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  • Borrowed as the title of Nicholas Christopher's study of film noir and the American city, Somewhere In The Night remains a movie less familiar than Laura or The Big Sleep or Out of the Past. But it's almost in their class – an atmospheric and at times archetypal noir, the first directorial effort of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the first major post-war feature to use the device of amnesia-as-metaphor: How vets survived global cataclysm only to have to construct new lives in a homeland that had, in their absence, turned into alien territory.

    Drifting up out of coma in a military hospital, John Hodiak can't figure out why everybody calls him George Taylor. Only two letters offer clues to who he is, one from a vindictive girl he ditched, the other apparently from an old pal, Larry Cravat. Without much to go on, he heads to Los Angeles to track down Cravat and thus himself. But as he skulks though the city's dark demimonde (Turkish baths, mobbed-up nightclubs, phony spiritualist parlors, insane asylums), he's quick to learn that other people don't want Cravat found. Yet he finds allies in club canary Nancy Guild, her boss Richard Conte, and police detective Lloyd Nolan. He also finds that the reason for all the violence unleashed against and around him is $2-million in Nazi money (which disappeared in 1942, the year he joined the Marines). Cravat proves both elusive and uncomfortably close....

    Somewhere In The Night boasts a strong cast in supporting (Conte, Nolan, Fritz Kortner) and even tertiary roles (Sheldon Leonard, Whit Bissell, Henry Morgan, with special mention to Josephine Hutchinson, who plays a poignant largo midway though the movie). Where it offers scant measure is in its principals. 20th-Century Fox was grooming Guild as its answer to Warners' sultry sensation Lauren Bacall, failing to grasp that Guild's appeal was less romantic than matey – the gal pal (like a couple of other Nancys from that era, Olson and Davis).

    Hodiak's more problematic. He enjoyed a few years in the Hollywood limelight (Lifeboat, Marriage Is A Private Affair, Desert Fury, Command Decision) before his untimely death in 1955. But he never brought the illumination – the star quality – to his work that would elevate it from the competent to the classic. So he stays generic through his picaresque ordeals, without the specific anguish that distinguished, for example, John Payne or even Gordon MacRae and Edmond O'Brien as they underwent theirs (in, respectively, The Crooked Way, Backfire and D.O.A.).

    Mankiewicz' first go as director comes as a surprise. Most vividly remembered as writer/director of A Letter To Three Wives and the immortal All About Eve (movies whose sparkling scripts camouflaged their lack of visual interest), he generates a menacing look in his nightscapes for the City of Angels, camping out in Bunker Hill walk-ups and on Skid Row. The storyline's almost as complicated as The Big Sleep's, and as murky, but then clockwork plots never sat well in film noir – the universe it dwells in stays random, volatile, unfathomable.
  • The trademark of any Joseph L. Mankiewicz film is screenplay. It is often sharp and crackling as in his award winning "A Letter To Three Wives" and "All About Eve". In this Mankiewicz's second directoral effort the seeds of his future successes are sown.

    John Hodiak plays a wounded marine who wakes up in a hospital not knowing who he is, but finding among his possessions 2 letters, one from a woman telling him what a cad he is and another from a friend of his that will lead him down a path lined with several murders, 2 million dollars and a couple of good looking women.

    While "Somewhere In The Night" sounds like any one of the many detective thrillers of the 40s, it is lifted from the routine is the script which has a distinct Mankiewicz ring to it

    His touch is evident in several places, including meetings with a seedy fortune teller, superbly played by Fritz Kortner, an atypical cop played by Lloyd Nolan who doesn't understand why "movie cops" always "have their hats on", and a spinster played by Josephine Hutchinson who gives Hodiak a hope when she says she recognizes him.

    You may or may not figure out the plot. It matters not. The film is an enjoyable one.
  • Somewhere in the Night is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who also co- adapts the screenplay with Howard Dimsdale from a story by Marvin Browsky. It stars John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Josephine Hutchinson and Fritz Kortner. Music is by David Buttolph and cinematography by Norbert Brodine.

    George Taylor (Hodiak) returns from the war suffering from amnesia and trying to track down his identity by following a trail started by a mysterious man named Larry Cravat. Pretty soon George finds himself thrust into a murder mystery where nothing is ever as it seems.

    The amnesia sufferer is not in short supply in film noir, neither is the returning from the war veteran, but Somewhere in the Night may just be one of the most under appreciated to use these central themes. Amongst film noir writers it has a very mixed reputation, yet the trajectory it follows is quintessential film noir stuff.

    George Taylor (Hodiak assured and rightly playing it as low-key confusion) is very much at the mercy of others, thus he finds himself wandering blindly into a labyrinthine murder mystery. His journey will see him get a beating (no matter he is one tough boy), pulled from one suspicious location to the next and introduce him to dames, a stoic copper, a shifty fortune teller and a "too good to be true?" club owner. The screenplay is deliberately convoluted, making paying attention essential, and the script blends tongue in cheek nonchalance with spicy oral stings.

    The locations Taylor visits are suitably atmospheric, even macabre at times, which allows Mankiewicz and Brodine (Boomerang/Kiss of Death) to open up some noir visuals. Dr. Oracles's Crystal Ball parlour really kicks things off, fronted by Anzelmo (Kortner deliciously shady), it's a room adorned by face masks on the walls and lit eerily by the glow of a crystal ball. Then there's Lambeth Sanitorium, with low-lighted corridors, many doors that hide mentally troubled patients and the shadow inducing stairs. And finally the docks, with dark corners down by the lapping silver water, a solitary bar at the front, smoky and barely rising above dive status. These all form atmospheric backdrops to enhance the suspicion and confusion of the protagonist.

    Nancy Guild (apparently pronounced as Guyled) didn't have much of a career, and much of the criticism for the acting in the film landed at her door, but unfairly so. It's true that she's more friendly side-kick than sultry femme fatale, but she has a good delivery style that compliments the doubling up with Hodiak. She's pretty as well, a sort of Bacall/Tierney cross that's most appealing. Elsewhere Conte and Nolan offer up the expected enjoyable noirish performances while a host of noir icons flit in and out of the story, making it fun to see who will pop up next? There is undeniably daft coincidences and credulity stretching moments within the plotting, and in true Mankiewicz style the film is often very talky, but it's never dull and quite often surprising, even having a trick up its sleeve in the finale. Great stuff. 8/10
  • Mankiewicz could really turn out good product and this neglected film is absolutely worth a look! An unusual hybrid of THE MALTESE FALCON and TOTAL RECALL, SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT was ahead of its time and has aged better than most amnesiac fare. One could argue that TOTAL RECALL owes quite a debt to this movie regarding its twist bad guy identity revelation. There's some excellent dialogue and once you overlook some whopper implausibilities, the plot works well, as does the oddball cast of supporting characters, including the opportunist police lieutenant and the rogues gallery of ne'er do wells hoping to cash in on the amnesiac's memories. The movie doesn't hold up to close scrutiny (how did the money hanging under a pier not rot from three years' worth of salt water for one) but it is highly entertaining and noir fans should definitely take a look. Hodiak, Nolan and Conte are all solid in their respective roles. Enjoy!
  • This is one of my favorite mystery movies. Not only does "Somewhere in the Night" have a great supporting cast, but John Hodiak's performance as one suffering from amnesia has you with him every step of the way on his search for his true identity, missing money, and the reason he is being pursued by others. This plot has so many twists and turns you will not be bored!

    Look for an uncanny resemblance between John Hodiak and a very young Martin Landau of "Mission Impossible" fame.

    I saw this movie four times and rate it SUPERB!
  • During the World War II, a soldier is hit by a grenade that deforms his face and leaves him with amnesia. Sometime later, he is recovered and learns that his name is George Taylor (John Hodiak) and he is discharged from the army. He finds a letter written by a man called Larry Cravat that would be his pal and he goes to Los Angeles to seek out Larry Cravat to find his identity. He goes to a bank, a hotel, a Turkish bath and a night-club following leads. He is beaten up by Hubert, the henchman of Anzelmo (Fritz Kortner) that dumps him at the front door of the singer Christy Smith (Nancy Guild) that works in a night-club. George tells his story to her and Christy decides to help him. She calls her boss and friend Mel Phillips (Richard Conte) that schedules a lunch with his friend Police Lt. Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan) and Christy. They learn that Larry Cravat was a private investigator that somehow received US$ 2 million three years ago from Germany from a Nazi that was immediately deceased. Then George receives a tip to go to the Terminal Dock where he meets Anzelmo that explains that Larry Cravat is wanted by the police for the murder of a man at the dock to keep the money. Larry has disappeared and Anzelmo believes George Taylor is the man that was with him and probably the killer. George further investigation finds that a man named Conroy was a witness of the crime, but he was hit and run by a truck and is interned at the Lambeth Sanatorium. When George meets Conroy, he realizes that the man was stabbed but he tells where he hid the suitcase with the money before dying. Now George is close to solve the mystery.

    "Somewhere in the Night" is an intriguing film-noir with a mystery about who is and where is a man called Larry Cravat. The direction of Joseph L. Mankiewicz is tight as usual and the plot has many twists and the story is disclosed in pieces like a puzzle. The gorgeous Nancy Guild performs the role of an independent woman ahead of time. Alan Parker was probably inspired in George Taylor to develop the character Harry Angel in the 1987 "Angel Heart". My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): "Uma Aventura na Noite" ("One Adventure in the Night")

    Note: On 29 July 2018 I saw this film again.
  • John Hodiak is a war vet with amnesia who searches for his identity and possible complicity in a crime in "Somewhere in the Night," a 1946 film also starring Nancy Guild, Richard Conte, and Lloyd Nolan. The film is directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and he also co-wrote the screenplay with Howard Dimsdale.

