Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema feature is a lively, harsh little gem from my favorite genre, film noir. While the City Sleeps is a 1956 newspaper drama directed by Fritz Lang. "Lang's vision of the world is profoundly expressed by his visual forms" -- Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema (1968)
While the City Sleeps (1956) is a whole look at the modern media. It concerns a media empire, combining newspapers, wire services, photography and television. All of these come under sharp and often negative scrutiny in this film. The sheer fact that so many different media are all combined in one company frightens Lang, who sees totalitarian potentials here.
"One of Fritz Lang's last and best American film noir, the plot is complex and involving, and the visual style clear and extremely effective," Emanuel Levy.
Delicious cast includes "Dana Andrews, as the handsome, realistic and cynical Pulitzer Prize man; Sally Forrest, as his girl; George Sanders, as the polished but conniving syndicate chief; Vincent Price, as the publisher; Rhonda Fleming, as his two-timing spouse; Thomas Mitchell, as the managing editor; John Barrymore Jr., the 'mama's boy' who likes to kill blondes as much as he adores comic books, and Ida Lupino, as the amorous sob sister."
The NY Times review in May of 1956:
"While the City Sleeps," which was exposed at the Criterion yesterday, as another shiny, sometimes over-dramatic illustration of the movie-makers' love of the newspaper "game."
Since it is full of sound and fury, murder, sacred and profane love and a fair quota of intramural intrigue, a viewer is left wondering if the tycoons of the giant Kyne publishing combine ever bother to cover such mundane stories as the weather. But while this journalistic jamboree is more flamboyant than probable, a tight and sophisticated script by Casey Robinson and a clutch of professional performances make "While the City Sleeps" a diverting and workmanlike fiction.
The title of this excursion to the scenes of crime and communications is a misnomer. No one dozes at The New York Sentinel or its news services. A young and obviously disturbed killer dispatches a comely lass. The publisher, who wants the story played big, suddenly goes to his reward and his playboy son takes over by dangling the offer of a top job to four of his executives. The idea is that it will go to the gent who helps to crack the case.
The flower of romance also flourishes in the busy city room. The paper's Pulitzer Prize star reporter goes for the syndicate chief's secretary. That suave operator is hand-in-glove with a designing sob sister. And, the young publisher's beauteous and leggy wife is cozy with the syndicate's photo service chieftain.
WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS; screen play by Casey Robinson; based on the novel "The Bloody Spur" by Charles Emstein; directed by Fritz Lang; produced by Bert Fricdlob and presented by R. K. O. At the Criterion.
Ed Mobley . . . . . Dana Andrews
Mildred Donner . . . . . Ida Lupino
Dorothy Kyne . . . . . Rhonda Fleming
Mark Loving . . . . . George Sanders
Walter Kyne . . . . . Vincent Price
Jon Day Griffith . . . . . Thomas Mitchell
Nancy Liggett . . . . . Sally Forrest
Lieutenant Kaufman . . . . . Howard Duff
Harry Kritzer . . . . . James Craig
Manners . . . . . John Barrymore Jr.
Amos Kyne . . . . . Robert Warwick
Meade . . . . . Ralph Peters
George Pilski . . . . . Vladimir Sokoloff
Mrs. Manners . . . . . Mae Marsh
Judith Fenton . . . . . Sandy White