NIGHT AND THE CITY: he doesn’t know that he’s the sucker

Richard Widmark running out of luck in THE NIGHT AND THE CITY

The one thing that Harry Fabian is good at is finding suckers, but he doesn’t realize that the biggest sucker is Harry Fabian. Night in the City (1950) is an under appreciated film noir classic. Richard Widmark is superb as Fabian, a loser who tries to corner the pro wrestling business in post-war London – and, as in any noir classic, it doesn’t end well for the sap.

The loudly dressed Harry Fabian inhabits the London underworld, hanging with a gang of beggars and a document forger.  He spends most of his time pulling gullible Americans into a clip joint.
Because he’s always looking for easy money, he always misses the big score.  When he is pitched a really good business idea, he scorns it because he’s hooked on his own looney pipe dream – taking over the London wrestling scene.

We watch Fabian cross too many big players.  We see him getting conned while he thinks he’s conning others, and when he finally realizes that HE’S the target.  Now he can only depend on fellow lowlifers who will sell him out – and sell him out cheap.

The American director Jules Dassin had just made the noir classics The Naked City and Thieves’ Highway when he shot Night and the City in the UK.  He was blackballed in the McCarthy Era and never moved back to the US.

At the request of a studio exec, Dassin created a role in Night and the City for the stunningly beautiful but emotionally fragile Gene Tierney. The cast also includes real life wrestlers Stanislaus Zbyszko and Mike Mazurki.  Herbert Lom plays a menacing heavy.

Night in the City plays regularly on Turner Classic Movies and available on DVD from Netflix.

Note: Night and the City was remade in 1992 as a New York story about boxing. The 1992 version starred Robert DeNiro, Jessica Lange, Cliff Gorman and Alan King (in a rare movie dramatic movie role). But the remake has none of the urgency and clarity of the original. The best part in the remake is a cameo by legendary boxing writer and talking head Bert Sugar.

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