    Severely wounded in the war, Hodiak's character, George Taylor, has had to have facial reconstruction. His recovery is slow, and he can't remember anything. He has a partial letter on his person telling him that he's despicable, and when he picks up his belongings, he finds a letter from one Larry Cravat. Investigating Cravat leads him to murder, stolen money, and some unsavory characters who are after him.

    This is a muddled movie that still manages to be absorbing, probably because of the talent behind and in front of the camera. Nancy Guild plays a singer in a club owned by Richard Conte. She becomes interested in Taylor and tries to help him. Guild is attractive and looks like a noir heroine in the Bacall-Raines genre, but she delivers her lines in a very flat manner. Lloyd Nolan as a police detective is terrific as always, and Conte gives a smooth performance.

    You have to pay attention to "Somewhere in the Night" or you'll get lost - sort of like the hero does at points in the movie. Still, it's worth seeing.
  • Mankiewicz does it again. With a small cast of generally B actors, he makes a nifty film-noir. John Hodiak has his best role, IMHO, and the mostly night-time settings have a great look. Strange to see Fritz Kortner, from the Louise Brooks "Pandora's Box", as a slimy fortune-teller.
  • Hodiak is a WWII Marine vet, suffering amnesia and searching for his true identity. He returns to Los Angeles and becomes involved in two million dollars of missing Nazi loot. Look for many familiar faces in small supporting roles. While watching this one, I kept thinking what a great vehicle it would have been for John Ireland...then I checked the IMDB and found that Ireland did the voice-over narration.......Freudian???
  • Somewhere in the Night (1948)

    This has all the gloomy, alienating, nighttime elements of the best film noirs, and it's smack in the central Post War best of it. It even has a director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, known for handling dramatic, emotional situations with both delicacy and power. And it all pays off. Somewhere in the Night follows a man just out of the army suffering amnesia, and he encounters a sordid past of crime he didn't know he had anything to do with.

    The dilemma of American soldiers coming home changed men, and to a home country so changed it was like a foreign country, is the crux of most noir films, and this one plays into it straighter than most. The twist of true amnesia only makes the crisis of George Taylor more stark. The role is played with subtlety, and some stiffness, by John Hodiak, I think because he is meant to be eternally confused by events (since he remembers nothing) and yet can't show his confusion, so he draws up a blank face. Mankiewicz works this inner problem out on the screen well, though choosing to keep the camera at a distance, as if filming a play sometimes, not a recommended film noir method for style, but it does emphasize the psychology more discretely.

    The camera-work is stiff, too, as if constrained as much as Taylor is in his amnesia. You won't see many sharp angles up or down, no tilted (dutch angle) frames, little moving camera, and little of the easiest of 1940s camera effects, extreme close ups. All of this makes for a dry look, and for my money, with a plot this sensational, a dull one. This cinematography, by Norbert Brodine sets the tone for the whole movie, and I assume it is at Mankiewicz's request, and it just doesn't compare well to other noirs, to Orson Welles, or to any number of Warner gangster films with similar shadowy subjects. Maybe the most extreme example of this is the long dialog over the crystal ball, where the camera just sits and watches.

    The lighting and the sets, in general, are dynamic, however, and the acting generally solid. And it has all the hallmarks (not quite clichés) of the genre--thugs at the bar, a nightclub singer with a big heart, a good guy who turns out to be a bad guy, and a cop who is clever and peripheral, like a sentry always ready. The movie is, truly, interesting, and doesn't let up as you have to figure out the puzzle of who did what and why. It won't sweep you off your feet or blow you away, but it will be worth settling quietly into.
  • I'm a bit disappointed that I don't find myself liking this more than I do. See, it has one of those dreamy film noir openings, a man emerges from the war unable to remember who he is. Bandaged up in a hospital bed in Hawaii, it's still the Pacific Theater with the war in its closing days, he discovers a letter in his wallet but instead of kind words from a loved one anxiously awaiting for him to come back, it tells him he's loathed and despised. Deciding he doesn't want to find out who he was in that past life, he checks out of hospital without a word.

    It's the stuff noir heaven is made of, the notion of a previous life and being karmically reborn into a next one, night in the big city rife with hidden knowledge, demanding we investigate. Coming back to a Los Angeles hotel that was his last known residence before the war, he discovers a satchel he had checked in, and lo, there's a note inside, and one that tells him he was paid a hefty amount of money.

    At so many points sparks threaten to fly, evocative places are visited in the middle of the night, portentous characters are looking for him around town. He's beaten up, nearly run over, framed for murder. In the docks he meets with a wily narrator - a pretend spiritualist - who openly tells him he should not trust a word he says. There is another house where a spinster daughter makes as if she knows him but does she? A visit in a sanatorium reveals someone else who is locked up, unable to remember.

