)
Casting by
Millie Gusse (uncredited)
Art Direction by
Hilyard M. Brown  (as Hilyard Brown)
Set Decoration by
Alfred E. Spencer (set decoration) (as Al Spencer)
Makeup Department
Don L. Cash .... makeup (as Don Cash)
Kay Shea .... hair stylist
Production Management
Ruby Rosenberg .... production manager
Frank Parmenter .... production manager: second unit (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Milton Carter .... assistant director
Frank Parmenter .... second unit director (uncredited)
Terry Sanders .... second unit director (uncredited)
Jack Sonntag .... first assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Joe LaBella .... property man (as Joe La Bella)
Sound Department
Stanford Houghton .... sound (as Stanford Naughton)
Special Effects by
Louis DeWitt .... special photographic effects (as Louis De Witt)
Jack Rabin .... special photographic effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Seymour Hoffberg .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Harold E. Wellman .... camera: second unit (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Jerry Bos .... wardrobe
Evelyn Carruth .... wardrobe assistant
Music Department
Arthur Morton .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Saul Bass .... publicist (uncredited)
Robert Mitchum .... director: children (uncredited)
Denis Sanders .... unspecified assistant (uncredited)
Terry Sanders .... unspecified assistant (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
92 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.66 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Argentina:13 | Australia:M | Australia:PG (TV rating) | Brazil:14 | Canada:14A (video rating) | Finland:K-16 (1959) (cut) | Finland:(Banned) (1955) (uncut) | France:U | Germany:12 (re-rating) (2001) | Italy:VM16 | Norway:16 | Portugal:M/12 | South Korea:15 (2003) | Spain:T | Sweden:11 (re-rating) (2004) | Sweden:15 (re-rating) (1958) | Sweden:(Banned) (original rating) (1955) | UK:12 | UK:X (original rating) | USA:Approved (certificate #17385) | USA:TV-PG (tv rating) | USA:Unrated (video release) | West Germany:16 (VHS re-rating) | West Germany:18 (original rating) (1956)

Did You Know?

Charles Laughton originally offered the role of Harry Powell to Gary Cooper, who turned it down as being possibly detrimental to his career.See more »
Continuity: (at around 22 mins) When Harry and Willa are talking on the riverside, he has his arms crossed, with his left hand touching his right arm and his right hand holding the hat leaned on his left folded leg. Between shots he appears with his left hand leaning on his leg and his right hand free holding the hat.See more »
Rachel Cooper:Women are such durn fools.See more »
The LullabyeSee more »


How does the movie end?
Why does John try to protect Powell and give him the money when the police handcuff him?
What is 'The Night of the Hunter' about?
See more »
34 out of 51 people found the following review useful.
Overrated in the extreme, 18 August 2008
Author: Delmare from New York City

Ben Harper (Peter Graves) steals $10,000 and leaves the money in the keeping of his children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), hoping they might one day find their way out of the economic trauma of the Depression-era South. John knows where the money is hidden, but Harper has sworn him to secrecy, a move John quickly resents when posing preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) comes to town. Powell shared a cell with Harper, who, immediately after hiding the money, was arrested for murder and armed robbery. Ben is executed, and the wicked Powell, released from jail, moves in on Willa (Shelly Winters), Harper's gullible widow, hoping to draw out the secret of the money's location. As tensions mount, it becomes progressively clear that the only hope for the children's salvation rests with regional matriarch and philanthropist Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) who always keeps her doors open for displaced youngsters.

It's not often that I'm stumped by the question of why a classic is a classic, but thanks to Night of the Hunter, I know it's not unthinkable. Yes, the cinematography is amazing, even by the standards of film noir, but the pace is rushed, the plot is a walking disaster, and the characters – if we can call them that – more closely resemble flotsam.

The movie opens with Gish's disembodied head floating on a backdrop of stars, the drifting heads of children listening with rapt attention to her formulaic Bible-talk. Even if we grasp the intended irony of the moment – a dreamy segue into a deadly nightmare – there's no escaping how God-blastedly cheesy the image looks, how it feels more like a presage to Sesame Street or an eighties sit-com than a purportedly moving work of horror. As an intro, it destroys any precedent for subtlety. We're less than a minute into the movie and it's already abundantly clear that our storytellers have absolutely no faith in our ability to figure anything out for ourselves.

The trend continues with the introduction of Harry Powell. Eschewing what could have been a very creepy experience – encountering the dark side of Powell in a slow, subtle, and action-driven manner – Powell hits us over the head with a string of didactic monologues, our occasion for discovery smashed right at the outset. Ben Harper, by contrast, is dispensed with so quickly we're barely aware of his presence. He's a completely wasted opportunity, a perfunctory McGuffin for an even more perfunctory plot. The movie would have been much more powerful if John had gone through the story haunted by the memory of a loving father who died in a desperate act to provide for him. Instead, Harper's only function is to set the story in motion, and as soon as he does this, he disappears from view and from memory.

Willa Harper is even more obnoxious. A pivotal factor in the story, Willa's fanatic devotion to Powell is the main instigation of everything else that follows, but because we never get a sense of who Willa was prior to Powell's arrival, her devotion feels unfounded, her behavior seems unreasonable, and, as a consequence, everything else in the story feels like it's balancing on thin air. Why is this woman so easily brainwashed? Why does Powell consistently come out on top? Every single plot-point is, at best, the product of characters acting mysteriously, and at worst, the product of characters behaving in a manner completely opposed to reason. How an entire town can get swept up in the patently obvious lies of a figure like Powell is beyond me, especially to the extent that they side against their own. There's nothing particularly strategic about Powell's methods, nor is he notably charismatic or even all that bright. He constantly loses his temper, performs actions so rash and brainless you'd expect immediate rejoinder, and holds among his many beliefs the bone-headed conviction that the best way to track down a fugitive is to ride through open country and sing at the top of his lungs. Yet Powell always gets way, because the rest of the universe is too stupid to stop him, and it's precisely this idiocy that drives the story forward, not the heroes, and certainly not the villain.

Which brings me to the last point: acting, i.o.w. what the devil is everyone smoking? I respect Robert Mitchum a great deal, but his performance as Powell is woefully over-the-top, in-your-face, and not the least bit compelling. Gish is great, but the credits start rolling before she's even gotten her feet on the ground. Shelly Winters is a tremendous actress, and she does her best as Willa, but again, the character is so poorly written that she comes across feeling like a mariner who's been thrown off the edge of a ship, floundering for all she's worth, but no match for the dead-weight of the screenplay, which drags her to the bottom and feels no remorse. Worst of all is Chapin as John, suffering from prolifically delayed reaction time, always lagging at least a second-and-a-half behind whatever he's supposed to be responding to. Expressions of shock and anger seem to come out of nowhere, a clear indication of his being taught to look and act in a particular way at a particular moment without anyone telling him why. I'm not blaming the kid for this. I'm blaming Charles Laughton, who found children so dislikable he dumped them all on Mitchum, who did his best to direct them, but was clearly not up to the punch.

All in all, I'm at a loss as to why this movie continues to garner such widespread acclaim, save the unfortunate reality that the herd mentality of movie criticism discourages any kind of dissension, so we continue trumpeting the virtues of fossils, long after they've outlived their usefulness.

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Top 250? coreymoquin
Not impressed Normal-Bates
It's in my doll It's in my doll! aios-dum
Who would be a good Harry Powell in a remake? KyleH87
proto slasher movie Pumpkinjack65
Anyone else notice that Pearl was useless.... appleseiter15
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