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This Could Be The Night
Directed by:
Robert Wise
Cast: Jean Simmons, Paul Douglas, Anthony Franciosa, Julie Wilson, Neile Adams

Written by:
Ricardo Barberini

October 26, 2007

This reviewer has seen thousand of movies and every now and then comes across a little gem that has been ignored by previous generations of critics.

This Could Be the Night was on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable channel recently and we are glad that we had the opportunity to watch it.

This delightful movie was directed by Robert Wise, one of the greatest of Hollywood directors.  It would take too much space here to list most of his movies but he directed movies such as The West Side Story, I Want to Live and The Sound of Music.   Robert Wise, unlike Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, John Houston or John Ford was not an extrovert and did not engage in much self promotion, in the same way that they did.   This statement is not meant to belittle those talented men.  They just enjoyed the fame.

The movie is a comedy musical drama which happens in a different time on what seems to be a different planet; New York of the 1950’s.  In that golden decade, the Vietnam War, the race riots, the peace marches and the flower people that forever changed the fabric of the society were still to come.  Americans still had some of their naiveté and sense of values that had made this country so great.  People had their stations.  The entertainers existed in a world of their own and yet they associated with the gentry on a superficial level through the medium of nightclubs and their talents or the ability to provide amusement to the richer moneyed people through other means.  What makes the story so appealing is that it is based on period stories written by Cordelia Baird Gross who had a knack for capturing the essence of her time. 

Jean Simmons plays Anne Leeds, a virginal English language graduate, from Massachusetts who is a teacher in an elementary school in Manhattan.  To make ends meet, she takes a second job as the secretary to a former bootlegger, Rocco, played admirably by Paul Douglas.  Rocco is now the happy owner of a fashionable nightclub.  He has a junior partner, Tony Armotti, played by Tony Franciosa in his first movie role, who is the muscle behind the enterprise. 

The nightclub has other zany characters.  There is the chef, Leon, played by veteran actor J. Carrol Naish.  Then there is Crystal St. Clair (Joan Blondell) an ex stripper who has enticed her reluctant daughter Patsy to become a stripper.  To keep tabs on her young daughter and keep her from being seduced, she has taken the role of her constant chaperone.  Patsy, on the other hand, has a craving to be a cook but does not want to go against her mother’s desires.  Those were the days when even grown up children listened to their parents! The lead singer is the sex bombshell Ivy Corlane (Julie Wilson.)    Then there are the piano player, the head waiter and the band leader Ray Anthony and a drunken gossip columnist.  Finally, there is a young immigrant busboy, Hussein Muhammed, who is beaten up by other neighborhood kids because of his name. This cast of somewhat offbeat characters collectively falls in love with this completely naive girl who is so vibrantly fresh and innocent.    The mix is quite delightful and Robert Wise’ choice of Cinemascope and black and white photography makes the magic work. 

Anne and Tony initially hate each other and Anne even quits the business once but is enticed back to work by Paul Douglas who has a crush on her.   Eventually, Anne and Tony fall in love and it is the prudish Anne who is willing to surrender herself to Tony. Tony, who is a one night stand guy and does not want to commit himself, rejects her even though he is very fond of her.

As we said earlier this is a musical drama with some elements of comedy.  The hauntingly pleasant melody by Nicholas Brodszky is named after the movie and is difficult to forget easily.  The ending was crafted perfectly.  As we were watching the movie, we suddenly said out aloud “this is where he should cut it.” And, sure enough, the director did just that.  It was not a sad ending nor was it a happy ending.  It was just a perfect ending. 

The movie was so awe-inspiringly great that one could wish that it was true and one could be transported across the great time barrier to join the wacky denizens of that nightclub. 

Other than the great direction by Robert Wise, we would like to pay tribute to all the other actors who are, sad to say, almost all dead.  But, they left their work behind for us to enjoy.

The unfortunate thing is that you may not be able to find this delightful movie in your local video store.  But, if you persist you could get a copy and cherish it as a keepsake.

We give this movie starstarstar1/2

List of some the great movies directed by Robert Wise.  Notice the extent of his talent ranging from musical to science fiction to drama to war.  No other director could match his breadth.  He even directed horror movies such the Haunting and the Curse of the Cat People.  Quite a genius!

The Sound of Music
I Want to Live!
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Run Silent, Run Deep
Two for the Seesaw
West Side Story
Executive Suite
The Sand Pebbles
Blood on the Moon
Andromeda Strain

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