    So much ought to have been just right here, making this worthy of other entries in my list of top noirs, and yet the best quality of films like Crossfire or Out of the Past is that they are able to ski on the edges of semiconscious knowledge, of self unexpectedly slipping into a world he gives rise to. Here we have a self-conscious filmmaker in control, who, it gradually becomes apparent, is trying to construct that noir sense. Instead of spontaneously slipping out through back roads, we're taken places that someone has just finished renovating for us.

    It's the difference between detective fiction of the Sherlock Holmes kind and film noir where a narrator is not fully in control. So of course it all ends with the bad guy finally unmasking himself and making a big fuss of explaining things to us. Of course it's timed just right for the cop to make the arrest.

    It's all a bit cleverly here, self-conscious, and you'll see it in the self-referential nod to movies. The same filmmaker would go on to do All About Eve.

    The more tantalizing notion in all this for me is that the note professing such hatred for him really was from a loved one he stood up one day, or was it a last letter that he wrote and was planning to send but never got around to?
  • A soldier, all bandaged up, wakes up in an army hospital in the war and remembers nothing. All he can do is to soliloquize. His wallet has been miraculously saved from the grenade devastation that all but killed him, which contains a weird letter from someone condemning him with all her hate. That's the only cue he has to his life and identity.

    It's a difficult beginning to start with, but the soldier is returned to life and to Los Angeles, where he starts digging for his past, groping his way in the total darkness of a mystery that only grows worse for each new clue that turns up. A singing lady takes care of him and bandages him up when he gets beaten up by hoodlums for no known reason, and there are more and more people like that, trying to get what he knows and the more eagerly so for the fact that he knows nothing.

    All amnesia films are usually extremely interesting and good, "Random Harvest" is the best example of all, but here the hero has no great past and has never been in any position but is just a common man who had the misfortune to get mixed up with accidents and intrigues beyond his control. At first you feel disappointed with the film, as nothing seems to resolve the mysteries but only to complicate them. Like the man himself you err in a labyrinth of grotesque absurdity, and every helper seems only to make it worse - until he meets an old man in a mental hospital, and then you have already passed way beyond half of the film.

    What follows though is completely rewarding. The miracle happens that everything in this inextricable mystery actually is resolved and explained, and an impossible abyss of illogical absurdity turns the other way around in a marvel of a sudden revelation, which definitely saves the film and turns it from disaster to glory.

    All Joe Mankiewicz's films display a high class stylishness of almost an aristocratic touch, which makes them all enjoyable, and this weird odyssey through a nightmare of disorientation is no exception. The actors are also convincing enough, while Richard Conte is the only real character player. This was Mankiewicz's second film on his way up to supreme stardom of directors, and he still had 20 more years to go of reliably outstanding films.
  • gsygsy28 August 2014
    I'd be surprised if you didn't solve the script's major mystery pretty early on, so the question is if there is much else to enjoy in this movie.

    The answer is yes. But it's a mixed bag. Even some reliable actors (Conte, Nolan) seem a little lost, as if they weren't quite sure what notes they were supposed to be hitting. On the other hand there is a haunting performance, in a single scene, from Josephine Hutchinson, and an enjoyable hard-boiled dame from Margo Woode.

    As far as acting honours are concerned, though, they go to Fritz Hortner, who effortlessly steals whatever scenes he's in.

    SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT is efficiently photographed and designed. It boasts an interesting score from journeyman composer David Buttolph, and the script is well-stocked with good lines and Hammett-like speeches and situations.

    John Hodiak takes a brave stab at the lead, Nancy Guild radiates warmth as the gal who takes a shine to him. Unfortunately neither of them can provide the wattage of the great players associated with this genre.

    And Mr Mankiewicz, although already an experienced writer, was evidently feeling his way as a director here.

