All Through the Night

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/20/07 18:36:36

"Bogart is a kick in anything."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

When this movie was made, America hadn't quite gotten involved in WWII - not officially, that is. A wacky caper comedy seems like an odd choice if the aim is propaganda, and it's unlikely many people would have their opinions swayed by this film. As it turns out, Pearl Harbor was attacked about a week after this film's premiere, and that obviously prompted a lot more calls for action than a funny Bogart flick ever could.

In the movie, Bogart plays Alfred "Gloves" Donahue, a friendly neighborhood racketeer who buys candy for kids, loves his mother (Jane Darwell), and doesn't seem to be involved in anything much worse than gambling. He's got no interest in the wars in Europe or Asia or, really, anything in the paper aside from the sports pages. What he does care about is that his favorite baker (Ludwig Stossel) didn't deliver his cheesecake in the morning. Ma has a bad feeling about it, so he investigates, only to find the baker dead. His only lead is Leda Hamilton (Kaaren Verne), a nightclub singer who has ties to Franz Ebbing (Conrad Veidt), whose auction house and toy factories are actually a front for Nazi saboteurs!

The story is, at a basic level, more than a little ridiculous, and the execution is more than a bit silly, too: There's a running gag about Gloves's newlywed driver Barney (Frank McHugh) continually trying to break away from the action to consummate his marriage. The obligatory scene in a nightclub where the title song is sung comes early, and a climactic scene where Gloves and his buddy Sunshine (William Demarest) infiltrate a gathering of Nazi spies is played for broad comedy. It seems a bit incongruous now, but you know what? In 1941, these people weren't the Greatest Generation yet; there was no reason to be overly sentimental. All Through the Night's politics aren't sophisticated - far from it - but it avoids easy soapboxing: It doesn't demonize all German immigrants, and it doesn't have a big moment where Gloves waxes poetic on how he should have been more concerned about more than the sports scores, but from now on... That's the message the film is trying to send, along with how America can make quick work of the Nazis once they set their minds to it, but it doesn't quite just come out and say it.

Besides, that would detract from some enormously fun performances. First and foremost is, of course, Bogart, who is an unadulterated delight in yet another role that George Raft turned down (Bogart also pinch-hit for Raft in High Sierra and Casablanca). There's probably never been anyone better at tossing off one-liners, and he's given dozens of chances to break out his deadpan snarl, but he's always doing it with a half-smile. He knows what kind of a silly enterprise he's involved in, and he just rolls on without quite winking at the audience or ever trying to make them take things seriously. He also works very well off Demarest and McHugh - easy banter with the former and offhand tormenting with the latter.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, too - there's some of the first screen appearances of Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers, for example. Peter Lorre is there, being Peter Lorre, a rotten and cowardly little rat (and we wouldn't have him any other way). Conrad Veidt is a suave villain, the perfect sort of sophisticated, presumptuous German necessary to make a hood like Gloves rediscover his patriotism. Aside from Lorre, he's got another fine sidekick in Judith Anderson, whose auction-house frontwoman naturally doesn't trust Verne's Leda. Verne is pretty good herself, serviceable as femme fatale or damsel in distress as the film demands.

Director Vincent Sherman is probably best known for having directed Bogart in The Return of Doctor X. He spent most of his career directing B movies and later television, but he turns in assured work here, getting good performances from his up-and-coming cast while also handling the action scenes in the second half with elan. The three writers pepper the screenplay with memorable lines, and somehow get us to go along with the goofy scenarios they whips up.

"All Through the Night" isn't on the short list of great Bogart movies or performances and probably shouldn't be. It is a great example of how even minor Bogart is a treat few others can match, though - a real treat.

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