Night and the City (1950) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
94 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Widmark Tops Out
bkoganbing20 February 2005
My favorite Richard Widmark performance on the screen and probably his best work is Night and the City. This was director Jules Dassin's last film before settling in Europe in the wake of the blacklist and it has a first rate cast tuned to a fine pitch, like an orchestra without a bad note in it.

Harry Fabian is this smalltime American hustler/conman who's settled in London and always working that middle ground netherworld between the law and outright gangsterism. He really isn't a very likable man and the trick is to keep the audience care what's happening to him. This is the test of a great actor and Widmark is fully up to the challenge.

Fabian while working one of his cons overhears a piece of information about the father/son relationship between champion Graeco-Roman wrestler Gregorius the Great and gangster/promoter Cristo who is the London version of Vince McMahon. He cons Gregorius into thinking he wants to promote old style wrestling like Gregorius used to do. That con game sets in motion the events of the film that ultimately end in tragedy.

The cast is uniformly fine, but one performance really stands out, that of Stanislaus Zbyzsko as Gregorius. He was a real professional wrestling champion back in the day when it was real. Zbyzsko invests so much of his own life and reality as Gregorius that he's really something special. His scenes with Herbert Lom as his son are so good they go far beyond the plane of mere acting. It's some of the best work Lom has ever done as well.

How there weren't a few Oscar nominations from this is a mystery for me. For those who like film noir, this should be required viewing. Especially for you Richard Widmark fans.
60 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
like a rat in a trap of his own creation
alicepaul25 February 2004
Every where Richard Widmark's loser character Harry Fabian turns in this film he finds golden opportunities smothered in bad timing. Widmark utilizes a variation of that smarmy, snickering sinister giggle-chuckle that was memorialized in Kiss of Death.It serves the actor well in this film in its toned-down form but offers up a sort of pathetic body language for Fabian, the character. It may be that this American ex-patriot character is just way out of his depth. His hucksterism is not much appreciated by many of his acquaintances in this seedy London underworld. If Harry Fabian would simply accept that he is destined to be a 3rd rate shill and stooge,he might have fund some small pleasures. However, his mind is a shade too quick and his ambition too pumped. He's a user with not a shread of remorse about stepping on others, ripping them off, keeping one tiny step ahead of exposure. This is a superb film, squalid and sinister in its portrayal of greed, corruption and betrayal.
60 out of 70 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Always Loser
claudio_carvalho31 December 2007
In London, the swindler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is an ambitious loser, frequently taking money from his girlfriend Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney). When he meets the famous Greco-Roman wrestler Gregorius the Great (Stanislaus Zbyszko) in the arena of his son and the wrestling lord Kristo (Herbert Lorn), he plans a scheme to become successful. He cheats Greorious, promising clean combats in his own arena, and the old man accepts the partnership. However, without money to promote the fight, he invites his boss and owner of a nightclub Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) to be his partner, but is betrayed and his business fails ending in a tragedy.

"Night and the City" is a great film-noir, with many twists and another excellent performance of Richard Widmark. The story shows the underworld of London, with low-lives, hustlers, beggars, gamblers and other amoral characters through a magnificent black and white cinematography. The direction of Jules Dassin is sharp and the screenplay perfectly develops the characters and the story in an excellent pace. The Brazilian distributor Oregon Filmes / Fox has one of the best collections of movies labeled "Tesouros da Sétima Arte" ("Treasures of the Seventh Art"). Unfortunately, most of their DVDs shamefully have problems while playing the film, maybe because of the lack of quality of the laboratory they use. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Sombras do Mal" ("Shadows of Evil")

Note: On 10 October 2016, I saw this film again.
32 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Odd Man Out
harry-768 December 2003
The rise and fall of small-time hustler Harry Fabain is chronicled in this noir thriller by Director Jules Dassin.

This was Dassin's American swansong, completed just before being named by fellow director Ed Dmytryk before HUAK as a "communist," thus ending Dassin's American career.

He brought to "Night and the City" all the technique he acquired over years of quality movie making. Although born in Connecticut and raised and trained in the US, Dassin's work always had the look and feel of his European counterpart, Carol Reed.

The script here is a decent one with surprise turns, avoiding predictability. Franz Waxman's high pitched score adds excitement to the proceedings and Gene Tierney is a creditable second lead.

Yet it's Richard Widmark on whose shoulders the success of this film ultimately rests. It's not an easy role, as Fabian's character runs the gamut of emotional range as he struggles to wheel and deal his petty schemes amongst assorted lowlife types.

Widmark proves he's well up to the challenge, creating a strong portrait of a small time hood striving for positive payoffs through his callous cleverness.

It's a reminder of how talented and resourceful this actor is, and how he and Dassin meshed to create a film of impact.

Dassin, of course, went on to France after this to engage in a fabulous European period, while Widmark struggled to find scripts worthy of his formidable talents, which turned out to be few and far between.
49 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Such a vivid and well acted film!
secondtake1 April 2010
Night and the City (1950)

A brilliant, gutsy, tightly made and beautifully photographed movie, top to bottom.

Richard Widmark is in one his best roles here as the small-time guy on the make who gets in over his head. And around him are character actors (wrestlers) and a very secondary lead, Gene Tierney, all playing vivid, sharply chiseled characters.

But it's Widmark's movie, and he is convincing when thrilled and when beaten down. We see how he believes in himself, and how disillusioned he appears to others. And London at night, filled with dead ends and narrow alleys, is ominous and glistening. The plot is interwoven and not at all simple, but thanks to an ongoing logic supplied by American director Jules Dassin, it is never confusing, just increasingly interesting.