    All in all, it's a moderately entertaining piece of work.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    No one could say Mank didn't have a checkered career: In the 1930s he was castigated for daring to re-write Scott Fitzgerald (in his capacity as Producer on Three Comrades, Scott's only solo writing credit, he felt obliged to 'tidy' up several sequences) and in the 1960s he was the guy brought in to re-write and 'salvage' Cleopatra but in between he initially wrote then wrote and directed some very tasty fare indeed culminating in his two magnum opii A Letter To Three Wives And All About Eve. Somewhere In the Night dates from 1946, the same year his second directorial effort Dragonwyck was released and it's well up to snuff. A lot of 'amnesiac' films are, by definition, forgettable, but not this one. Mank assembled as tasty a supporting cast as had ever been shoehorned into one film ranging from Whit Bissell through Harry Morgan, Jeff Corey to the standout Josephine Hutchinson. Leading from the front are the slightly wooden John Hodiak - marriage to Ann Baxter didn't improve his acting -, newcomer Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan and Richard Conte and Mank keeps the balls spinning in the air leaving little time for awkward questions - like why would Conte - who'd got away with murder for three years, introduce Hodiak to a detective friend (Nolan) knowing that Hodiak was trying to get to to bottom of the very murder for which he, Conte, was responsible. This the kind of movie, popular at the time, in which a protagonist who is possibly a murderer is befriended by a girl/woman who's never met him before - for example Alad Ladd and Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia and/or in which a street-wise gal like Guild here, has to have the expressions 'private eye' and 'shamus' explained to her. None of this detracts from an enjoyable ride and it's one to add to your Blockbuster shopping list.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Amnesia. Always a promising premise. Protagonist wakes up in an unexpected place. Who am I? Where am I? Not the most original plot device (think "Random Harvest") but a good one. In this case, since it is a film noir, the protagonist awakes to a sordid affair of theft and murder. "Somewhere in the Night" (I take the title to indicate the night, or fog, of the hero's mind) is far better than the average noir. The characters are developed, not cardboard cut-outs. They hold your interest. The plot holds your attention through its twists and turns. And those twists are among the twistiest. We know from the beginning that the protagonist is innocent. It's not hard to guess well before the end who the villain will be. Once the dialogue in a noir starts insisting that someone is a sterling fellow it's a dead giveaway; he's the heavy. Still, Joseph Mankiewicz's deft direction and an excellent cast make it work.

    It is majorly twisty. I found myself left with a dizzy feeling: wait a minute; what happened? does it make sense? let me think. George Taylor is Larry Cravat. I get it. We find that out near the end. That's the big twist. But it was obvious much earlier. George, as he still calls himself, has one clue to his identity. An unknown embittered woman had written him a cursing letter. He still has it. The writing is that of Christy's deceased friend Mary whom Larry Cravat, not George Taylor, had left at the altar. Obviously, she sent it to Larry Cravat. Q.E.D. Well, George is not observant. All the rest hinges on the fact that nobody can recognize Larry Cravat. Larry had been a private detective for years. He must have had dealings with the police. Yet the police cannot recognize him? He remains the suspect of an open murder case. Two men were at the scene of the crime. The police know that one was Larry Cravat. How? The eyewitness, Michael Conroy, must have provided them a description of a known individual. How else could investigators have identified him? Yet they do not recognize him when he returns? Then there's Phyllis. She actually has met Larry Cravat. Yet she is dumbfounded when he says "look; here I am." It can only make sense if we assume Larry's face underwent massive reconstructive surgery. That makes "Somewhere in the Night" a kissing cousin of Bogart's "Dark Passage" that came out the next year. (Houseley Stevenson, who plays the plastic surgeon in that one, shows up here as the demented Michael Conroy.) But in Bogart's case we are in no doubt that his appearance has drastically changed. Here that crucial fact is obscured. We do see Larry/George's hospitalized face heavily bandaged. But there's absolutely no talk of plastic surgery. Apart from one lightning-quick line near the end - "you know, my face got pushed around at Okinawa" - that puzzle-solver disappears. No, we didn't know that the face had been so indescribably "pushed around." It's a venerable Agatha Christie trick, withholding a key tidbit until the end. But it is rather unhelpful to the viewer who's struggling to pull the plot elements together.

    Passing by those quibbles, one thing keeps it afloat, the acting. John Hodiak, as always, is solid ("Lifeboat" is one of my favorites). Nancy Guild does a good job with a role that seems to have been written for Lizabeth Scott. The great German actor Fritz Kortner puts a nice touch to a role that seems to have been written for Walter Slezak. Any film with Richard Conte is worth a watch, just for Richard Conte. Margo Woode as the floozy Phyllis stands out. She invests a standard role with a playful, half-mocking insouciance ("Oh. We're going to have repartee!"). She's a cut-rate femme fatale working for a second-rate con artist. She plays it perfectly. Her seduction, laced with farcical French flourishes ("just this and that and quelque chose"), has the smell of cheap perfume all about it, as it should. A marvelous crew of character actors helps out: Harry Morgan, Whit Bissell, Jeff Corey, Louis Mason. Sheldon Leonard does a semi-comic turn. One actress by herself and one scene make the whole film worth watching. Josephine Hutchinson had a tremendous career on stage. I cannot understand why she faded out of the movies. Perhaps the studios felt her presence was too risky, given her long, unapologetic lesbian romance with Eva la Gallienne. Or maybe she was just too good, impossible to type-cast. She gives a taste of what Hollywood passed up. Her one scene as the lonely, unloved Elizabeth Conroy is unforgettable.: "Dawns are always grey ... nights are black, and they're all empty." She does it simply, without affectation, without manufactured tears. In the end, hers is the one character who sticks in the mind. For a moment she makes us relax from the effort of following the labyrinthine plot and just applaud a great piece of acting. She makes us hope the character will come back for another scene. She makes us regret that it doesn't. Catch "Somewhere in the Night." It's worth it. Sit up and watch carefully when George or Larry by whatever name knocks on Elizabeth's door.
  • Very enjoyable and involving noir. John Hodiak plays a WW2 veteran struggling with insomnia and not many clues to go on. It's captivating stuff and the pace is just right as we struggle, as does he, to work out what has gone on. As more people become involved, the plot really thickens and we are in the familiar territory of seedy clubs, ruthless hoods, car 'accidents', clairvoyance, a sanatorium and a wonderfully evocative dark and dirty dockside. Great dialogue throughout and witty too. Nancy Guild is by no means stunning as the co-star helping Hodiak in his desperate race and I understand that Mankiewicz had to coach her individually to help her with the delivery of her lines. Despite this and because the story is so good her slightly faltering performance can take nothing from this thriller.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was directed and co-written by Joseph Mankiewicz. The cast includes John Hodiak and Richard Conte. Almost all the scenes are shot at night around Los Angeles and on the lot. It ought to be good but in fact it's no more than routine.

