While the City Sleeps (1956)

While the City Sleeps (1956)

“The man who gets the killer lands the job.”

When media magnate Amos Kyne (Robert Warwick) dies, his spoiled son and heir (Vincent Price) offers to promote whichever one of three ambitious newspaper men — George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, or James Craig — can break a story about a recent rash of murders sweeping the city. Meanwhile, tippling journalist Ed Mobley (Dana Andrews) helps his friend Griffith (Mitchell) try to solve the case, while simultaneously trying to convince his no-nonsense girlfriend (Sally Forrest) to marry him; Kritzer (Craig) is having an affair with Price’s leggy wife (Rhonda Fleming); Loving (Sanders) asks his co-worker and paramour Mildred (Ida Lupino) to help him rise to the top; and the psychotic murderer (John Barrymore, Jr.) keeps killing young women in their apartments.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dana Andrews Films
  • Fritz Lang Films
  • George Sanders Films
  • Ida Lupino Films
  • Journalists
  • Murder Mystery
  • Serial Killers
  • Rivalry
  • Thomas Mitchell Films
  • Vincent Price Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary refers to this all-star melodrama — Fritz Lang’s final American film, and purportedly a personal favorite — as “silly but diverting”, which just about sums it up. There isn’t much substance to the tale — essentially a trussed up sex soaper with a serial-killer search as a backdrop (Peary argues “the simple case should take about one minute to solve”) — but it’s enjoyable watching cinematic favorites such as Vincent Price:

Ida Lupino, George Sanders:

… Dana Andrews (constantly drinking, as in real life):

… Thomas Mitchell:

… and others working together in one flick. Also of interest is John Barrymore, Jr. (Drew’s troubled dad) in what was perhaps his best-known minor role, playing a whacked-out Mama’s-boy killer in black leather gloves — he’s no great actor, but very convincing in the part.

Note: Peary adds that this “film has [the] distinction of having [the] most alcohol consumed by characters since The Lost Weekend” — and while I doubt a formal tally has been done, I’ll admit to noticing glasses in hand time and again while perusing the film for stills.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The all-star ensemble cast

  • John Barrymore, Jr. (Drew’s father!) as the Lipstick Killer

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing.


One thought on “While the City Sleeps (1956)

  1. Not a must.

    I’d not seen this – a hard one to track down. From the intriguing synopsis in the assessment (and that cast!), I was quite ready for something very much up my alley.

    Alas, the air that hangs over this entire film is ‘Well, we agreed to do it; we better shoot the thing.’

    It’s almost bizarre to think that Lang calls this a personal favorite. It is nowhere near his best work. The pacing is bad, it’s sluggish; there just doesn’t seem to be much style at all at play.

    Of course, since the screenplay is rather limp, everyone is at a disadvantage, dealing with an uphill climb. It’s not surprising then that no one puts in a particularly good performance. At least, in a small role on the sidelines, Howard Duff comes off as natural, and Lupino manages a game attitude and is appropriately sultry.

    But this is one dull movie.

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