Sunday, December 7, 2008


Humphrey Bogart tangles with treacherous Nazi spies in director Vincent Sherman's "All Through the Night," (**** out of ****) a witty World War II propaganda thriller that takes place before Uncle Sam entered the war against the Axis powers. "All Through the Night" boasts a terrific, top-notch supporting cast featuring Judith Anderson, Jane Darwell, Jackie C. Gleason, Phil Silvers, Peter Lorre, and William Demarest. Perennial Nazi impersonator, real-life German Jew Conrad Veidt of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" battles with Bogart in this serio-comic espionage melodrama. A year later Bogart and Veidt locked horns again in Michael Curtiz's Oscar-winning love story "Casablanca," and Veidt played more Nazis in MGM's "Nazi Agent" and "Above Suspicion" before he succumbed to a heart attack in 1943. Scenarist Leonard "Mystery Street" Spigelgass and Edwin "Larceny, Inc.," Gilbert have penned a top-flight, lightweight, rollicking, white-knuckler that puts our hero between a rock and a hard place. "All Through the Night" shares a lot in common with Hitchcock thrillers such as "The 39 Steps" and "North by Northwest" because our wrongly accused hero has to stay one step ahead of the police to exonerate himself of charges that he murdered a nightclub owner. Anybody who loves off-beat Humphrey Bogart movies will enjoy this humorous hokum.

"All Through the Night" opens with a group of Runyonesque Broadway gamblers sitting around a table discussing the combustible European predicament. Mr. Alfred 'Gloves' Donahue (Humphrey Bogart) interrupts their heated conversation. One of Gloves' minions, Sunshine (William Demarest of "Escape from Fort Bravo"), explains what they've been doing with toy soldiers and tanks on the table in front of them, "Just showing how England can win the war." An amusted Gloves chuckles, "I'll arrange a conference between you and Churchill." Sunshine points out, "Don't you think it's time you got your mind out of the sports section and on to the front page." Gloves dismisses Sunshine's suggestion, "That's Washington's racket, let them handle it." Gloves' problems start when Louie (Phil Silvers) runs out of Gloves favorite cheese cake from Miller's Bakery. Gloves lives and breathes to munch Miller's cheesecake. When Louie tries to pass off an inferior brand, Gloves spots the difference in a heartbeat. Later, Gloves' mother 'Ma' Donahue begins to worry him about Mr. Miller's disappearance. When Gloves stumbles onto Miller's corpse in the shop basement, things really begin to click. The N.Y.P.D. is suspicious about Gloves from the start, but they don't arrest him until they find one of his gloves next to the body of a dead nightclub owner. Everything hinges on finding a young vocalist Miss Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne of "A Bullet for Joey") that was seen with Miller before he died. As it turns out, Franz Ebbing (Conrad Veidt) and his second-in-command Pepi (Peter Lorre of "M") are planning a 9/11 style terrorist attack not unlike a similar act of sabotage in Alfred Hitchcock's own "Saboteur" with Robert Cummings about Nazis blowing up a ship in New York harbor.

Jane Darwell of "The Grapes of Wrath" is hilarious as Gloves' presumptuous mother who is constantly interfering in her son's affairs. She gets Gloves into real trouble when she follows Miss Hamilton to a nightclub run by Marty Callahan (Barton MacLane of "High Sierra") called the Duchess Club and summons him. Lorre is particularly nasty as Ebbing's right-hand man. One of the greatest running gags in "All Through the Night" concerns Gloves' flustered chauffeur Barney (Frank McHugh of "Bullets or Ballots") who has just been married and cannot convince Gloves to let him have time enough to consummate his marriage. The Production Code Administration cautioned Warner Brothers about a lot of subversive dialogue with regard to Barney's situation. Apparently, some kind of deal was struck between Jack Warner and Joseph I. Breen over the salacious content of the dialogue. In the opening scene, for example, Sunshine argues that they can catch the Nazis with their Panzers down, a comment that drew the wrath of the Production Code, because of the implied sexuality in the remark. Nevertheless, the line made it into the film. Despite its racist content, there is a howler of a scene when Gloves' African-American valet Saratoga (Sam McDaniel of "Three Godfathers") delivers with supreme straight-faced solemnity to Miss Hamilton that "Things ain't as black as they look." Sherman keeps things moving in a dead heat as Gloves struggles to elude the police and get the goods on Ebbing and his dastardly bunch. Another hilarious scene occurs at an auction with some incredibly funny dialogue that sounds more like gibberish than actual words.

"All Through the Night" runs a close second to Raoul Walsh's Errol Flynn actioneer "Desperate Journey" as one of the best pre-World War II thrillers.