The photography, and associated lighting, has to be admired even by people used to great noir filming. The shadows here are dark but always with a hint of detail--none of the total inky blackness blanking out large parts of the scene as in some American noirs. It's really a matter of great finesse to pull this off with such consistency, and it makes the movie a visual masterpiece. Cinematographer Mutz Greenbaum (Max Greene) is barely known outside of this film, so perhaps we can give Dassin a lot of the credit for the look, and the really dynamic framing, of so much of it.

We don't usually associate British films with great film noir styling, but here is one of the best, though the two leads (Widmark and Tierney) and the director are American, and this was officially a 20th Century Fox production. This comes just a year after that other great British noir of this period, The Third Man, with strong British creds but again American leading actors. If you like Night and the City (and you almost have to, it's really amazing stuff), you'll definitely like Thieve's Highway.

And Widmark? My opinion of him only grows over time. It's easy to typecast him in your head the way you might Robert Mitchum, but both actors have extraordinary presence of depth on the screen. Here you might get the best of Widmark.
11 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Forgotten noir that will eventually become a classic
blanche-226 June 2007
"Night and the City" was the final film for Jules Dassin in the U.S. before being blacklisted. He eventually moved to France but didn't make another film until 1955. Though he is best remembered for the films he did with his wife, Melina Mercouri, this is one of his great movies, a very gritty film noir with London as its background.

Richard Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a low-life con man who makes money as a tout for a club, i.e., he seeks out male tourists and gets them to spend their money there. The club is owned by Phil Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) and his wife Helen, who hates her husband and wants to start her own business. Working there is Fabian's girlfriend (Gene Tierney) who loves him in spite of the fact that he's constantly borrowing or stealing money from her.

Harry hits on a scheme to break into wrestling promotion in London. Unfortunately, Kristo (Herbert Lom) has it sewn up. Though his father (Stanislaus Zbyszko, a real-life wrestler) was a great wrestling champion doing Greco-Roman boxing, Kristo does not promote it. This has actually caused a rift between father and son, and Harry moves right in. With the elder Kristo on his side, Harry gets his chance to promote Greco-Roman wrestling. He gets the needed money by promising Helen that he will get her a license to open her business, though the building supposedly can't be licensed for another year. The results of Harry's project lead to tragedy as he brings everybody down with him.

Filmed in black and white only adds to the grittiness of "Night and the City" as Harry runs through London. The film moves as swiftly as he does, leading to the inevitable but exciting climax.

This was a powerhouse role for Richard Widmark, who is a slimy, desperate, and fast-talking Harry. The problem with Harry is, he's really not that good of a con man. He's sloppy. He can get guys into the club but that's about it. He rubs the wrong people the wrong way, and he makes everyone angry until finally, he's a complete untouchable as Kristo chases after him. Widmark gives us a perfect portrait. Tierney is in the film only at the request of Zanuck, who wanted to distract her from her personal problems; she has a surprisingly small role. Herbert Lom is fantastic as Kristo. Stanislaus Zbyszko, whom Dassin sought out, gives a poignant performance as Gregorius the Great. The wonderfully talented Googie Withers is great as the cold and sophisticated Helen. You totally believes she loathes her husband. And Sullivan's Nesseros is easy to loathe as a wealthy worm who plays both ends against the middle to destroy Fabian. They all end up destroying themselves.

Apparently this film did not get appropriate distribution or something, because it's a great film, now out on DVD, and very few people know it. Hopefully, like "Nightmare Alley," another film that was ill-served by Hollywood, it will continue to gain in cult status. It deserves to be seen.
16 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
a very well-named film
fogo-510 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's a film set among night people in a London still struggling to get on its feet after the war. There's a lot of location shooting and attention to detail in showing the world the characters live in: characters put flowers in their lapels but live in draughty rooms, a nightclub tries to look classy but has beggars and alcoholics buzzing around it, the neon lights are shining again in the West End but it isn't very far to whole city blocks where nearly a decade after the Blitz the rubble has still to be cleared.

When the scene is set so well, it's entirely believable to come across characters who are desperate to escape from their lives, and it doesn't take a lot of explicit violence to be aware that there are a lot of people here who would cut your throat for tuppence ha'penny, let alone a thousand quid, or is that a thousand quids (one of the fun parts of the film is listening to American actors use British slang).

In fact the milieu is drawn so well that not only does it bring you into the movie but it sometimes becomes more interesting than the movie itself. For example one of the characters is a craggy old-time wrestler who is played by a real-life craggy old-time wrestler in his only acting role. He has a fight whose outcome is essential to the plot but where the irresitible forces and immovable objects in human form are so fascinating that when we see the reaction of the other characters, they're partly reacting as their characters would react and it's partly as if the actors have stepped out of the movie for two minutes and are reacting to the scene with the audience.
10 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Deserving of MUCH more acknowledgment, one of the best Noir films.
Ham_and_Egger2 March 2005
For some reason Night and the City doesn't seem to the credit it deserves; possibly because it was director Jules Dassin's last American film before being blacklisted as a Communist. I wasn't born until the Cold War was winding down, but it seems that with movies like Night and the City to his credit, we could have turned a blind eye even if he really was a Commie.

Honestly this film deserves to rank up there with the likes of The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, or Out of the Past. The scenes of our "hero" Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark, at his best) being chased through London's East End are as starkly beautiful as anything you'll ever see on film. For several minutes there isn't a single shade of gray, everything is literally black or white and the camera itself seems to have joined in hunting Harry. Then there's the long, semi-grotesque wrestling scene that took me totally by surprise, it's like something out of Fellini.

Widmark is utterly believable as Fabian, a charming two-bit grifter who works as a "club tout" but hatches one ill-fated get-rich-quick scheme after another. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, there isn't a cardboard character in the bunch, except maybe Harry's girl Marry (Gene Tierney) though its really more a flaw in the character than the actress. Mary's saintliness may be the writers' only slip-up though, every other character has the sort of depth that makes the film a joy to watch. They inexorably follow their own motivations, which, of course, rely on those of someone else, who inevitably has a goal of his or her own, which will eventually derail the plan of someone whom someone else is counting on (actually, the film is a little less twisted than this review ;-) Criterion has just (2/05) recently released Night and the City and never has the phrase "filmed in glorious black and white" been more appropriate. Before this film seemed to lurk in the shadows of AMC or TCM, only occasionally showing its face, as if it were one of the genre's minor works. Now, if you haven't seen it you have no excuse, and you're only hurting yourself.
64 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Noir masterpiece
Bucs196024 November 2001
This gritty film, exposing the world of small time crooks in London, is a real masterpiece of film noir. The director, Jules Dassin, has captured this dark, dirty world perfectly and the black and white cinematography is superb. Richard Widmark is as despicable here as he was as Tommy Udo in "Kiss of Death" is a coup of casting. Francis Sullivan as Phil is great as the nightclub owner for whom Widmark shills and Googie Withers, one of my favorites of British film, is awesome as the unfaithful wife. Gene Tierney is wasted as Widmark's girlfriend...she does not seem to have much to do. Other support players are strong and you get to see Herbert Lom without his toupee! This is one of the best in the film noir genre and the ending pulls no punches. This is not a happy, feel good film. Highly recommended.
52 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sublime film noir,sublime Widmark!
dbdumonteil5 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS How sublime!This is without a doubt,Jules Dassin's towering achievement.Had he only made this work,his name would deserve to be remembered forever.

Richard Widmark will leave you on the edge of your seat!How can an actor be so good?Just compare him to Today's stars.Widmark's performance is one of these you never forget.A washout trying to make it big in the London underworld,he's some kind of mythomaniac,sometimes verging on madness,with an almost Shakespearian grandeur.His fate seems sealed when the story begins.We do know he won't work it out.A nightmarish bunch surrounds him and are like spiders watching a fly:the obese Francis L. Sullivan,a grotesque and fatty caricature who hates Widmark because his wife (Withers) has a crush on Widmark and provides him with funds;this two-bit femme fatale,who thinks she can escape her wealthy fatso.the two wrestlers ,fighting on the ring like animals ;there's nothing human in this fighting :you've never seen a thing like that.

Almost every sequence should be studied in detail but I will only mention three of them: -After a bestial -an euphemism-fight,the old wrestler asks his son to close the window because he's cold,so cold..But the window is closed and the son only pretends to obey.He dies in his arms.

-Widmark's final run is the most beautiful ever filmed.Close shots ,apocalyptic landscapes,impressive framings.It's the whole underworld against a single man,who cannot rely on anyone.Widmark's despair,hope against hope ,his final fit of anger when he wants his girlfriend to get the reward,are among the best fil m noir scenes.

-When Googie returns home and finds her hubby dead ,she thinks she 's free at last.But the horrible shrew is here ,like a spider on her web,she's the sole legatee,and now she's got the prodigal woman under her thumb.

There's another world ,but we are only allowed to catch transient glimpses of it.People complain about Gene Tierney's rather small part on the site.She does not enter the underworld,the subcity,she stays away from it.She's Widmark's last chance,but as the movie begins,it's already too late.Only at the end ,Tierney tries to walk across the mirror,only to discover it's a blind alley.Her character is not romantic enough,all she dreamed about was a cosy life in a sweet cottage in the heart of the country.She falls in her neighbor's arms-a neighbor who's got a money-box in the shape of a bank!-

After such a peak ,the only way for Jules Dassin was down.And alas that was what happened:"du rififi chez les hommes" has still got a good reputation.The Melina Mercouri era brought at best entertaining works (celui qui doit mourir;Topkapi) at best,dumb and vulgar comedies (la loi;never on Sunday)at worst."Dream of passion" his last one,was pretentious to a fault :trying to link Greek mythology (Medea)with the story of a woman who killed his children.He had not realized that "night and the city" with his monsters and his lonesome hero,whose fate is sealed was already a Greek tragedy ,and so much so much more.
29 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
My favourite film.
harryfableson3 March 2006
Imagine Charles Dickens had to make a bit of extra money by writing B-movies in Hollywood and you might get close to imagining this haunting, wonderful film. It fuses the best traditions of film noir with a very British atmosphere: a cast of character actors playing vividly drawn and desperate people.

There's a mournful tone to the whole film, like a boat's siren drifting across a foggy Thames. All the characters seem to be reaching for their hearts desire, wanting to believe in a dream of a better tomorrow, in something that's real and true for them. But they rip into each other trying to get there. That gives the film a poignant, tragic trajectory.

A compelling central performance by Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian, a man with flair and drive and an infectious hope, but a man who lacks something like the moral fibre to be honest. A man always looking for a shortcut. A nearly-great man, an almost classically tragic figure. Googie Withers is a revelation as Helen, a woman who seems cynical but has hopes and dreams just like Fabian (just like all our characters).

So much I haven't even mentioned, the sweaty muscular wrestling scenes are are action scenes of the best kind, in that they drive and skew the plot as well as holding our attention. So many good performances. And a film that speaks to our hopes and our flaws and the tragic spaces between the two.

Any Londoner or person who loves the atmosphere of that city should check it out too, some lovely old footage of Trafalgar Square and Picadilly.
21 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Long Dark Night of the Soul, London, 1950
wglenn11 March 2006
The more films I see by Jules Dassin, the more I wonder why he isn't better known or regarded as a director. It's been 56 years since he was blacklisted by the McCarthy-ites, but his reputation never seems to have recovered, at least not in the United States. Hopefully, more DVD releases like the Criterion version of Night and the City will bring deserved attention to his excellent body of work.

I want to call Night and the City a classic film noir, which it is, but that seems too limiting. It might be better to say that Dassin uses film noir to dig a little deeper into our human strivings and sufferings. There's a lot of sweat and desperation in the midst of this entertaining and well-paced film, and not just on the part of Harry Fabian, the small-time hustler who dreams of being great. We encounter a typically smooth and dangerous mobster who also happens to have a difficult relationship with his disappointed father. A wealthy but thugish club owner, who might be a caricature in another film noir, can't seem to express his powerful and animalistic feelings for his beautiful wife. She seems like a scheming femme fatale but turns out to have an almost quaint dream of her own. In the end, we're in the muck and mire of human foibles, a kind of low-level Shakespearean tragedy that we all live out to one degree or another. This story just happens to take place in the shadowy underworld of 1950 London.

There's a poignancy to this film that separates it from others in the noir genre. Part of this lies in the strong writing, part in the excellent acting ensemble. This is one of those rare and remarkable films where the secondary and minor actors seem like they were all giving the performance of their career. Richard Widmark probably could have done with a bit more subtlety as Harry Fabian; he feels a bit histrionic at times, but his manic energy is important to the pace of the film and the feeling of increasing desperation. Gene Tierney and Hugh Marlowe don't get to do much and seem a bit lost among all the other great roles. In an interview with Dassin included with the DVD, the director says he put Tierney in the film as a favor to producer Daryl Zanuck, adding her role at the last minute, and it feels like that at times. But, hey, it's Gene Tierney.

Herbert Lom delivers a chilling performance as Kristo the mobster, and Stanislaus Zbyszko is a miracle as his father, the once-famous wrestler Gregorious who can't stand that his son has helped kill the great tradition of Greco-Roman wrestling with his shoddy wrestling matches. The great Mike Mazurki does well as The Strangler, and the wrestling match he gets into with Gregorious may be the highlight of the film. Zbyszko and Mazurki were both former wrestlers, and the realism of their fight heightens the emotional intensity of the scene. It's the brutal scruff and claw of existence brought to life on screen for a few powerful moments.

I had never seen Francis Sullivan before, so I was pleasantly surprised by his masterful work as the club owner Nosseross. Googie Withers also does a great job as his wife Helen, managing to bring some good shading to an underwritten role. And some of the best moments of the film are delivered by minor characters such as Anna, the woman who works down on the docks; Figler, the "King of the Beggars;" and Googin the forger.

After a brief voice-over intro, Dassin starts the action with a bang, as one man chases another through the darkness of late-night London, across what looks like the plaza in front of the British Museum (???). The camera angle on this opening is fantastic, the kind of shot you want to turn into a poster and hang on your wall. And the camera work remains excellent throughout the film. The final long sequence of Harry running all over London in the foggy darkness, with the whole world seemingly after him, is an exciting and powerful climax. Quite a memorable ending to this excellent film.
33 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This Is One Dark & Moody Noir
ccthemovieman-126 October 2006
It took a second look for me to enjoy this movie as it didn't really appeal much to me on the first viewing. Perhaps a better picture helped. If I had the Criterion DVD, it would be much better I'm sure but, for now, I'll have to settle for the VHS. This is a very noir-ish with a lot of dark scenes, so a good transfer is a must.

Most of the action takes place at night in London alleyways, nightclubs and gymnasiums. The storyline is a downer, that's for sure. It is a rough and sometimes depressing story. Richard Widmark, as "Harry Fabian," has the starring role and plays a real loser, a desperate man who always has a scheme concocted but usually messes up. Some critics think this is Widmark's best performance ever. Francis Sullivan is interesting as the nightclub owner. Gene Tierney gets second billing but doesn't have much of role in here.

Some memorable scenes include a wrestling match with big Mike Mazurki and "Gregorious." I'm not much into wrestling but this was an amazing match, extremely intense.

This film is a bit different from most American-based film noirs. It's not a pleasant story, it's moody, and it has a certain fascination to it.
40 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An artist without an art.
hitchcockthelegend10 July 2010
Night and the City is directed by Jules Dassin and is adapted by Jo Eisinger from the novel written by Gerald Kersh. Starring are Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hebert Lom, Francis L. Sullivan, Mike Mazurki & Stanislaus Zbyszko. The score is composed by Franz Waxman and Max Greene is the cinematographer. It's shot on location in London, England.

Harry Fabian (Widmark) is a hopeless dreamer, a two-bit hustler who aspires to make it big and never want for money again. Over hearing retired wrestling superstar Gregorius (Zbyszko) bemoaning the fake wrestling bouts put on by his underworld son Kristo (Lom), Fabian hatches a plan to set up his own wrestling empire backed by Gregorius. Thus he be safe from retribution from Kristo and his heavies. That is as long as Fabian does right by Gregorius and doesn't abuse his trust. Things get complicated, though, as Fabian needs money to back the venture, money he hasn't got. So systematically he drags into the equation his girlfriend Mary Bristol (Tierney), club owner Phil Nosseross (Sullivan) and Sullivan's wife, Helen (Withers). Pretty soon things start to spiral out of control.

Night and the City has been called many things, from baroque masterpiece to being a turgid pictorial grotesque! Polar opposite reactions that have now, over time, dovetailed into a majority agreement from film noir purists that it is indeed one special piece of film noir movie making. The film opens in quite an unassuming way as the title sequence brings views of leisurely London, then Dassin does a voice-over telling us that "The night is tonight, tomorrow night or any night. The city is London." We then cut to a man on the run, pursued by a person unknown. The man being chased is Harry Fabian, sharply attired in suit and hat, he has left pictorial London and is now running through bomb afflicted London, through murky alleyways. Until sanctuary comes at his girlfriend's tidy flat, the contrast between the two worlds of Harry Fabian neatly marrying American film noir with British kitchen sink-ism.

