A Cry in the Night is a 1956 film-noir, dramatic, and thriller film starring Edmond O'Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood and Raymond Burr. The film was produced and narrated by Alan Ladd. A Cry in the Night was directed by Frank Tuttle. The film also has Richard Anderson, Irene Hervey, Anthony Caruso, and Peter Hansen in supporting roles. A Cry in the Night was based on the 1955 novel by Whit Masterson titled All Through the Night.
This movie begins at a place called "Lovers' Loop," at 12:00 AM. Elizabeth "Liz" Taggart who is 18 years old, is on a date with Owen Clark, and they are both secretly engaged, and Liz gently refuses to explain why she has not introduced him to her parents. While hiding in the woods, a mentally disturbed man, Harold Loftus, who is watching the many couples, accidentally drops his metal lunchbox in the dark. When Owen gets out of his car to investigate the sound, he finds Harold in the woods with his flashlight and knocks him in the head with his lunchbox and then he starts to grab Liz. Her screams are unheeded by the other lovers, who assume she is playing hard to get. To quiet her, Harold slaps her unconscious. He kidnaps Liz, and then he drives her away in Owen's convertible, leaving Owen unconscious on the ground. A couple driving a motorcycle discover Owen and pour liquor on his face to revive him, but when he does not move, the couple leaves him, fearing that they will be blamed for him being possibly dead. Later, Owen regains consciousness, although not his memory, causing patrolmen who are routinely driving through the area to assume he is drunk. Harold drives the convertible to his parked jalopy, moves Liz into that car and drives away, leaving the convertible in its place. Liz regains consciousness while riding in Harold's car. He takes her to an abandoned brickyard, where he has set up a hideout in an old shack.
At the police station where Owen is being held, the police doctor determines that he is suffering shock and concussion from an assault, and convinces Captain Edward Bates, who is in charge of the night shift, to question him. When Owen regains his memory and reports that a "peeping tom" abducted his girlfriend Liz, Ed realizes that Liz is the daughter of the day shift captain and colleague, Daniel Taggart. Meanwhile, at the Taggart home, the stern and overprotective Dan is angry that Liz is out late with someone and blames his wife Helen Taggart for being permissive. After Dan is informed by Ed of Liz's abduction, he goes to the station and is introduced to Owen. Ed has to intervene to prevent Dan from harming Owen, whom he blames for Liz's predicament. After an all-points bulletin is dispatched and roadblocks set up around the city, the convertible is found next to tire tracks of an old automobile with three regular tires and one oversized tire.
At the hideout, Liz is being held captive by Harold and she discovers that Harold killed a little dog because it would not stop "crying." Harold alternately tries to "woo" her and threaten her. When he offers her dresses he found in an attic box and tells her about his overbearing mother, she calls him crazy, and he angrily draws a gun, causing her to faint. Meanwhile, Harold's mother Mabel is troubled that he has not returned home with the apricot pie he always brings her and calls the police, telling them how "Baby is such a good boy." As the conversation unfolds, the amused desk sergeant realizes that "Baby" is a 32 year old man, and afterward reports the call to Ed. Sam Patrick, a profiler whom the police have called in to help, suggests that they follow up the call, as a young man with a sickly, domineering mother might decide to break loose in a disturbing way. Dan, Ed and Owen proceed to the Loftus home, and note that the tire tracks in the dirt driveway probably match those found near the convertible. While Owen waits outside, Dan and Ed interview Mabel, who seems equally troubled that she has nothing sweet to eat as by the thought of Harold out with a girl. Dan almost loses his temper, but he and Ed manage to get the registration number and make of the jalopy and a photograph of Harold. Inside of Ed's police car, Owen confirms that the man in the photo is the one who slugged him. Disturbed by the idea that Harold's insane mother is "to blame for this," Dan goes home to wait for the next development in the case.
