Somewhere in the Night (1946) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Fox Film Noir DVD
George Taylor (John Hodiak, above) finds himself in an Army hospital, recovering from wounds sustained from falling on a live grenade. Yet Taylor has also suffered amnesia (a favorite film noir malady), so when he gets a letter from a Larry Cravat stating that he’s set $5,000 aside for him at a local LA bank, Taylor gets confused. Does he know this Cravat guy? Why can’t he remember? Everyone Taylor meets either doesn’t know Cravat or they don’t know where to find him. Help is offered by Christy Smith (Nancy Guild), a nightclub singer and the club’s owner Mel Phillips (Richard Conte, one of my favorite noir actors), but can Taylor really trust them?
At 110 minutes, Somewhere in the Night is a long film noir, but it’s also wonderfully labyrinthine. Despite its length and twists, the film is superbly engaging and not as difficult to follow as you might think. Several strange and interesting (and familiar) characters are also on hand, including Lloyd Nolan as a cop, Fritz Kortner as a fake clairvoyant, Harry Morgan as a bath house attendant, Sheldon Leonard as jealous husband, Jeff Corey as a bank teller, and our good friend Whit Bissell (last seen in He Walked by Night) as a bartender.
Yet the film belongs to John Hodiak, who’s in nearly every scene and is utterly convincing as a man desperately trying to unravel a mystery. According to the Eddie Muller commentary on the Fox Film Noir DVD, Hodiak worked tirelessly to lose his thick Ukrainian accent, became a sought-after actor and died suddenly at the age of 41 from a heart attack. I haven’t seen much of Hodiak’s work, but his performance in Somewhere in the Night is impressive and effective.
Somewhere in the Night seems to get left out of many film noir conversations, but it shouldn’t. It’s one of those often neglected gems you should seek out this Noirvember or any time.