Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on December 2, 1941
Directed by Vincent Sherman
Written by Leonard Spigelgass and Edwin Gilbert
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Veidt, Kaaren Verne, Peter Lorre, Judith Anderson, Jane Darwell, Frank McHugh, William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Barton MacLane, Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Ludwig Stössel, Frank Sully
It’s New York City mobsters versus the Third Reich in this featherweight but entertaining World War II spy film from Warner Bros, starring Humphrey Bogart as a sports promoter and mob boss who, along with his gang of recognizable character actors, stumbles upon a Nazi conspiracy unfolding in the middle of Manhattan, and decides it’s his patriotic duty to do something about it. Along the way he helps a pretty blonde singer, played by Kaaren Verne, who’s mysteriously caught in the middle of it all, and who he falls for despite her questionable background.
Between dramatic stints as Sam Spade and Rick Blaine, Bogart took it down a notch as ‘Gloves’ Donahue, a good-natured but tough-as-nails gambler who enjoys boxing, horse racing, baseball, and a daily slice of cheesecake from his favorite neighborhood bakery. When the baker goes missing and is later found dead, Bogart is spurred into action; he and his wiseacre cohorts follow a trail of clues that stretches from the bakery to a nightclub to a warehouse full of toys, and finally to a Nazi hideout smack-dab in the middle of Broadway. There, our heroes go head-to-head against German agents, who are planning to soon sabotage a US battleship somewhere along the East River.
This was well-made, breezy fun, with Vincent Sherman capably directing a blend of three genres—action, espionage, and comedy—and delivering an equal balance of all three, never allowing the quips and one-liners to completely overwhelm the serious undertone of the story’s subject matter. It was an interesting mix: the goofball hijinks of Bogart’s happy-go-lucky pals William Demerest, Frank McHugh, and Jackie Gleason juxtaposed with fifth columnists Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, and Judith Anderson, whose sinister portrayals nearly stole the show. It took a few scenes, but I eventually got used to this odd combination of styles, and from then on appreciated the film simply for what it was.
Which is easier to do when you have someone like Bogart in the lead, and skilled actors backing him up, and the occasional noir look to go along with scenes that were meticulously shot and framed by Sherman (a facet which surprised me, considering the comic nature of the film). The story wasn’t bad either, and if you took away the farcical aspects of it, there was a pretty good spy thriller going on in there; actually, to me it felt more like a detective mystery, with Bogart following leads that carried him along a serpentine path filled with double-crosses, thugs, skeptical police lieutenants, and in this case, a covert ring of ruthless German operatives.
Also noteworthy were two sequences which I felt were the film’s standouts. My favorite involved Bogart and Demerest stumbling into a secret meeting of Nazi sympathizers, and saving their skins (and hopelessly confusing the entire gathering) by double-talking their way through a speech; seeing Bogart suddenly blurt Heil! every ten seconds was flat-out hilarious. And at one point I began to wonder if Hitchcock might’ve watched this movie and taken notes; a few scenes from North by Northwest seemed lifted from this one, most tellingly where Bogart attended an art gallery auction (a front for the Nazis) and bid outrageously to outwit Veidt and gain access to a suspicious back room.
The film had some rah-rah propaganda towards its predictably corny wrap-up, and I can’t say I was all that happy with the apparent demise of Hansel, the innocent dachshund owned by Veidt, but otherwise All Through the Night was quite an enjoyable time, and worth a look if you’re in the mood for something light, something amusing, and something Bogart. And talk about foretelling the future: the film made it clear there were unseen enemies ready to undermine our nation, and American involvement in the war was a distinct possibility…and five days after its release, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, ushering the US into World War II. (7/10)