However, that sanctuary is a rare ray of hope in Dassin's movie, a cunning trick by the makers, for Night and the City is ultimately a dark and brooding picture, one that deals in corruption & paranoia, with a pervading sense of doom hanging heavy like a death warrant issued by some heavy underworld crime lord. The characters in this part of London are mainly blank personalities, cold and calculating, crooked and immoral. That Fabian is only a lesser light, on the lower rung of this seamy ladder, is irrelevant, because he aspires to become just the same, only richer. Duplicity and betrayal are things he's happy to jump in bed with, and we the audience are part of it as we view this story through Fabian's hopeless and oblivious eyes.

Yet the movie, in spite of its uncompromising story, is by turns exciting & pacey, even breath taking, driven by one of the finest scores put down in film noir as Waxman prods and probes with pulse beats and deft ear clangers. With Greene's expressionistic and daring photography blending seamlessly with the mood crafted by director and composer alike. The cast are mostly strong, with Widmark, Zbyszko & Withers actually terrific, the latter involved in a superb wrestling sequence with Mazurki. At times heart pounding, at others wince inducing - if you find yourself holding your breath - then that's OK, it has that effect on many. Tierney was cast as a favour to Darryl Zanuck who was worried about Tierney's mental health at the time. She looks radiant and offers up an interesting counterpoint to all the darkness within the story. Dassin spoke very favourably of her work on the film, saying she was no trouble at all and a consummate professional.

As for Dassin himself? Well he was, thanks to the HUAC outcry, about to be out of work and on the run. He moved to Europe and never worked in America again, he returned from film making exile five years later where he would make the much revered Rififi in France. A truly excellent director, capable of pacing a film to precision and holding an audience in an atmospheric vice like grip. Night and the City is his masterpiece, and as it happens it is also one of film noir's greatest treasures. 10/10
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An Unknown Materpiece!
Pem-315 February 1999
This Jules Dassin film noir is really BLACK, and the casting and

acting are superb, as is the ambience (which the 1992 remake

doesn't have.) Widmark gives one of his best performances as

the anxious Fabian, and Googie Withers is terrifically

believable (and sexy) as the desperately unsatisfied wife of

nightclub-owner Sullivan. The movie has a real SLEAZINESS that

reflects the depressing post-WWII atmosphere of London -- this

is the story's reason for being -- these folks want OUT, and we

can fully understand why. "Night and the City" was apparently

another victim of Hollywood's shameful "non- marketing" of

really fine 40s and 50s British films -- co-produced by American

studios -- but dropped into U.S. theatres with no visible

promotion of either stars or stories because they weren't made

on U.
21 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"You've got it all, but you're a dead man, Harry Fabian"
ackstasis11 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Life is futile. Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) has lived his whole life in the gutter, wasting his meagre savings on creative money-making schemes that always fall through, dreaming of a life of "ease and plenty," and dragging life-long sweetheart Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney) down into the black abyss with him. Eking out a modest existence through hard work and perseverance is no option for him. No, Harry Fabian dreams big. He reaches for the stars, and, when he falls short, inevitably and painfully comes crashing back to earth. This is film noir, and film noir doesn't look too kindly upon those who dream bigger than is good for them. Jules Dassin's 'Night and the City (1950)' was filmed in the squalid streets of London, and so appropriately represents the flip-side of the American Dream. Films like Sylvester Stallone's 'Rocky (1976)' gained popularity precisely because they showed that dedication and self-belief can make a hero of even the most humble of men. The British don't offer the optimism of their trans-Atlantic cousins – here, success is reserved only for the corrupt.

During the film, one character describes Fabian as "an artist without an art." He certainly possesses the determination to strike it big, but he wields his passion indiscriminately, stepping on the wrong people's toes and so sealing his demise. One gets the sense that he wants to make an honest living, but is nonetheless prepared to take dishonest shortcuts in order to fast-track his success. Yet even among the most powerful underground figures, success is no guarantee of happiness: bulging night-club owner Philip Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan) loses his discontented wife, whose own impatience to break free from her husband's ownership inadvertently sacrifices any chances of financial stability. The sour wrestling promoter Kristo (Herbert Lom) loses the respect of his father, who is noble at heart but living hopelessly in the past. Only in the sad, betrayed eyes of Gene Tierney – regrettably underused in this film – does Dassin appear to find virtue, and so he offers her an alternative to the damned Fabian. Mary fittingly ends the film in the arms of an ordinary but dependable artist (Hugh Marlowe).

Filmed on-location in London by cinematographer Max Greene, 'Night and the City' has an incredibly gritty, realistic immediacy. Too often, in American noir, it's only too clear that the characters are tramping through a studio-built set, in which one doesn't expect there to be any unpleasant surprises. Conversely, Dassin's decision to film in the shadowy city streets recreates that uncertain sense of dread one feels when trudging alone through an unfamiliar urban locale, exposed to the elements and whoever might happen to cross your path. The film was shot while Dassin was facing being blacklisted from Hollywood for his alleged affiliations with the Communist Party (he was betrayed to the HUAC by fellow noir directors Edward Dmytryk and Frank Tuttle), leading a nervous Darryl F. Zanuck to urge "shoot the expensive scenes first." The American likely took some stylistic inspiration from Carol Reed's 'Odd Man Out (1947)' and 'The Third Man (1949) – both of which concern wanted men who are betrayed by those they thought close to them. Reed, in turn, probably took wrestling inspiration for his own 'A Kid for Two Farthings (1955).'

