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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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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.

Director:

Charles Laughton

Writers:

James Agee (screenplay by), Davis Grubb (based on the novel by)
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4,531 ( 372)
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Mitchum ... Harry Powell
Shelley Winters ... Willa Harper
Lillian Gish ... Rachel Cooper
James Gleason ... Uncle 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)
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Storyline

It's the Great Depression. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his adolescent son John and his daughter Pearl not to tell anyone, including their mother Willa, 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, swindling lonely women, primarily rich widows, of their money before he kills them. Harry does whatever he can, unsuccessfully, to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben. After Ben's execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry's outward ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | preacher | child | money | doll | See All (328) »

Taglines:

The scenes...the story...The stars BUT ABOVE ALL - THE SUSPENSE! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night of the Hunter See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$795,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$654,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

(at around 39 mins) When Willa Harper is lying in bed talking to Harry her mouth movements are out of sync with the dialogue. See more »

Quotes

Ben Harper: I got tired of seein' children roamin' the woodlands without food, children roamin' the highways in this here Depression, children sleepin' in old abandoned car bodies in junk heaps. And I promised myself that I'd never see the day when my young-uns had want.
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Connections

Referenced in The Devil's Rejects (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

The Lullabye
(accompanying the barn-scene)
"The Lullaby" (1955) (uncredited)
Music by Walter Schumann
Lyrics by Davis Grubb
Sung by Kitty White
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Very atmospheric thriller
17 November 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Just before John Harper's father is captured by police, he tells his son where he has hidden the money. While in prison for his crime, he sleep talks and betrays himself to the religiously unhinged Rev Harry Powell. Powell leaves jail with Harper dead in his cell and sets out to infiltrate the family and get the money. However, when he kills John's mother, he and his sister go on the run from him.

One of these `hindsight is 20/20' films that gains a reputation with time, this film deserves the praise in gets in many areas and deserve to be very fondly remembered, or at least a lot more fondly than it was received by critics and audiences of the time. The plot is basic but full of religious imagery that works very well, whether it's Powell's twisted preacher or the runs of scripture that many of the characters cling to. The film presents itself with a very strong tone of foreboding and darkness that makes the material (and characters) feel more dangerous.

Most of the credit for this belongs with Laughton as director, who uses shadow really well and frames the film with clever shots. Some that come to mind is the shadow of Powell on his horse on the horizon, or the woman in the car underwater and so on. It stills feels clever and inventive now so it must have been seen as very different in the fifties. How he didn't win an Oscar, I'm not sure – wonder what else was up in this year.

Mitchum is tremendous in the title role, his role is larger than life and was also slightly playing with fire in it's portrayal as a reverend as corrupt or evil. Chapin is really wonderful as young John and has a much better character than some of the others in the cast. Winters is good in her performance. The only downside of the film is the 10 minutes at the end which feel like they are a happy ending that has just been tacked on and doesn't fit with the tone of the film.

Other than that, this is a very strong film in terms of theme, plot, acting and cinematography. It deserves more than it got at the time and I'm glad that modern audiences are finding this film all the time.


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