Turner Classic Movies earlier today, and as soon as I saw the opening sequence showing police dispatchers at work, I knew this was my kind of movie. Perhaps it's the influence of all the Jack Webb shows I watched as a child, but I love a good police procedural set in the '40s or '50s.
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN at times might be called a "docu-noir," or perhaps "docu-cop" is more accurate; either way, it's an enjoyable film which provides an interesting peek into life as a cop, circa 1950 -- at least as the movies imagined it.
Rocky Barnes (Mark Stevens) and Dan "Pappy" Purvis (Edmond O'Brien) served in the South Pacific together during World War II, and now they share a squad car. Pappy is a cynical, seen-it-all cop, which contrasts with Rocky's more high-spirited, happy-go-lucky demeanor. Despite their different personalities, Rocky and Dan are fast friends who are roommates as well as colleagues.
Rocky is enamored with the voice of the new night shift dispatcher, who turns out to be Kate Mallory (Gale Storm). Kate's father was a cop who was killed in the line of duty, and she's sworn never to become involved with a police officer. Nonetheless, Kate can't resist an invitation to go to dinner with Rocky and Dan, and before you know it the partners are renting the other half of a duplex from Kate's mother.
Then condemned mobster Ritchie Purvis (Donald Buka) escapes from prison, and he's threatened to get even with Rocky and Dan, the men responsible for sending him to jail in the first place...
BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN is a good little movie, directed by Gordon Douglas (MR. SOFT TOUCH). One wonders if the partner relationship in BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN had some influence on the development of later TV shows; the older, more mature Dan is trying to help train the less experienced Rocky in the fine points of being a good policeman, which may sound familiar to anyone who's watched ADAM-12. They're each appealing in their own way and share a believable rapport.
I don't believe I've ever seen Gale Storm in a movie before, but she's quite good as the sassy Kate, who seems very at home in what was then mostly a man's world, the police station.
I loved scenes such as the smoky roll call room filled with chain-smoking policemen, something inconceivable in today's world. Details such as plotting the location of a chase on a map in the dispatching room are a fascinating contrast with today's computerized world. I also loved the sight of big old police cars -- no light bars across the top! -- and the policemen sliding around a bit in the car during a chase, as they don't seem to be wearing seatbelts. Yet one more way times have changed.
This 89-minute film is well-paced and has a couple unexpected twists and turns, including a surprisingly gritty final confrontation with Purvis, the mobster. The screenplay by Eugene Ling was based on a story by Gerald Drayson Adams and Leo Katcher. (Adams later did some good work on the TV series MAVERICK.) George Diskant was the cinematographer.
The supporting cast includes Anthony Ross, Gale Robbins, and Madge Blake. Familiar faces such as Billy Gray, Maudie Prickett, and Myron Healey pop up briefly.
As I researched this film I found a very good post on the movie by Mark at Where Danger Lives. Do be aware that his analysis contains all the major plot points, so those who prefer not to read spoilers should wait and enjoy it after seeing the movie.
This Columbia film does not appear to have ever had a VHS or DVD release. Perhaps it will be released in the future in the Sony Columbia Classics line sold via the Warner Archive. In the meantime, watch for it to turn up again on TCM.
May 2013 Update: BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN will be released on DVD this summer from the TCM Vault Collection.