Jules Dassin passed away on March 31, 2008, having re-established his directing career in Europe with the stellar heist movie, 'Rififi (1955).' Just one week earlier, star Richard Widmark also checked out, having lived a substantially fuller life than his on-screen persona. Widmark's manic performance is an interesting and multi-faceted one. Perfectly in tune with the character of Harry Fabian, nothing Widmark says sounds entirely convincing. There's always the slightest trace that he's bluffing – feigning toughness or otherwise stalling for time. He really is like a kid with ADHD, bouncing about with too much energy to spare and no worthwhile endeavour in which to invest it. Fabian's doom is never in any doubt. The spectre of death hovers above him for most of the film, but he stubbornly refuses to relent from his final grab at "being a somebody." Like a dead man walking, he goes through the motions, still trying to convince himself that this time he can win. He doesn't deserve, and doesn't receive, any sense of nobility… even in death.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Well-dressed noir
dshortt-18 March 2005
Night and the City is a gripping psychological crime-drama in the best film-noir tradition. The taut, fast-paced plot takes us to the seedy back streets and dingy night-clubs of post world-war two London, where two-bit street hustler Harry Fabian scrounges for a, "life of ease and plenty." Richard Widmark brings a frenetic energy to his role as Harry. He plays Fabian as a high-strung bundle of nerves, never missing a beat as Harry's mood swings run the gauntlet from giddy hysteria to suicidal despair.

Harry impresses with his sharp sports coats and slick banter, but the big score always seems to elude his grasp. He stumbles into a scheme to succeed as a big-time wrestling promoter, but can't swing the deal for lack of cash. Girlfriend Mary (Gene Tierney) is a jaded barmaid still longing for a decent life. She's heard it all before, and refused to help. Double dealing business partner Phil (Francis Sullivan) sees Harry as a foolish but dangerous rival - one who must be stopped. Phil's wife Helen (Googie Withers) plays the seductive vamp, planning to use Harry for her own purposes. Fabian finally meets his nemesis when he runs afoul of Kristo (Herbert Lom), the local wrestling king-pin.

While there is no gun-play, we still get plenty of action and suspense. The theme of the film is summed up in a brutal wrestling match, where the "truth and beauty" of Greco-Roman wrestling is pitted against the cheap and phony modern style. The finale sees Harry lurching through the urban landscape, unable to out-run his pursuers or his self-loathing. For one brief moment he teeters on the edge of redemption, but in the end he can't avoid his fated destiny.

Night and the City is notable for its wonderful noir mood and atmosphere. Director Jules Dassin sets the tone right from the opening credits, where flickering titles printed in tiny neon lights blink out from the fog-shrouded London night. Shot on location in moody black & white cinematography, the movie exudes a hard and gritty realism. Tilted camera angles and shadowy lighting place us smack in the center of Harry's corrupt and desperate world.

A recent DVD release should result in more exposure for this seldom seen gem. Night and the City stands as a fine introduction to the film-noir genre, as well as a must-see for the hard-core fan. Recommended.
13 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Sordid Movie Warning: Spoilers
Why is it that films noir have such spurious titles? The German title, "Die Ratte von Soho" / "The Rat of Soho" seems a more suitably lurid fit, certainly as a hook. To go with the spurious title there's a spurious introduction on the theme of Night and the City, which is at least easy on the eye, though fortunately brief. What the film is really about is the existential failure of one Harry Fabian, a cheap conman, but full of life.

The movie is a very sordid one, an initial lecture is given to a bunch of *ahem* companions in the Silver Fox nightclub about how to fleece the customers, there is however to be no actual theft from them on the premises, although, suggestively, what happens to the customers on leaving the club is of no concern to the management. A friend of my brother has post-traumatic stress from being the victim of such a honey trap whilst drunk in London this year, so I really connected with the cutting edge of nastiness this film provides.

Although this movie is set in a moonlit criminal demi-monde, there are about five separate love stories, arranged in a complicated geometry. These are what pull the heartstrings and kept me rapt throughout. The central love story is Mary's love for Harry, who does little more than use her. She sees a vitality in him that attracts her helplessly, as if he's a magnet, and overlooks all his faults for this. He's a hamstrung man, who's damaged heart spills out in a final scene of electrifying intensity. Richard Widmark, who I have rarely appreciated as an actor, here throws everything at his role but the kitchen sink and deserves all the praise he gets.

Night and the City is an absolutely heartbreaking film that I realised had really shaken me up after I left the cinema. I had fish and chips to celebrate in Cockney style.

Peripherally I think it's worth mentioning that there is more than one version of this movie, and it can look a bit strange because a lot of the build up to the, possibly overwrought, action of the denouement is cut in what I believe is the American version. Would pay to rent out the Criterion DVD of this movie as it apparently has explanatory extras on this subject. I would also like to express my admiration for the seductive qualities of Googie Withers' portrayal of Helen Nosseross, and for the horrid wrestling scene in the movie which actually aroused this hysteric feeling in me, that happens when a fight starts in real life, and which films very rarely manage to achieve.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Vibrant Dickensian noir. (spoilers)
the red duchess11 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Harry Fabian begins and ends 'Night and the City' running from somebody in a nightmare nocturnal London, literally ducking and diving, lurching into abandoned warehouses and slums, crouching in doorways, scrabbling up alleys: a hounded man with a desperate febrile face. If the traditional Western is about escape from a fixed identity, than Fabian's quest is, as is appropriate to such an interior, urban genre as the crime film, its opposite - he wants to stop running, to earn a fixed place, a recognisable identity, to be treated with respect, to be somebody.