At the hideout, when Liz awakens, Harold offers her an apricot pie to eat. Harold again tries to be "friends" with her, wanting to kiss her the way he sees other men kiss, but she keeps him talking to stall him. Seeing that her left thigh has been cut, he leaves to get water. She then takes the gun and, when he returns, threatens to shoot if he does not let her pass. However, the gun is not loaded, so her attempt to escape causes him to become even more deranged. She tries distracting him by talking about the dresses, but he calls her "my girl" and attempts to kiss her. Soon after, the police arrive at the brickyard, and determining that Harold is nearby, alerts Ed by radio. When Harold sees the lights of the police car, he forces Liz to move forward, but Liz accidentally twists her right ankle, which makes her take off her right shoe. A few minutes later, Harold forces Liz to escape with him through a back tunnel into the indoor area of the brickyard. At the Taggarts, Helen and Dan's sister Madge Taggart, who lost her boyfriend when Dan browbeat and ordered him away, force Dan to realize that his sternness might scare away Liz's boyfriend and that she probably kept her love life secret to protect it from him. Dan argues that he wants to shield Liz and the family from the bad things he has seen, but Madge counters that his overprotection has instead endangered Liz. Ed and Owen pick up Dan on their way to the brickyard and soon find Harold's hideout. Pursued by the police, Harold shoots one policeman. Although Harold forces Liz up a stairwell and over catwalks, his pursuers corner him. Owen, who has climbed a ladder above Harold, sees that he is about to ambush Dan and jumps down on him. Dan then begins beating and punching Harold, who cries for his mother. At Liz's request, Dan stops hitting Harold and hands him over to Ed for arrest. After Harold is taken to custody, Dan finally accepts that they are both dating when he invites Owen to accompany Liz back home.
- Edmond O'Brien as Capt. Dan Taggart
- Brian Donlevy as Capt. Ed Bates
- Natalie Wood as Liz Taggart
- Raymond Burr as Harold Loftus
- Richard Anderson as Owen Clark
- Irene Hervey as Helen Taggart
- Carol Veazie as Mabel Loftus
- Mary Lawrence as Madge Taggart
- Anthony Caruso as Tony Chavez
- George J. Lewis as George Gerrity
- Peter Hansen as Dr. Frazee
- Tina Carver as Marie Holzapple
- Herb Vigran as Sgt. Jensen
A Cry in the Night was made for Jaguar, Alan Ladd's production company, despite Ladd not appearing in the cast. It was based on the novel All Through the Night by "Whit Masterson" (Robert Wade and Bill Miller) which had appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine. The New York Times described it as "an intensely compact book... and an unusually rich one" later saying it was one of the best films of the year. The director, Frank Tuttle, had worked with Ladd on a number of occasions, most recently in Hell on Frisco Bay, that had starred Edward G. Robinson who was discussed initially for the lead. The cast included Edmond O'Brien and Richard Anderson, who was Ladd's son-in-law and was borrowed from MGM. Brian Donlevy left a play commitment to appear in the film. Natalie Wood was under contract to Warner Bros. It has been claimed that Wood lobbied to play the role in part of exorcise demons from her own real-life rape. During the making of the film, Natalie Wood had a relationship with Raymond Burr despite Burr's being gay.
According to Turner Classic Movies, a number of changes were made from the novel:
- “The girl in the book was knocked out early on and treated like a piece of furniture from then on. Her boyfriend wanted to help rescue her, but was sidelined by her bullying father, an unsympathetic brute in pursuit of an equally monstrous villain. There just wasn't much there for any actor to grab a hold of. David Dortort took the book's outline and reconfigured its details to make the characters more compelling: the sex fiend was now a repressed mamma's boy. This 32-year old virgin has no other way to spend time with a woman aside from abducting her to a secret lair. And the object of his rapacious attention would no longer be an unconscious object, but a girl equally frustrated by the smothering attention of an overprotective parent, and capable of recognizing some humanity in her attacker. The boyfriend would no longer be relegated to the margins of the story, but would join the father in the hunt, where the two would have plenty of dramatic tension and mutual disrespect crackling between them.”
- ―Turner Classic Movies
Film critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote in his review: "NATALIE WOOD, Warner Brothers' seemingly ubiquitous teen-ager, who so far this year has endured quivering captivity in The Searchers and The Burning Hills, again plays the vulnerable feminine hostage in A Cry in the Night, which came to the Palace yesterday. This time Miss Wood's abductor is a sex-crazed maniac, played by Raymond Burr. He snatches poor Natalie from the arms of her boy friend at a place called Lover's Loop and holds her under duress at an abandoned brick factory throughout the length of this rather tasteless and make-shift melodrama."
In Manoah Bowman's 2016 book Natalie Wood (Turner Classic Movies): Reflections on a Legendary Life, he states Natalie had to "fight to be cast in A Cry in the Night after completing Rebel hoping to stretch her dramatic skills in a gritty psychological thriller." Instead, the film "proved to be a disappointment", although her co–star, Raymond Burr and Natalie started dating.
A Cry in the Night was released on August 31, 1956, at the Palace Theatre in New York City.
The film was released on DVD on July 26, 2016 by Warner Home Video on the Warner Archive Collection.
Differences between the novel and the film
- A Cry in the night at AllMovie
- A Cry in the night at the TCM Movie Database
- on YouTubeScript error
- Review of film at New York Times
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