Night and the City

Richard Widmark's trademark combination of sleazy glibness and sweaty desperation finds its ideal expression in the role of London club tout and compulsive striver Harry Fabian. Described by a rival as “an artist without an art,” Fabian attempts to make his mark as a promoter in the Greco-Roman wrestling racket, a sport that takes brutality to the level of art both in and out of the ring. With its chiaroscuro cinematography and stylized portrayals of underworld characters-Francis L. Sullivan as a grotesque club owner, Googie Withers as his ambitious wife, Herbert Lom as a vicious racketeer, Polish champion wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko as “Gregorius the Great”-the film sketches a place that is nominally London but really a realm of fevered urban imagination. The recurring image is of Fabian scrambling through dark alleys, trying and failing to get ahead of his fate-an appropriate motif for director Jules Dassin, who made the film while in exile from McCarthy-era Hollywood.

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