Fritz Lang, who brought us so many marvelous films in the '30s and '40s - Metropolis, M, Fury, Woman in the Window, Scarlett Street etc., by the 1950s was in a decline. With the problems that the studios were having coping with television and the breakup of their monopoly of theaters, no one really wanted to deal with the difficult Lang. Therefore, he was relegated to B movies, some of which, like "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" are quite impressive.
1956's "While the City Sleeps" is a little less impressive but still highly entertaining. It stars some actors who had either seen better days in film or hadn't moved up the ladder much - Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Sally Forrest, James Craig, and John Drew Barrymore. It's a '40s cast, and the film, set in New York City, has a '40s feel to it.
Andrews plays a Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Ed Mobley, an Ed Murrow type, who does a television commentary. With the death of the big boss of the media conglomerate - which includes a newspaper, television news, and a wire service - his waste of a son, Walter Kyne, (Price) takes over the company. He sets up a competition among the three heavy-hitters in the company - the newspaper editor John Day Griffith (Mitchell), the head of the wire service, Mark Loving (Sanders) and a news photographer Harry Kritzer (Craig). The first one who solves the "Lipstick Killer" murders wins the job as director of the company.
The black and white cinematography gives "While the City Sleeps" a great atmosphere, and some of the characters are a real hoot, including Lupino, who plays Mildred, a columnist for the paper, and Rhonda Fleming as Kyne's gorgeous wife who is having an affair with one of the contenders, Kritzer. Everyone drinks like a fish at a nearby bar, Mobley gets into trouble with his fiancé Nancy (Forrest) for kissing Mildred in a cab, and Kyne's wife is discovered in flagrante delicto due to a bizarre set of circumstances. Meanwhile, Griffith and Loving fight to be first and can't figure out why Kritzer doesn't seem to be trying very hard. Well, he is, just not at the paper. Nancy is set up (with her permission) as a target for the Lipstick Killer, who uses his delivery job to unlock apartment doors by pushing in the button, and then returns and kills his single female victim.
Though a little slow at times, "While the City Sleeps" is more of a newspaper story than a mystery, so there isn't a lot of suspense or excitement to be had. It's just good, old-fashioned entertainment. Recommended for a very good cast and decent story.
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