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Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Striking 50's Club Scene


 This Could Be The Night (1957)  Pleases In B/W Scope


A picture that J.J. Hensecker would have enjoyed if J.J. Hunsecker had been a real person, and perhaps a last to depict New York on Damon Runyan terms. MGM even arranged to have Earl Wilson host a trailer, him a columnist who would certainly have frequented spots like where action happens here. He appears on-camera with chanteuse Julie Wilson and mentions that he hasn't seen her around town lately because she's been in Hollywood making this movie, such insider talk maybe a turn-off to rurals otherwise disposed to go see This Could Be The Night. It would probably have lost money anyway, this being 1957 when most of what MGM released lost money. For director Robert Wise, Night came between hit that was Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Until They Sail, a feature trio to argue Wise's reliability for polished product. Wise could take good material and reliably make it very good, like story-and-tempo minded filmmakers Jacques Tourneur, Rudolph Maté, others who await proper recognition. This Could Be The Night has prim schoolteacher Jean Simmons (hers the school also used in Blackboard Jungle) moonlighting as secretary for tough but tender nightclub owner Paul Douglas, he and partner Anthony Franciosa taking it upon selves to protect her from unsavory nightlife and types (including themselves). Idea of Simmons as a "greenhorn" (read virgin) is much emphasized, in that sense a reprise of The Moon Is Blue, but Simmons was by now twenty-eight, so notion of her as inexperienced is hard swallow indeed.






Past that, however, is sometimes bright comedy and music/dance of a sort we'd figure for uptown cabarets in final days of thrive. Trailer-bait Julie Wilson isn't remembered much, at least by me, but was a Manhattan rage and thrush with Ray Anthony's orchestra, latter also appearing in This Could Be The Night as himself. Dancing Neile Adams came close to Broadway brass rings, does striking numbers here, but chucked it to marry Steve McQueen, endure quietly his stardom and infidelities, her second career a memoir of their life together and non-stop reminiscence of McQueen for documentary profiles. Nibbling round edges is Joan Blondell, her character a long-ago headliner, whose apartment with daughter Adams is splayed with stills of Blondell at Warner Bros. peak. Of veterans aboard, ZaSu Pitts is in/out as concerned landlady for Simmons. Maltin Reviews called This Could Be The Night "forced ... frantic" --- opening up of intended B&W-Cinemascope relieves at least some of that, but there is lots of shouting and running about, a hazard when characters are drawn along Runyonesque lines. This Could Be The Night is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

3 Comments:

Blogger radiotelefonia said...

This title played quite a lot on TNT Latin America before it disposed all of the MGM, Warner, and RKO titles. At first, it was shown in English with Spanish subtitles for a while before they switched to a dubbed version (people with television sets with a SAP feature were still able to listen to the original soundtrack instead). The presentation was always a pan and scanned version.

I can easily understand why this title lost money since the whole story is basically unremarkable despite a terrific cast. I can never forget Joan Blondell constantly stating "this could be the night" from the beginning to the end of the film, and that is what I mostly remembered about this movie until you wrote about the proceedings.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Matthew Clark said...

Don't sell Neile Adams short, she managed Steve McQueen's career over the next decade or so.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love Julie Wilson's casual sexiness in this film. She was sort of a big deal in nightclubs in the 1950s. She put out a few albums including "Live at the St. Regis," which is a great document of a real 50s nightclub act, and demonstrates that her "gimmick" was that she was both sexy and self-deprecatingly funny. She retired to Omaha for a couple of decades to raise a family but made a major comeback in the 1980s, and become something of the reigning diva of NYC cabaret (albeit with a much-reduced voice that is for some an acquired taste, which can be heard on her 80s albums of Kurt Weill, Sondheim, etc. as well as, of course, YouTube.)

1:13 PM  

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