All Through the Night (1941) Vincent Sherman

Bogart Takes on the Nazis.

Produced and released  by Warner Brothers, always the most socially conscience of the studios,  this 1941 propaganda film came out just months before America would enter World War II. Starring Humphrey Bogart as “Gloves” Donahue, a local hoodlum who runs the neighborhood bookie operations. “Glove’s” is a long way from Bogart’s other roles as a gangster. Here he is sort of a neighborhood Robin Hood with his gang, a bunch of Damon Runyonesque type comedic characters.

Most of the neighborhood seems to like “Gloves”, except for the cops, and his rivals led by Barton McLane. Conrad Veidt plays Ebbing, the head Nazi who commands an underground organization of fifth columnist with sabotage on their mind. Peter Lorre is Pepi, Ebbing’s little weasel of an assistant.

“Gloves” involvement begins when a neighborhood German baker is murdered by the master of creepiness, Peter Lorre. The baker was a friend of “Gloves” mother and made his favorite cheesecake, so at his mother’s beckoning he begins to look into the killing. When a nightclub bouncer is also murdered and one of “Gloves” gloves is found at the scene, the police can only conclude one thing, he is the murderer.

While trying to prove his innocence “Gloves” investigation leads him to discover a group of fifth columnist with plans to sabotage the New York Harbor by blowing up a naval battleship. The police, who are clueless about the German threat, are only interested in  fingering “Gloves” for the murders.

Surprisingly, the film is amazingly light in its humor considering that the war was going strong in Europe by this time. Released on December 2nd, according to IMDB, only days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America would enter the war. The release may have been only in Los Angeles though because the New York Times review is dated January 24th  1942 and makes note that this is a “pre Pearl Harbor” film, “lest anyone raises the  objection that it plays too fast and loose with a subject much too serious for melodramatic kidding in these times.”  The review, by Bosley Crowther, then goes on to say, “One would hate to think that an enemy plot of such elaborate magnitude as the one presented here should be so completely overlooked by our capable F. B. I. (italics mine), and that the responsibility for licking it should fall upon a semi-gangster. So don’t even let yourself think that this picture pretends to be fact. It is straight, unadulterated fiction pulled out of a script-writer’s hat.”

So here we are now some 70 years later, and considering what we have been going through since 2001, such blind faith in the F.B.I. or Homeland Security or any other Government Agency is naiveté of the highest order. I am not picking on Mr. Crowthers, as I usually do, I’m sure that many Americans had blind faith in and felt secure that organizations like the F.B.I had security matters well in hand back in those days.

Much of the films humor is supplied by members of “Gloves” gang, consisting of fanciful character actors like William Demarest and Frank McHugh along with some additional bizarre casting of Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers. McHugh’s character is newly married and the running joke throughout the film is that he cannot consummate his marriage because he is always helping  “Gloves” in hunting down the Nazis. Gleason and Silvers are regulated to humorous roles that are close to slapstick level.

There is a touch of seriousness thrown into the mix when “Gloves” in his search to find the murderers comes across nightclub singer Leda Hamilton (Karren Verne), a young woman who is first made to seem to be aiding the Nazis. We soon find out that Leda is being forced to help them because her father is a prisoner in Dachau. Ebbing promises to keep him alive as long as she helps them with their sabotage plans.

The cast also includes Jane Darwell as “Gloves” mother, Judith Anderson as an assistant to Ebbing and Barton McLane as Callahan, the rival gang leader. Bogart handles his role in typical Bogie fashion, cool and unflappable. Peter Lorre and Karren Verne would marry, in real life, a few years after this film was made. Today, “All Through the Night” comes across as a bizarre little film, somewhat uncomfortable in its humor, melodramatic with some odd casting but still entertaining enough.

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10 comments on “All Through the Night (1941) Vincent Sherman

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    Well John, you’ve stumped me again here, as this is a film I’ve neither seen, nor know much about. At least of course until I just read this outstanding essay, which has me intrigued, as the subject matter has always strongly held my interest. Interesting historical points there about the timing of this propaganda release, just launching before the attack on Pearl Harbor. But this is a valid “sub-genre”–the propaganda WW 2 film!

    • John Greco says:

      I am a little surprised Sam you are unfamilar with this one. It use to be broadcast all the time way back when, on Channel 5 (WNEW) on Sunday afternoons. Back then Channel 5 use to show movies, mostly WB, just about all day long. Worth seeing if you get the chance. Thanks again, my friend.

  2. Judy says:

    This is another Bogart I haven’t seen – great review, John. It sounds like an intriguing oddity and is yet another one I definitely want to see.

  3. A great, get the Nazi’s film… Well worth watching even with the slapstick…

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  5. richard hunt says:

    One of my favorite movies, Top 10 favorite Bogie films. What a cast, I came to this site hoping for a pic of Phil Silvers in that amazing scene of “The Gang” playing at the table with the army toys! A slice of Americana at it’s best!

  6. John Greco says:

    Hi Richard and welcome!

    I was surprised at how much humor was in the film considering the suject matter and the fact that WW2 was already raging in Europe and was knocking at our door.

    As for where I would rank this film well list see, here are some of my top films in no particular order.

    The Maltese Falcon
    Casablanca
    The African Queen
    High Sierra
    The Big Sleep
    Deadline USA
    Treasure of Sierra Madre
    In a Lonely Place
    The Caine Mutiny
    The Petrifed Forest

    Others include The Desparate Hours, Angels With Dirty Faces, Key Largo, All Through the Night, Dead End, To Have and Have Not and They Drive By Night.

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