    Let's recall John Huston's superb "The Maltese Falcon," in which the hero, Sam Spade, is hired to find a fabulously expensive statue of a bird whose trip through time has left a trail of dead bodies behind. Spade searches for the statue, discovering a little more about it each time he runs into the colorful and quirky figures that are associated with its pursuit. The Fat Man, the Gay Levantine, the dame with the past, the Gunsel -- they come crawling out of the woodwork, enough of them to make a minion. In the climactic scene they are all brought together in Spade's apartment, where all is explained. And they leave, only to have Spade ring up the police and clue them in, except for the Ambiguous Dame who is revealed as the chief villain.

    I suspect "The Maltese Falcon" must have provided the model for this dark mystery, though enough cosmetic surgery has been performed to disguise the features of the original mold. Instead of the mysterious "black bird", John Hodiak, the man with no memory, pursues his own past and the two million dollars hidden somewhere within it. He runs into a gang of colorful and quirky characters. The Fat Man here is just a guy with a sinister face and a German accent and a classy phraseology. The Gunsel is a huge "tub of lard" who is barely able to string three sentences together. There's no Gay Levantine, but a few other characters make up for his absence. The Ambiguous Dame is split into her two constituents -- the louche broad who slings around French clichés and the honest, brave Nancy Guild who falls in love with Hodiak (and vice versa) two minutes after they meet. Hodiak is beaten up by the hoods, just as Spade was. At the end, he demands a "fall guy" for the police, just as Spade did. The hoodlum gang, instead of leaving, just shrug and their leader tells them philosophically that "the jig is up." The friend turns out to be the real scheming murderer -- Spade's Ambiguous Dame there, a secondary but likable character here.

    The direction is okay. Mankiewicz was no slouch. And some of the writing is passable, as is Hodiak's performance as George Taylor and, especially, Lloyd Nolan's as the police lieutenant. The rest are pallid facsimiles. There are, in fact, too many quirky and colorful characters and none of them could act. Neither could Nancy Guild, although she was attractive enough.

    Hodiak's pursuit of his own identity, his pal Larry Cravat, and the two million bucks grows tiresome -- and confusing too. There are too many leads, too many red herrings. We watch Hodiak travel from place to place, mostly meeting with hostility from people who don't even know him, garnering little scraps of information which may lead somewhere, or maybe not. The musical score has no lilt to it. And the characters have only one note on their instruments, except for Nolan who delivers sarcasm and irony with effortless aplomb.

    Mankiewicz was to do much better, later on. These semi-noir mysteries were not his forte, though he made another one of them and that one, "No Way Out," was pretty damned good.
  • I love film noir. And this was new to me, amazingly. So I definitely enjoyed it.

    However, it is not good. The plot has red herrings and scenes unrelated to anything else more than any other movie by a major director hat I can think of.

    OK. It doesn't make much sense. The narrative logic is filled with holes.

    Still, it is enjoyable.

    First off, my hat is off to Nancy Guild. I swear I had never heard of her before this. But, even at age 19, she's very good. She beautiful -- a little like Alexis Smith and even more like one of my great favorites Patricia Neal. She is no Duse but she does an excellent job in a pivotal role.

    John Hodiak is good, though perhaps encouraged to overdo the vacant looks even when the amnesia plot seems to have been forgotten.

    Margo Woode, with what looks like a bird's nest on her head, is lots of fun as a bad girl. And Josephine Hutchinson is very poignant in a small scene that doesn't seem to me to make sense in the overall plot but has an exciting payoff: Her scream through a window saves our hero from being run over.

    The others are good, of course. Lloyd Nolan always was. Ditto Richard Conte. Lou Nova is strangely affecting in a small role.

