Monday, January 25, 2010

Girls in the Night (1953)

Girls in the Night
Universal, 88 mins, Black & White

Director: Jack Arnold
Screenplay: Ray Buffum
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Editing: Paul Weatherwax
Art Direction: Robert F. Boyle and Alexander Golitzen
Cast: Joyce Holden, Glenda Farrell, Harvey Lembeck, Patricia Hardy.

Unless I am mistaken, Jack Arnold was unknown here before the appearance of It! Come from Outer Space, which hardly incited one to wish to learn more about its author, and Girls in the Night, which belies that first unfavorable impression. Let us leave aside the first film (science fiction in polaroid relief [3-D] and black and white, no less!) and get right to Girls in the Night, which leaves us in an intermediary state between surprise and delight.
It's a story of a few young boys and girls who live on New York's East Side and who hope to escape from that miserable neighborhood. Through the author's tenderness for his youngsters (and without sentimentality), through the incredible violence of the fight scenes, through the dynamism of the whole, the beauty of the relationships among the characters, the tone of this film swings between Becker's Rendez-vous de Juillet (1949) and Nicholas Ray's Knock on Any Door (1949). Each scene, whether it is the first (the very lively election of Miss 43rd Avenue in a neighborhood movie theater), the last (a very carefully controlled chase), or yet a prodigious dance scene in a sleazy club, makes us think that it was the one that the author treated the most lovingly; the directing of the actors (all newcomers) is perfect. Jaclynne Greene and Don Gordon make such a convincing pair of rascals that when, after the word END that follows closely after their death, they get up to greet us with a smile, we don't fail to feel that a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

 -- François Truffaut, Cahiers du Cinéma, February 1954

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