But in the first ten minutes he is a divided man. Scrounging cash from his unbelievably tolerant girlfriend, Mary (oh yes) she shows him a photo of their past, an idyllic picture of harmony on a rowing boat, presumably on some pleasant English river. Harry has fallen from this pastoral paradise, he has moved from this fixed, frozen image to a lift of constant movement, where to stop is to die, assuming and casting off identities as he goes. The film's negative drive is very similar to Godard's 'A Bout De Souffle', and like Michel Poiccard, Harry is a dead man, A Maxwell's Demon of energy and information overloading, hurtling into inertia.

Although the film comes within the description of film noir, it's rise and fall narrative more properly belongs to the 30s gangster genre, and Harry is like a man out of time. His bluster, quick-thinking energy, and absurd sense of style (he stops n the middle of life-threatening flight to pick up his fallen buttonhole) would be thoroughly appropriate in the worlds of 'Scarface' or 'The Public Enemy'. But film noir in an interior, subjective genre, the laws are less easily manipulable, everyone's looking out for himself. Harry doesn't even rise very high - although he almost convinces you that he does - he gets as far as the rehearsal stage for the big drama that will be his success.

The figures of drama seep through the film, from Mary's singing to an audience, to the extraordinary wrestling rite that sparks off the action climax. This fight is extraordinary, as the film changes registers, changes from one plot to another, with Harry marginalised in his own drama, moved from playwright and actor to impotent observer. Because throughout Harry is the former, willing events, dreams, even people into existence, performing a constant series of roles, adapting for the different audiences; even playacting a crucial narrative plot point (getting Gregorius to fight the Strangler). This further splits the already divided Harry - the man of public performance(s) has nothing left for himself - he is indeed a dead man.

'Night' is about 3/4 a masterpiece. Unusually for a noir, which often forsook coherent narrative for 'meaningful' spectacle, it is an exciting action film, full of unbearable suspense and good chases. The filming of London, after the initial jolt of a spiv hero with an American accent, is unparalelled, its seedy underworld given a gothic-Dickenisan intensity, all shadows, Chinese-box-like interiors and grotesques - Francis L. Sullivan as Phil Nosseross, half Satan, half sympathetic cuckold, is outstanding. The mechanics of underworld commerce (club touting, hostesses etc.), is brilliantly done (and more economically than 'Casino'), as well as sociologically important; showing that the film is about much more than a man's downfall.

Anyone who knows Jules Dassin from his interminable Melina Mercouri films may be surprised by the level of invention here - the bursting, lurching mise-en-scene, threatening to explode at any moment, full of overspilling wide angles, masses of intrusive decor, brilliant composition in which mise en scene ironically frames and imprisons characters who think they've all the freedom, or the placing of characters in space to reveal their true power. Franz Waxman's score is a neurotic marvel, full of sudden shards of lightening. Best of all is Widmark's astounding performance, a seedy Jerry Maguire, full of talk and promises hiding inner terror and emptiness, charming and cocky at the right times, shockingly, paralysingly brutal when he needs to be.

The last quarter is a little disappointing, with its cod-psychological 'explanations' of the end, diluting the hero's potency, (although the 'revelation' of past here mirrors the photo at the beginning), and the Willy Loman/'Angels with Dirty Faces' stretch for redemption is a bit much. But the ending is bravely downbeat - this is a rare Hays Code era film that allows the villain go unpunished.
22 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The city streets were dark with something other than night
jem1326 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
An excellent film noir, with Widmark in top form. The film opens with Widmark running down narrow London streets, and from there the film never loses it's frenetic energy. Widmark plays a guy who "wants to be somebody", always dreaming up new schemes to make him rich and a big shot. But he's really doomed from the beginning (lots of foreshadowing makes his eventual fate quite easy to predict) as one of life's losers. He scams his way into gaining a deal to manage a young wrestling star, but things spiral out of control in true noir fashion.

Interesting that this archetypal film noir should be shot in the shadowy streets of London, when dark American streets were the movement's ancestral home. But, as with "The Killers" and "Out Of The Past", this is one of the defining noir films. Just look at the title. It pretty much encapsulates noir, with the film taking place predominantly at night and in an urban setting. Director Jules Dassin's London underbelly is a disturbing, fascinating world- in a way, it's almost Dickensian in tone. The cinematography and DVD transfer looks wonderful.

While Widmark is awesome, the film is really given it's colour from the great supporting cast. Googie Withers is one woman who Widmark really shouldn't trust or mess with, but he does and with fatal consequences. Her morbidly obese husband, villainous but tragically in love with his no-good wife, is memorably played by Francis L Sullivan. Stanislaus Zbyszko is unforgettable as the proud Greco-Roman wrestling warrior, and Herbert Lom brilliantly underplays as his mafioso son. And, to make things even more noir, throw in Mike Mazurki as Strangler! Tierney unfortunately does not have much to do, with her faithful girlfriend role readily familiar (her role was actually added in by Dassin as a favour to Zanuck).

An incredibly moody, sometimes grotesque and tragic noir piece that, while brutal, manages to fit in more than a few moments of touching sensitivity and human tragedy. Who can forget Lom's final scene with Zbyszko?
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Worthwhile film noir set in London.
TxMike10 April 2006
Recently out on Criterion DVD, with a restored print, this is a very nice example of 1950s film noir, although when it was made the director, Jules Dassin, didn't even know there was a classification known as film noir. In fact, the DVD extras, which include a fairly recent interview with the aging Dassin is as captivating as is the movie itself. Back in the late 1940s when "blacklisting" was a reality, Dassin was essentially told, go to London quickly, make this movie quickly, it may be your last. He made "Night and the City" without ever reading the source material, the book, and the movie is apparently quite different. Two versions were made simultaneously, using the same source film, but with different musical composers and different film editors. The DVD extras contains excerpts to demonstrate some of the differences, including a drastically different ending.

