Sunday, September 30, 2007

All Through the Night - a forgotten classic

Hooray for Netflix! Thanks to their deep catalog I revisited a movie this weekend that I hadn't seen since I was twelve -- and it was even better than I remembered.

"All Though the Night" (1941) casts Humphrey Bogart as "Gloves" Donahue, a dapper sports promoter/gambler that would be quite at home in a Damon Runyon story. His affable gang includes a young Jackie Gleason, Frank McHugh and a dour-faced William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons") as Sunshine. And there's additional comedic help from Phil Silvers, Edward Brophy, and Wallace Ford.

There's a raft of other well-know character actors as well. Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorrie play the bad guys, along with ice queen Judith Anderson. Barton MacLane barks his way through another film, along with Edward Brophy. The redoubtable Jane Darwell (from "The Grapes of Wrath") plays Donahue's mother.

On the surface, it's a breezy little thriller where gangsters cross paths with Nazi spies. A good example of the comedic flavor occurs when Gloves Donahue and Sunshine assume the identities of two spies to infiltrate a Fifth Column meeting and discover their plans. It turns out the identities they stole belonged to the two out-of-town munitions experts who now must make a report. They stall for time with some classic 1940's double talk.

But the movie has a serious side, too. The spy ring forces an expatriate, Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne), to work for them by holding her father at Dachau. Gloves, who begins the movie not caring at all what happens on the front page of the paper, eventually finds out what Dachau is, and what the Nazis are all about. The film follows an American moving from apathy about world events to an understanding that what happens abroad impacts his daily life -- and even his way of life.

An interesting turning point comes when the urbane master spy Franz Ebbing is confronted by Donahue. From Ebbing's point of view, they should be allies. And at the beginning of the film Donahue might have agreed. But not after learning about what Ebbing stands for.

The past is often filtered through the experience of the present, and I wonder how others might interpret that scene. I can see some people identifying the current administration in Ebbing's words.
"It's a great pity, Mr. Donahue, that you and I should oppose each other. We have so much in common. You are a man of action. You take what you want and so do we. You have no respect for democracy. Neither do we. It's clear we should be allies."
While others might point to this dialogue to demonstrate the danger of disunity in the face of terrorism (our latter-day Fifth Columnists).
"Do you ever see the faces of these Americans as they read the headlines? Already we have split them into angry little groups flying at each other, unconscious that they are doing our work. You'll see. In a year, perhaps less than a year, they will all be taking their orders from us."
Of course the original message was a lot simpler -- be a patriot, and do your part.

I saw this aired on WTTG 5 in Washington way back in the 1960's when they did Sunday movies. I only saw it once, but always remembered it fondly -- especially Bogart's rapid-fire banter.

I've never met anyone who's seen this film, and that's too bad. If you only know Bogart through "The Maltese Falcon," or "Casablanca," give "All Through The Night" a try. It's an evening's entertainment for sure.

- Ralph


  1. Your posting really brings back the memories. I also saw "All through the night" on channel 5. I "wasted" many a Sunday afternoon watching all the movies from Noon to 6 pm on channel 5.

  2. Right on. I used to plan out Sunday afternoon based on what Channel 5 was running. They actually aired a lot of good movies that only rarely show up on TV (with the exception of TCM, perhaps).