    This is a sprawling big-studio noir from the forties. The short, cheaply made ones are often better. And often they aren't. One never knows on the street of dreams.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Few actresses jump from a thespic nowhere into a star role. You might count them on the fingers of one hand. But it happened to Nancy Guild. Signed to a Fox contract when casting director, Rufus Le Maire, spotted her picture in a 1946 Life magazine lay-out of current college girl dress fashions, Nancy jumped straight from Fox's dramatic school (where she spent "a few months as the star pupil") to the lead feminine role in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Somewhere in the Night (1946). And she does well too. Extremely well by a rather difficult role. Is she a good girl, or one of the villains? Nancy plays it cool, which is a perfect choice, especially when surrounded by consummate scene-stealers like Richard Conte, Lloyd Nolan, John Hodiak and Fritz Kortner. But her debut proved to be the high point of her motion picture career. Next cast in a Fox "B", The Brasher Doubloon (1947) opposite George Montgomery's Philip Marlowe, she followed with a minor Dan Dailey 1948 musical, Give My Regards to Broadway. Fox then dropped her. At this stage, Orson Welles came to her rescue by offering her the part of Marie Antoinette in Black Magic (1949) in which Gregory Ratoff fronted for him as producer and director. (Ratoff actually did direct half the movie, but Welles handled all his own scenes and wrote some of his own dialogue). Although this United Artists release was anything but a success, Universal offered Miss Guild a contract. She played the main feminine role in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) and was then third-billed (Mark Stevens and Rhonda Fleming were the stars featured on all the posters) in Little Egypt (1951). Fourth billing in Francis Covers the Big Town (1953) and a minor role in Otto Preminger's 1971 Such Good Friends completed her motion picture career. Eight film roles, only one of which (her first) is of any importance. What a waste!

    Getting back to the rivetingly noir, Somewhere in the Night, this movie is not just an actor's heyday (which it is – you'll probably miss the clever way one of the players signals the plot to the audience in the first 15 minutes, so watch for it on a second view), but a photographer's and set designer's paradise as well. Mankiewicz keeps a firm control of both acting and atmosphere. This exceedingly well-produced movie always enjoyed a considerable cult reputation, which, for once, was thoroughly deserved. Full marks for a really solid script on which none other than leading novelist W. Somerset Maugham worked with Lee Strasberg (later to gain fame with his Actors Studio).
  • onepotato230 January 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    This is not good. It's some sort of generic, B-movie, noir epic ...with all of those ideas in conflict. Twenty "developments" get teased out, to no discernible entertainment value. It's a very, very long movie trying hard to believe it has peaks and structure, but the meaninglessness begins piling up quite early. The actors drift, because Mankewicz isn't doing anything to shape the movie. It ain't deep, so why is it the length of an opera? I'll give you twenty minutes to detect the big twist. You'll still be ahead of the characters by 80 or 90 minutes. The script is overdeveloped, and can't bear inspection for its two hour length. The cast of characters is rather extended. It's just a mess, going through the noir motions, and a uniform texture of tedium. It's uninvolving in the extreme.

    Hodiak has leading man looks but very little presence. He's exactly the same from scene to scene; inexpressive, diffuse. He's like a prop that can talk.

    Eddie Muller seems silently aware of the problems, and doesn't even bother with any framing remarks in his glib, unhelpful commentary. He just starts describing things on the screen. If Eddie Muller can't help you find the merit in a noir, you're in for a long ride. I can't think of a single reason you should watch this. This and 'The Big Knife' are the two most tedious movies I've seen in the last ten years. Not recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Amnesia, confused identities and a number of characters with uncertain motives all contribute to the atmosphere of danger and distrust that prevails throughout this movie. The natural anxiety that accompanies memory loss escalates steadily as the main protagonist tries desperately to discover his own identity and his growing fear is reflected visually in Norbert Brodine's striking cinematography which skilfully uses shadows to give many of the scenes a particularly sinister look.

    A badly injured World War 11 veteran (John Hodiak), who recovers from a coma in a military hospital in Honolulu, is aware that he's suffering from amnesia but doesn't disclose this to the doctors who call him George Taylor. From certain documents in his possession, he's able to deduce that he previously lived at the Martin Hotel in L.A. and so when he's eventually discharged, he immediately heads to that address, but no-one there knows him or has any record of him having stayed there in recent years.

    A claim check that he discovers in his bag leads him to recover a briefcase that he'd apparently left some time ago at a nearby train station and in the case he finds a letter and a gun. The letter is signed by Larry Cravat who confirms that he's deposited $5,000 for George in a bank account. George has no success when he tries to claim his cash from the Second National Bank and so embarks on a search for Cravat. His search leads him to a local nightclub called "The Cellar" where on one occasion , he meets a singer called Christy Smith (Nancy Guild) and on another, gets beaten up by a couple of thugs who don't appreciate his interest in Cravat and tell him to call off his search.

