Top Cat and Choo-Choo Meet the Abwehr
Is it just me, or has the line on Nazi people-purging always been that we didn't know about concentration camps until after the war? Imagine my surprise, then, when Humphrey Bogart reads an important clue in fifth columnist Conrad Veidt's notebook out loud to William Demarest in All Through the Night, a tremendously entertaining noir-comedy-thriller released the Tuesday before the attack on Pearl Harbor: December 2, 1941.
Gloves (Bogart): Her father is in D-A-C-H-A-U. Da-chow. What's that?
Sunshine (Demarest): I don't know. Must be one of those towns across the drink.
The film opens up with what appears to be the entire roster of character actors under contract to Warner Bros. maneuvering toy soldiers around a cafe table arguing over how Britain can win the war. You've got William Demarest, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Frank McHugh, and Wally Ford as henchmen of playboy sports promoter (gambler) Alfred "Gloves" Donahue (Bogart) with names like "Spats," "Sunshine," and "Starchy." When the little old German baker who makes Gloves's favorite cheesecake disappears, Gloves's mom, "Mom" (Jane Darwell) gets a bad feeling and asks her son to look into it.
Turns out the baker has been killed by a pipsqueak thug called "Pepi" (Peter Lorre) and stuffed into a large basket in the basement of his shop. Gloves and a couple of his gang get extra interested when Leda (Kaaren Verne ), an attractive blonde with a Dietrich-esque accent ("I'd like to finish my dwink...") shows up at the bakery looking furtive. She turns out to be a nightclub singer at a toney joint run by wiseguys Callahan (Barton MacLane) and Denning (Edward Brophy -- see? they just keep coming!) who are no friends of Gloves's.
Who should turn up as Leda's accompanist, but that little stinker, Pepi. Leda is upset by the baker's murder and Denning stumbles upon Pepi yelling at her in German to get a grip and in the course of eavesdropping, POW, he gets killed too. But not before Gloves, who has been following Leda, sees him dying on the floor and leans over to catch his last gesture, which is something like a high five. Gloves leaves the scene, intending to call the police, but what should he hear on the radio but an APB calling for everyone in New York to look out for Alfred "Gloves" Donahue, now wanted in connection with the murder of his known enemy, Joe Denning, because guess what Gloves dropped at the scene of the crime?*
The rest is a race against time (and the cops) for Donahue and his gang to find out who really killed Denning. Soon it becomes clear that Leda and the baker had been mixed up with a bunch of "Fivers" operating out of a swank auction house under the leadership of a dashing older gentleman named Ebbing (Conrad Veidt) and a forbidding woman with great clothes called "Madame" (Judith Anderson), who take turns carrying around an uncredited dachshund (in case we weren't clear about them being German). During the chase, we learn that Dachau is the concentration camp where Ebbing has sent Leda's father and has been bargaining his safety for her cooperation. We also learn that her father actually died there some time ago, so that frees her up to fall in love with Donahue and help him defeat the Fivers.
How they do it is great fun and fast-paced. There's some terrific dialog and great comedic moments, particularly between Demarest and Bogart, who seem genuinely to be having a good time. An odd combination of styles, All Through the Night is like a Damon Runyon story told by Raymond Chandler and filmed in chiaroscuro. I'm not too far off with the joke: Leo Rosten (The Joys of Yiddish) and Leonard Spigelgass (The Big Street) collaborated on the screenplay and Sidney Hickox, who shot other Bogart film noir classics To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Dark Passage (1947), was the film's cinematographer.
So there you go...and you can't go wrong.
* A glove.
This is my entry for the Build-Your-Own Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. I'm following the excellent Fritzi Kramer of Movies Silently, who reviewed the 1929 film, The Last Performance, and am using Conrad Veidt as the link for this post.
Stay tuned for The Blonde at the Film's review of Sullivan's Travels with William Demarest as her blog connector.
I'll do just about anything a movie tells me to do. Unless it tells me wrong...
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