Night and the City (1950)

Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery
Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe
A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter.
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  • 01 Apr 1950 Released:
  • 01 Feb 2005 DVD Release:
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  • Jo Eisinger (screenplay), Gerald Kersh (novel) Writer:
  • Jules Dassin Director:
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like a rat in a trap of his own creation5/10

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.
Widmark Tops Out10/10
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.
Noir masterpiece5/10

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"...it 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.
Deserving of MUCH more acknowledgment, one of the best Noir films.9/10
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.
Odd Man Out5/10

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.