While the City Sleeps (1956)

Director:

Fritz Lang

Cinematography by

Ernest Laszlo director of photography

A serial killer has been killing beautiful women in New York, and the new owner of a media company offers a high ranking job to the 1st administrator who can get the earliest scoops on the case.

solid acting, writing and direction

14 April 2007 | by planktonrules (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

While this is the sort of film that will not appeal to everyone (particularly teens and action film fans), this is a very well made drama from famed director, Fritz Lang. Unfortunately for Lang, his success directing American films was very limited and he eventually moved back to Europe soon after completing WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS. It’s a shame, really, because many of his films (such as SCARLET STREET and this one) were darned good films but weren’t blockbusters and weren’t received too well by the public.

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This film stars one of my favorite actors, Dana Andrews, though he is certainly NOT the entire show–as he has many fine supporting actors to make this movie about the future of a media empire quite interesting. Towards the very beginning of the film, the owner of a news wire service, newspaper and TV news empire dies–leaving the future to his ne’er do-well son (Vincent Price). Instead of picking a man to head this organization, he deliberately pushes these men to try to undermine and outdo each other to garner his favor! At the same time, there is a plot involving a serial killer which soon takes up most of the film’s focus–particularly Dana Andrews’. How all this is worked out is pretty interesting and seemed pretty realistic. While not a great film, it was very good and is worth your time if you’d like a more cerebral type film as opposed to an action or suspense film (though there is quite a bit of both towards the very end).

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Rhonda Fleming

sometimes interesting, sometimes kind of dumb

5/10
Author: Charles Herold (cherold) from United States
8 July 2005

While the City Sleeps has an interesting premise. A newspaper is taken over by a rather dissolute millionaire who sets three executives scrambling for a big promotion. They all have different angles to get the job, but the main focus is on the attempt to show off their skills by getting the best news on a wanted serial killer.

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This is a promising setup for a hard-edged examination of the cynicism of the newspaper industry, but it lacks that hard, cynical edge. The movie doesn’t seem to be all that appalled by the actions of its executives nor does one get a real sense of hard men doing anything to get ahead. In other words, this is no Sweet Smell of Success.

The movie also has some pretty dumb plot elements, most notably reporter Andrews absurd plan to catch the killer. Admittedly this is pretty typical of movies of the kind, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid. The dialogue is artificial and often a little ridiculous.

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On the plus side, the movie has an entertaining adult sensibility. Even though the Hayes code means little is said explicitly, there is a remarkable amount of implied sex in this movie, and the sleaziness of most of its characters is the most interesting aspect of the film. But overall, this is just sort of watchable.

One of the Best Newspaper Films; a Taut Drama of Ideas and Actions

8/10
Author: silverscreen888
17 June 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is my favorite film of all time on the absorbing subject of how to and how not to run a newspaper, after “The Fountainhead”. The very clever main plot concerns what happens at the Kyne News Service when its founder/boss dies suddenly; his corrupt heir soon decides to stage a contest among the heads of the Service’s three divisions–to keep them under his thumb while he pretends to be boss–while Ed Mobley, the boss’s former heir-apparent refuses to ask to participate. The machinations of the three aspirants are then played out against Mobley’s pursuit of a rapist known as ‘The Lipstick Killer” and Mobley’s pursuit of his skittish fiancée who has her own doubts about him and the situation. The authors of the piece in the first half of the film seem to my standards do have done better than anyone else ever has in presenting the point of view of those who define, cover and are affected by ‘the news’–news of the day or more lasting sorts. This classy but never glossy B/W film was very well directed by veteran Fritz Lang, with screenplay credited to Charles Einstein and Casey Robinson.7470594_orig

John Drew Barrymore

The sets by Joel Mills are very good, lighting is excellent, and the costumes by Norma and music (by Herschel Burke-Gilbert)are seamlessly good. But the fascinating element in the film for me is the very good acting Lang gets from a mixed cast of young and veteran performers. Fine actor Robert Warwick’s demise as Amos Kyne leaves his son Vincent Price, wonderfully unprincipled, in charge of his empire. As the three division heads, the viewer has the fun of watching George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell and James Craig, with the ladies who complicate their lives being hard-boiled Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, at her best in every sense, and lovely young Sally Forrest. Everyone is very good indeed. Mobley is played very well by Dana Andrews. John Drew Barrymore is the killer, in his first major role, and his long-suffering mother is played by Mae Marsh. The climax of the film comes when the killer stalks Mobley’s fiancée, and he has to wonder even if he succeeds in setting her up in a successful trap ( rigged for the man who’s already stalking her thanks to his having taunted him on the airwaves) whether she will still want him or not. The climax is active and satisfying; and the denouement and ending even better. This is a first-rate and well-remembered film that just missed being even greater. I never miss it; and my advice to anyone is to adopt the same attitude.

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Top Dog In The News Business

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
4 December 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Robert Warwick appears and then dies at the beginning of While The City Sleeps. He’s a Rupert Murdoch type media tycoon and he’s left his empire to his rather unsteady son Vincent Price. Price is second generation wealth and looking to put his personal stamp on the empire bequeathed to him. But he’ll need someone who really knows the business and three candidates present themselves, Thomas Mitchell, George Sanders, and James Craig. All of them use fair and foul means to gain the prize. Craig’s is the foulest of all, he’s carrying on with Price’s tramp of a wife in Rhonda Fleming hoping the two of them will influence Price.

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We’ve got a couple of other players in this field also. Dana Andrews sides with Mitchell who edits the local tabloid similar to the Murdoch run New York Post. Andrews has won Pulitzer Prizes the two of them decide to aid the police in capturing a serial killer before that term came into use who is targeting young women. Andrews baits the killer in his nightly newscast and also happens to mention he’s just gotten engaged to Sally Forrest who works as George Sanders’s secretary in the wire service portion of the empire. In a really slick piece of casting against type Sanders while having a more or less undefined role, comes off as the most sympathetic character of the lot.

Andrews ostensibly the hero is a real creep for using his girl friend Forrest as bait even with the connivance of his friend Detective Howard Duff in charge of the investigation. It nearly goes wrong.

John Drew Barrymore who had an odd career being the holder of that great name of the theater. In 1956 people had memories of his father and probably expected a classical actor in that vein. Instead Barrymore had he not had that name might have found himself a niche in Hollywood with the newer post war rebel types like James Dean or Marlon Brando. This film is one of his best performances as the woman hating, mother fixated serial killer in a career that quite frankly featured a lot of junk.

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In the few scenes she’s in, but stealing every one of them is Ida Lupino as an acid tongued gossip columnist in the Hedda Hopper tradition. She in her way gets the final say on who becomes top dog.

While The City Sleeps is one of the most cynical and jaded films ever to come out of Hollywood. Fritz Lang mixed a really great cast together with a great script and got quite an indictment of the news business, predating Network by 20 years. His happy ending for Andrews and Forrest didn’t ring true, but other than that a great piece of work.

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