Thursday, November 15, 2007


Man, this movie, made in 1942, is just plain cool. Bogie and his cronies are gamblers who might have been drawn straight from a Damon Runyon story—the sort of mildly illegal people who might gamble and occasionally cheat a little, but never actually seem to hurt anyone.

Bogie’s character is “Gloves” Donahue, who concentrates on his own business regardless of what else might be going on in the world. The war might be raging in Europe and the Pacific, but Gloves makes it clear that he’s not interested in anything military—that’s “Washington’s racket.” Gloves is more concerned about the odds on that day’s Yankees game.

But when the baker who makes Gloves’ favorite cheesecake is murdered, he finds himself up against a gang of Nazi saboteurs. Soon, he’s been framed for murder and must dodge the police as well as foreign assassins. Along the way, Gloves has an epiphany and realizes that the fight for freedom is everyone’s responsibility.

New York gangsters vs. Nazi spies. Now that’s cool.

It’s a fun, fast-moving story, adroitly balancing action, suspense and humor. There’s several nifty and well-choreographed fist fights, a secret headquarters, a beautiful girl with uncertain loyalties and a never-ending supply of one-liners.

This movie is overflowing with talented character actors. William Demarest, Phil Silvers and Jackie Gleason are members of Gloves’ gang and provide a lot of the humor. Barton MacLane, who pretty much made a career in the ‘30s and ‘40s getting shot or beaten up by Bogie in many different movies, is the leader of a rival gambling ring. Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre are excellent and very threatening as the Nazi villains. (It’s interesting to note that both these men fled Germany in real life to escape the Nazis.)

As with many movies made during the war, the patriotism is laid on thick. But good acting and a good story keeps it from being unpleasantly corny and even reminds us of some of the basic truths of healthy and thoughtful patriotism—there are some things worth fighting for.

I’m not going to argue the movie is philosophically important, though. Watching it now, two generations after it was made, we mostly just enjoy the sheer sense of fun All Through the Night so expertly generates from beginning to end.

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