Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Longest Night (1936)

THE LONGEST NIGHT is an MGM department store murder mystery which clocks in at a super-short 51 minutes.

This "B" movie features Robert Young as a wealthy young man who inherits a department store. He falls for sales clerk Florence Rice as soon as he arrives on the scene, and then they're both swept into a murder mystery when an employee is killed. Sidney Toler, who would later play Charlie Chan, plays the police detective who locks everyone in the store overnight -- including the murderer.

Since all but a couple of scenes are set in the store, it's fun to look around and observe MGM's idea of a department store of 1936. Otherwise, Young and Rice are the main reason to watch the film; they're both attractive and quite charming. They were teamed regularly in the late '30s, also including MARRIED BEFORE BREAKFAST (1937), NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937), and PARADISE FOR THREE (1938).

Most of the characters, however, are completely goofy, including Ted Healy as a police sergeant and Catherince Doucet as Mrs. Wilson G. Wilson. Although the film periodically has some good chills -- especially when the murder victim (Janet Beecher) is discovered -- by the end it's dissolved into complete silliness, including a brigade of cleaning ladies battling a bunch of crooks dressed in police uniforms. The film's short running time works in its favor, as the movie is over before the kookier characters have the chance to become too annoying.

Samuel S. Hinds, Julie Haydon, Paul Staton, Minor Watson, Leslie Fenton, and Kitty McHugh are also in the cast.

THE LONGEST NIGHT was directed by Errol Taggart. The screenplay by Robert Hardy Andrews was based on the mystery THE WHISPERING WINDOW by Cortland Fitzsimmons. A Fitzsimmons novel also provided the inspiration for Young's 1934 murder mystery DEATH ON THE DIAMOND (1934).

THE LONGEST NIGHT is not available on VHS or DVD, but it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available online.


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