Good movie, worth a viewing for the acting of underrated Richard Widmark who plays Harry Fabian, an American post-war hustler in London. Fabian had big ideas of half-baked schemes and always was hitting up a friend for a hundred quid here, 300 quid there, to finance his latest get rich quick scheme. In the extras we learn that Gene Tierney was requested for the part of Fabian's girl Mary Bristol, because she was in a bad way after a recent romantic breakup, and according to Dassin "was suicidal." This movie helped bring her back to a good state.

Googie Withers, an actress I had never heard of, is good as Helen Nosseross, married to the rich but disgusting Phil (Francis Sullivan) and just wanting to get a license for her own night spot and a chance to break away from her husband. She is forced to deal with Fabian, a decision that cost her dearly.

Perhaps the most interesting actor is Stanislaus Zbyszko, one time "world's strongest man" from Poland, in 1949 living in New Jersey. Even though he was unexperienced, he gives a super performance as an old retired wrestler Gregorius the Great, who was grooming his son for a wrestling career. Mike Mazurki plays his nemesis, The Strangler.

Although the story gets a bit complex in the various relationships, it simply distills into Fabian seeing an opportunity to contract Gregorius to feature a wrestling match that will allow Fabian, at least in his eyes, to "control" wrestling in London. But his various scams catch up with him and all does not turn out well, as is the case in a film noir.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Here is one movie that deserves to be better known
woreill5821 November 2005
I thought I had seen all the best movies of the 40's and 50's and then I saw this one. Richard Widmark has turned in some great performances but this has to rank as one of his very best, if not the very best. Jules Dassin has some great movies to his credit so I am at a loss to know why this one does not get the publicity of his other masterworks. He is in a category of his own when it comes to making a film that makes use of the city as well as capture the feel of a city. This is black and white film making at its peak. Not a bad performance in it. This was obviously an Anglo-American production from 20th Century Fox so it is a mystery why it has been kept such a well kept secret. It certainly has all the credentials of a film noir classic. I would put this one up there with "Out of the Past", "Odd Man Out", "Third Man", "DOA", "Double Indemnity" and others.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Exceptional Film Noir
vitaleralphlouis2 December 2007
Jules Dassin no doubt established his reputation with this picture, the best he ever made, a virtually flawless and absorbing film noir with multiple plot twists and a great collection of characters.

Richard Widmark, a real-life war hero, always preferred hero roles in movies; but he made his screen reputation playing a sleazy rat in his first movie, and he does an even better job in this film.

Although the story is great, I was somewhat distracted by noticing the relentless excellence of the cinematography, lighting, direction, acting, et cetera.

Despite the summary, there is very little professional wrestling on screen; but what there is will teach you a lot.

Gene Tierney, a true superstar of the 1950's, does not have much screen time in this one; but what she's got is most welcome.

Hollywood in 2007 would have no ability to make a movie like this one. What we get now is a silly bloodbath from the Coen Brothers --- posing as excellence. Thank God for the oldies.
28 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Cut my throat for a thousand quids"
chaos-rampant13 May 2008
Jules Dassin bid American cinema adieu with Night and the City after he was blacklisted by the dreaded HUAC committee and what an adieu that was. A hard-boiled film noir taking place in seedy, morally bankrupt London that deserves a place in the noir pantheon along such gems as The Third Man and Double Indemnity.

Night and the City chronicles the life and ambitions of small-time hustler Harry Fabian (played perfectly by Richard Widmark), a man full of plans for breaking big and delusions of grandeur, much to the amusement of his boss and the dismay of his girl-friend. Dassin takes us through the fascinating underworld of London, as Fabian tries to score big in the wrestling ring using his competitor's father to make a name and money for himself. Through a series of encounters and lots of scheming, he will find himself in a very strange position. Like an obese cabaret owner comments, he has it all but he's a dead man.

It's near impossible to find flaws with this movie. From the inspired script to the very tight plotting with never a dull moment, to the grim black and white cinematography that uses London's dreary streets as another character that comments on the action and mood, Night and the City is a truly fascinating glimpse in a kind of cinema long gone. A classic film noir gem that excels in both what it presents to the viewer and what it leaves to the imagination. The approaching steps of someone echoing off screen as we watch Fabian's increasing distress (only to discover it's his girl-friend, played by the gorgeous Gene Tierney). The cat and mouse game as Fabian with a reward on his head is being chased by every hoodlum and beggar in London that recalls Fritz Lang's noir godfather M (1931).

Apart from technical proficiency and a maddening atmosphere, Night and the City really succeeds in portraying one of the best and most memorable character ensembles in the film noir universe. Everyone is out for themselves, ready to backstab and use each other on the drop of a hat. Yet we know they're doomed from the start. There's no way out for them, caught as they are in a neverending web of betrayal, false hopes and despair. What might appear moralistic (ie the backstabbers get their just deserts in the end) is anything but, since everything is done with delicate irony in the mold of ancient Greek tragedy. There's no deus ex machina but there's plenty of nemesis divina. The gods are laughing at the tragic fate of our heroes and like a Japanese proverb goes, "the gods only laugh when men pray to them for wealth"...

The American moral guardians of the time might have cost American cinema a visionary of Dassin's calibre, but we were lucky enough that he found a new home overseas. Night and the City carries all the bittersweet nature of his adios and remains a near flawless movie.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Night & Richard Widmark & The City
seveb-2517923 September 2018
Classic young Richard Widmark, in his element in a surreal noir populated with visually grotesque characters of the kind Luc Besson or the Coen brothers would love. Richard Widmark showcases his special ability to create a character who can be both repellent and yet likeable, reprehensible and yet sympathetic. Visually compelling, London has rarely looked so alive, by turns alluring and creepy. I usually prefer films not to go so far over the top, but this is the exception to the rule.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed