Night and the City

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For the remake starring Robert De Niro, see Night and the City (1992 film).
Night and the City
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jules Dassin
Produced by Samuel G. Engel
Screenplay by Jo Eisinger
Based on The novel Night and the City 
by Gerald Kersh
Starring Richard Widmark
Gene Tierney
Googie Withers
Herbert Lom
Music by Franz Waxman
(United States)
Benjamin Frankel
(United Kingdom)
Cinematography Max Greene
Edited by Nick DeMaggio
Sidney Stone
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s)
  • April 1950 (1950-04) (United Kingdom)
Running time 101 minutes (UK)
96 minutes (USA)
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Night and the City is a 1950 British film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney and Googie Withers. It is based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Kersh. Shot on location in London, the plot revolves around an ambitious hustler whose plans keep going wrong.

Director Dassin later confessed that he never read the novel the movie is based upon. In an interview appearing on The Criterion Collection DVD release, Dassin recalls that the casting of Tierney was in response to a request by Darryl Zanuck, who was concerned that personal problems had rendered the actress "suicidal," and hoped that work would improve her state of mind. The film's British version was five minutes longer, with a more upbeat ending and featuring a completely different film score. Dassin has endorsed the American version as closer to his vision.[1]

The film is notable for a depiction of a very tough and prolonged wrestling bout between Stanislaus Zbyszko, a celebrated professional wrestler in real life, and Mike Mazurki, who before becoming an actor was himself a professional wrestler.

Plot summary[edit]

The story tells of Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark), a two-bit hustler who dreams of the good life provided by money. He's tried a lot of go-nowhere schemes but he has what he believes is a chance of a lifetime. He plans to take control of the professional wrestling game from promoter and underworld boss Kristo (Herbert Lom) by manipulating him through his father, the retired wrestling superstar Gregorius (Stanislaus Zbyszko).


Critical reaction[edit]

The film has been noted as ground breaking in its lack of sympathetic characters, the deadly punishment of its protagonist (in the American version), and especially in its realistic portrayal of triumph by racketeers neither slowed nor at all worried by the machinations of law. Critics of the time did not react well; typical was Bosley Crowther's review in The New York Times, which read in part,

[Dassin's] evident talent has been spent upon a pointless, trashy yarn, and the best that he has accomplished is a turgid pictorial grotesque...he tried to bluff it with a very poor script—and failed...[the screenplay] is without any real dramatic virtue, reason or valid story-line...little more than a melange of maggoty episodes having to do with the devious endeavors of a cheap London night-club tout to corner the wrestling racket—an ambition in which he fails. And there is only one character in it for whom a decent, respectable person can give a hoot.[2]

The film was first re-evaluated in the 1960s, as film noir became a celebrated genre, and it has continued to receive laudatory reviews to date. Writing for Slant Magazine, Nick Schager said,

Jules Dassin's 1950 masterpiece was his first movie after being exiled from America for alleged communist politics, and the unpleasant ordeal seems to have infused his work with a newfound resentment and pessimism, as the film—about foolhardy scam-artist Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) and his ill-advised attempts to become a big shot—brims with anger, anxiousness, and a shocking dose of unadulterated hatred.[3]

In The Village Voice, film critic Michael Atkinson wrote, "...the movie's a moody piece of Wellesian chiaroscuro (shot by Max Greene, né Mutz Greenbaum) and an occasionally discomfiting underworld plunge, particularly when the mob-controlled wrestling milieu explodes into a kidney-punching donnybrook."[4]

In Street with No Name: A History of the Classic American Film Noir film critic Andrew Dickos acclaims it as one of the seminal noirs of the classical period. noting, "... in a perfect fusion of mood and character, Dassin created a work of emotional power and existential drama that stands as a paradigm of noir pathos and despair."

DVD release[edit]

The film was released in DVD Region 1 in February 2005 as part of The Criterion Collection and in Region 2 by the BFI in October 2007.



  1. ^ Night and the City at The Criterion Collection.
  2. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, June 10, 1950. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.
  3. ^ Schager, Nick. Slant Magazine, DVD review of the film, February 16, 2005. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.
  4. ^ Atkinson, Michael. The Village Voice, film review, March 25, 2003. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.


  • Harry Tomicek: Der Wahnsinnsläufer. Night and The City. von Jules Dassin, Kamera: Max Greene (1950). In: Christian Cargnelli, Michael Omasta (eds.): Schatten. Exil. Europäische Emigranten im Film Noir. PVS, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-901196-26-9.

External links[edit]