    Christy introduces George to Mel Phillips (Richard Conte) who's the owner of "The Cellar" and his contact Police Lieutenant Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan) and all three offer him help. It soon becomes clear that Cravat was a private eye who was connected some years earlier with a crime involving murder and the possession of $2,000,000 which had been transferred into the country by a high ranking Nazi officer. As his investigations continue, George becomes increasingly concerned about what he might discover until ultimately, a number of surprise developments lead him to solve the mysteries surrounding his own identity and the stolen money.

    "Somewhere In The Night" is a well paced and well written mystery with a complicated plot and an anti-hero who's been traumatised by his experiences in the War, disconcerted by his memory loss and made anxious by his inability to know who he can trust. John Hodiak conveys Taylor's mental state by emphasising how tense and humourless his experiences have made him and the supporting cast successfully adds considerable colour and interest to the array of characters that feature in Taylor's bewildering odyssey.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is such a lousy film that putting it in the tradition of the 1940's film noir is an insult to that film genre.

    Total confusion reigns here as John Hodiak plays an injured war vet in the throws of amnesia. How he could fool a hospital that he didn't have this tells you a lot about hospital care as well as this very muddled film.

    Finding items in his wallet, money deposited for him along the way, suspicion that he is a killer, becoming mixed up with seedy people and finally finding out who he is has no value in this plodding film.

    Richard Conte, as the owner of the bar, is up to his usual no good ways in films. That's Conte and that comes as no surprise. Lloyd Nolan explains to us why the police always wear their hats. Isn't that wonderful? By the time, you hear that, you're more than satisfied that this miserably scripted film is over.
  • Ten minutes into this jumble and I thought the writers were being paid by the word, either that or they were trying to talk the audience to death. Which might be okay if the dialog added up to an interesting story. But instead, it goes off in ten different confusing directions not even a Rosetta Stone could unpack. The credits list five different writers, which is not surprising since they appear to be working in separate cities. Now, I don't expect every loose thread to get tied up, especially in noir. However, I do expect a general shape or coherence, which this screenplay unfortunately lacks. It's like a jigsaw without a concept.

    Leading lady Nancy Guild (Christy) does deserve some sympathy. This is her first movie and Fox thrusts her into a demanding role with lots of dialog. And that's the trouble. In her under-trained mouth lines of dialog sound just like that, lines of dialog. At times it works, but mostly it doesn't. She may look like Bacall—likely why she was promoted in the first place-- but lacks the needed smolder. Unhappily, her career proved downhill and short, so likely the resemblance was both a blessing and a curse.

    What the movie does have are some striking cameos—a cranky Henry Morgan, a sassy Margo Woode, a sweaty Sheldon Leonard, and in a part that steals the movie, Josephine Huchinson as Elizabeth. True to the scrambled screenplay, her wounded spinster sort of drops out of the sky. Nonetheless, catch her many nuanced expressions that are really quite touching. I just wish the editor or the director had cut the scene after it peaks since we've already gotten the idea. Then too, Nolan and Conte are quite good in their supporting roles, parts that each could probably do in his sleep. On the other hand, leading man Hodiak looks good in a suit, but like the disappearing man, has a presence that becomes fainter and fainter as time goes on. Perhaps he was as confused by the script as others of us.

    Now, I'm as big a fan of noir as anyone. However, I think this film proves an important lesson. Namely, there is more to noir than just a smoky aesthetic, a big-hair dame, and a catchy title.
  • Before Joe Mankiewicz's career went into high gear with back to back Oscars for A Letter To Three Wives and All About Eve, he did this crackerjack noir film about a war veteran with amnesia and a past he might not really want to remember. Borrowing heavily from The Maltese Falcon, Somewhere In The Night instead of a legendary bird has a very real and tangible two million dollars of smuggled Nazi loot that a Los Angeles private eye was handling and got lost.

    In the meantime on the strength of a letter written to him while in the service an amnesiac war veteran comes searching for his past in Los Angeles and finds himself in a lot of trouble he can't decipher. John Hodiak plays the troubled veteran and the only friend he has is nightclub singer Nancy Guild who sings in Richard Conte's nightclub.

    Hodiak sad to say is a pretty forgotten actor today. He came along during the war years and when folks like Gable and Taylor returned from the service he was kind of an MGM spare tire. I'm sure Darryl Zanuck got him on the cheap for this film at 20th Century Fox. Still Hodiak had an everyman appeal that resonated well with audiences. A shame he died so young of a heart attack, I believe it was a heart murmur that kept him out of the Armed Services in World War II.

    I wish we had seen a little more of Lloyd Nolan playing a laconic police detective. There's a man who never gave a bad performance even in mediocre films.

    Although I had it right partially in terms of a solution, Somewhere In The Night will still yield a few surprises to some in the viewing audience. And that's the mark of a good film.
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