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Clash By Night (1952)

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, more...
Director: Fritz Lang, Fritz Lang
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Warner Home Video
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 105 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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The opening credits appearing over a turbulent ocean serve as a foreshadowing of things to come in this standard-issue love triangle that shifts into high drama thanks to taut direction by Fritz Lang and a sizzling performance by Barbara Stanwyck. Returning to live with her brother, Joe (Keith Andes), at her family's home in a small fishing village, Mae Doyle (Stanwyck) has reached rock bottom. Reeling from the pain of her previous romances, Mae slowly pieces things together and begins dating Jerry (Paul Douglas), a simple-minded fisherman. More along Mae's speed is Jerry's slick, boozy pal Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), a film projectionist who makes his feelings for her known right away despite the fact that he is married. Mae spurns his advances and decides to marry Jerry. Meanwhile, Joe has grown close to ditzy factory worker Peggy (Marilyn Monroe). Some time later, Mae and Jerry have had a baby, and things appear happy, but Mae is not in love with Jerry, and soon finds herself in Earl's arms. Jerry discovers the affair, and during a confrontation with the deceitful couple, Mae reveals that she is leaving to be with Earl. After some booze and a pep talk from his Uncle Vince (J. Carrol Naish), Jerry confronts Earl and proceeds to nearly strangle him until Mae arrives. Jerry storms off, but when Mae comes to their home to retrieve the baby, she discovers that Jerry has taken the child. Desperately upset, she explains the situation to Earl, but as they talk, she begins to arrive at a new realization about her life and what it takes to find happiness. ~ Patrick Legare, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A "Classic" That Holds Up by talltale September 29, 2005 - 10:32 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
CLASH BY NIGHT (one of those silly/generic "Hollywoody" titles that offers no clue to just how exceptional the movie might be) must have set a lot of teeth on edge back in 1952, when the nuclear family was "all" and women had better know their place. Seen today, it still might set most "fundamentalists" to grinding their teeth down to the roots--due to its rich, mature and generous depiction of characters struggling mightily to find fulfillment, sex, love, and a safe haven. There are no villains here, just people, trying very hard.

Acted with consummate skill by Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, and Paul Douglas (even the sexy, young couple played by Marilyn Monroe and Keith Andes comes off surprisingly well), the movie is directed superbly by Fritz Lang (watch for details like the frying pan and spatula in the sink as Ryan cools his head). Lang manages to combine an utter reality of time and place with his unique sense of style and "noir" touches.

Most of all, however, it's the writing that's responsible for the film's success. The screenplay by Alfred Hayes from a play by Clifford Odets is amazing: not simply sharp, clever and full of great lines, it offers strong characterization, themes and ideas--from men's and women's roles in society to the place of money, class and power, and especially the important of sexual attraction versus caring and comfort. I can't recall many modern movie that handle all this so well; given the strictures of the "production code" in the 1950s, this is all the more amazing.

"Clash" truly is a film made by and for adults, and Stanwyck's morning kitchen scene with the coffee is proof for all time (should more be needed) of what a great actress she was. The commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich, full of fascinating bits, is first-class, too.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.06)
16 Votes
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