For Reel

Night Must Fall (1937)
January 19, 2012, 4:47 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Thorpe

Robert Montgomery was nominated for an Academy Award in 1937 for Night Must Fall, an adaptation of the Emlyn Williams play about a suspected murderer who charms his way into an old woman’s house. A delightful Dame May Whitty plays the naive prey, and Rosalind Russell is miscast as her spinster niece who becomes attracted to the predatory stranger against her better judgment. As good as Montgomery is in his scenes with Whitty – it’s far more unsettling to see him as a jovial, flirtatious grandson than the more expected brooding psychotic – he’s not quite enough of a seducer to prompt a believable transition out of Russell, making the quasi-romantic subplot drag the picture down considerably. In adapting the material, writer John Van Druten mistakingly leaves in a number of lengthy soliloquies that overtly speak about the metaphor of the title, and as a result the picture is stagey to the point of alienating. There is one great scene, however, where Whitty is left alone in the house and begins to hear noises outside. Shooting her in long shot – which enhances the sense of isolation and abandonment that she feels – Richard Thorpe allows Witty to methodically work her way towards madness while in the crushing grip of fear.

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