Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Douglas in a tense moment
CLASH BY NIGHT (1952). Director: Fritz Lang. Based on the play by Clifford Odets; screenplay by Alfred Hayes.

"Home is where you come when you run out of places."

"I'm tired of looking after men. I want to be looked after!"

"I guess it's terrible to get old and lonely. I guess that's what everyone's afraid of."

"You impress me as a man who needs a new suit of clothes or a new love affair, but he doesn't know which." 

Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) returns to the fishing village where she was born to escape unhappy memories of her failure to find lasting love and success in New York. She begins dating fisherman Jerry D'Amato (Paul Douglas) but can't stand his insolent friend Earl (Robert Ryan) and at first fights her attraction to him. Mae eventually marries one of those men, and an unpleasant triangle situation develops. The basic plot may be nothing new, but this is based on a play by Clifford Odets and has a richness of character and detail that lifts it far above the usual marital infidelity drama. Stanwyck and Douglas are superb and Ryan gives one of his finest performances which calls on him to be both hard and pathetically vulnerable. J. Carroll Naish gives another of his exemplary performances as Jerry's uncle, and Silvio Minciotti also scores as his old papa. There's also very nice work from Keith Andes [introduced in the film] and Marilyn Monroe [in her pre-stardom days] as, respectively, Mae's somewhat disapproving brother and his rather independent girlfriend. The film is very well directed by Fritz Lang, and beautifully photographed by Nicholas Musuraca. The only negative thing about the movie is the phoney Hollywood happy ending forced on it by the production code.

Verdict: It's a shame this lovely, intense adult drama isn't better known. ***1/2.

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