Another day of noir, another fateful tragedy. Night and the City is a film that wasn’t on my radar at all before making the list for this month, which is exactly why I love doing things like this. Featured in the Criterion Collection, it is an American film, but shot on location in London. It seems pretty common to erroneously call this a British film. It’s a 20th Century Fox film with American stars and an American director. However, the internets are full of people listing it as great British noir. There actually is a British version which is five-minutes longer, features an entirely different score, and apparently had a happier ending, but Dassin said the American version is closer to what he actually had in mind.
As seems to be the case with many of these films, there is an interesting story behind the camera as well. In the case of The Night and the City, director Jules Dassin was blacklisted during production, and wasn’t allowed on set for editing or to oversee the score.
The film itself is the story of a man too desperate to make a name for himself and live “a life of ease and plenty” for his own good. He’s cocky and delusional enough that he never seems to realize how pathetically over his head he gets himself until events are screaming out of control.
Starring noir mainstays Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney (neither of whom have made their final appearance this month), the film transcended any of my expectations. It was wonderful, aside from featuring the worst lip-synched song performance in the history of the universe. Maybe that had something to do with Dassin not being allowed on set for that audio work. The cinematography was my favorite of any of the films so far (although there were several impressive shots in Hitchcock’s Notorious to be sure). You could watch this film on mute and still get your money’s worth, especially during the final 30 minutes.
Three days in, and so far noir month is even better than I’d hoped.