Sunday, March 10, 2013

From the Rental Vault: All Through the Night

In 1942's classic Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine counsels Conrad Veidt's Major Heinrich Strasser regarding the Third Reich's plans for world conquest: "Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade."

Perhaps Bogie and Veidt had in mind their 1941 collaboration All Through the Night, a semi-comic spin which pits Nazi fifth-columnists against New York City gangsters. Veidt plays the villanous spymaster Ebbing, who has a plot for sabotage that gets complicated when Bogart's "Gloves" Donahue gets enmeshed with it thanks to his attraction for a particular bakery's cheesecake and Kaaren Verne's nightclub singer Leda Hamilton.

Donahue is on the fringes of the racketeering world, working mostly in sports betting and bookmaking. But he knows some people, as it were, and the tighter he gets wound up in Ebbing's plot the more rough stuff shows up. He and his fellow outlaws frequently point out that while they may be on the wrong side of the law, they're American criminals and they hate the Nazis just as much as any law-abiding citizen would.

The plot's snappy, breezy and looks strangely light-hearted to us today given what we know of the genocidal hate regime spawned by Adolf Hitler. All Through the Night had its own timing problems, released just after Pearl Harbor as the United States began to take on the Axis regimes. Not many people were in a laughing mood about members of either group, and Night probably didn't do as badly as it could have because the Nazis were the villains and because the movie starred Bogart.

Up-and-coming comedians Phil Silvers and Jackie Gleason have small roles; Silver as a waiter in Donahue's favorite restaurant and Gleason as gang member Starchy. Peter Lorre turns in his standard venomous weasel and William Demarest and Frank McHugh round out the criminal gang. Although nothing worth a monument and draggy in spots All Through the Night is certainly a lot of fun to watch. And it highlights Bogie's gift for dry humor enough to make a viewer wonder what he might have been like had he taken on some straight comedy roles.

No comments: