Tuttle Wash-Outs

A CRY IN THE NIGHT (1956), starring Daisy Clover, Lars Thorwald, ‘Fats’ Murdock, Quatermass McGinty and Steve Austin’s boss. A relatively late Frank Tuttle film.

Really poor. David Dortort’s script slaloms around anything potentially interesting. And smashes into any opportunity to make the characters seem dumb or unpleasant. Unconscious misanthropy? At any rate, a psycho mother’s boy abducts a young girl and we never learn anything about his mental problems, while the cops proceed to follow a trail of lucky coincidences to allow them to crack the case while being as stupid as possible.

We begin on lover’s lane, with an intense voice-over from an uncredited Alan Ladd (Tuttle made him a star), commenting on the activities, stressing their innocence but somehow making them seem really dirty because of his Dramatic Intensity, which also makes him sound like a skeevy prowler. “Kids always have things to talk over, questions about life.”

Raymond Burr snatches teenage Natalie Wood; her cop father, dyspeptic ulcer Edmond O’Brien, teams up with her boyfriend Richard Anderson and A,N. Other Cop Brian Donlevy and they drive around desperately while sniping at each other. Eventual rescue near some kilns.

Tuttle’s great compositional skill is not in evidence, unless he’s enjoying the contrasting body types as much as I am. Burr’s large adult son character is an amusingly lumpen form to postulate next to the tiny, birdlike Wood, and the trio of O’Brien, Donlevy and Anderson create a vaudevillian panoply whenever united in the same frame. If you posed a bag of cat food, a box of cat food, and turkey leg together, you’d get roughly the same effect and twice the charisma.

Nobody is on form: the script encourages them to be the worst possible version of themselves. I love Natalie, but wouldn’t have cared if she’d ended up in a fridge here. Burr’s Lonesome Lenny routine is a screaming embarrassment. There are plenty of movies where I can forget that O’Brien was a struggling alcoholic, that Orson Welles called him “a magnificent ruin,” and that he traveled with a suitcase full of meat and light bulbs. This isn’t one. And Donlevy is equally grating and artificial: if it weren’t for him being a cuboid and O’Brien being totally shapeless, you couldn’t tell them apart.

They all drive around in a car a lot and you wish they’d give Anderson the wheel, because he only has concussion.

The best bit was the police getting a tip-off from Burr’s domineering mother because he’s out late and there’s no pie in the house.

Strangely enough, Raymond Burr dated Natalie Wood for a while.

“This one’s no good too!” declared Fiona after ten minutes of HELL ON FRISCO BAY (1955). Tuttle goes into super widescreen for this one. Stars Lucky Jordan, Dr. Clitterhouse, Tess Millay, Constable Kockenlocker, Captain Escobar and Ann Darrow. Poor Alan Ladd looks puffy and out of sorts: these movies both feel like episodes of some grisly Alcohol Watch. Edward G. Robinson is just old, but can still exude malevolence and smoke a cigar at the same time. He looks more and more like a Winsor McCay drawing, only not in blackface.

The climax scales new heights of bathos — a fist fight between Ladd and Robinson. Both are prematurely aged but Robinson, at only sixty-two, is an actual little old man. Ladd is little too, but he seems like a monster for slugging this geriatric case. Then Ladd has to do a dramatic leap and it’s a tragi-comic belly-flop. As is the film.


It’s just DULL. The title is good (and is the name of a fine blog). Nothing else lives up to it. Tuttle’s work is so lacking energy and impact, it’s amazing he worked again: but he did A CRY IN THE NIGHT the very next year.

Look like I have to head into his past to find stuff of value. Not only does THIS GUN FOR HIRE include a ton of marvelous noir imagery, but its opening gave Jean-Pierre Melville LE SAMOURAI. And MISS BLUEBEARD features a reel of the best bedroom farce ever shot. So he was good, very good, to begin with. I think cooperating with HUAC broke something inside. Recommendations for obscure, good Tuttle films will be gratefully received.

16 Responses to “Tuttle Wash-Outs”

  1. Natalie Wood “bearded” for Raymond Burr for awhile. She was the “Grace” to a bevvy of Hollywood “Wills” that included Nick Adams, Sal Mineo, and Perry Lopez. Elizabeth Taylor was of course “Super Grace” but Natalie was no slouch.

    That Melville constructed an entire filmmaking aesthetic around a single image of Alan Ladd in “This Gun For Hire” is fascinating

  2. The big difference between This Gun for Hire and Le Samourai of course is that TGfH is REALLY grotesque: not only is Raven a great villain protagonist, but we have the doorman turned on by violence, the nasty invalid industrialist, and Laird Cregar on brilliant form. I’m not sure if there’s a classic era noir more gothic than that movie (big influence on Blast of Silence too.

    Giddins has some nice things to say about Waikiki Wedding (1937), including imaginative staging.

  3. Apparently Wood went on insisting the relationship with Burr was physical… I guess she was just being helpful?

    Laird Cregar’s horrified reaction to the word “catgut” in TGFH is one of the reasons I adores him so.

    Waikiki Wedding is added to the list! Despite Bing’s presence. It’s earlyish Bing so may not be so bad.

  4. And I don’t know if it counts as obscure, but THIS IS THE NIGHT is indeed delightful.

  5. This is the Night is great fun — I used an extract for my Cary Grant video essay on The Awful Truth Blu-Ray.

    Thanks for the excellent link!

  6. SUSPENSE (1947) might not be a great movie, but it’s the best skating noir I know. Have you seen THE GLASS KEY (1935)?

  7. Are you sure about that? Gavin lambert (who knew everything about Natalie Wood) never makes mention of her claiming physicality with Burr. I’m sure that was done by Burr — who claimed to have married twice and fathered a child. He was briefly)
    married once and fathered no children.

  8. chris schneider Says:

    We’ve already talked elsewhere about SWELL GUY (1946) and SUSPENSE (1946). Perhaps the first movie version of THE GLASS KEY (1935), the one with George Raft, or THE MAGIC FACE (1951), wherein Luther Adler assassinates Hitler and takes his place, would be the answer. There’s also PLEASURE CRUISE (1933), a pre-Code comedy that stars Roland Young and sounds as if it might be saucy.

  9. Yes, good thoughts! Another source privately nudged me towards Pleasure Cruise, And The Magic Face has to be at least a bit interesting, and better than Hitler: Dead or Alive, surely.

    And Suspense is sitting right here, in its box, so I don’t know why I haven’t run it.

    Fiona was my source for the Nat-Ray gossip. She’s read all the Wood bios, and at least one good one has come along since Lambert’s excellent book.

  10. And Suspense has a dynamite performance by Cuban singer Miguelito Valdez, the *real* Desi Arnaz.

  11. Now I’m intrigued! What make him so real, compared to Desi?

  12. surlyhack, in terms of skating noirs, how would you rate MURDER IN THE MUSIC HALL (1946), which features not only Vera Hruba Ralston as an “ice ballerina” but Jack La Rue as well?

  13. I KNEW there was another iceskating noir, but I was looking up Sonja Henie. I miss Sonia Henie.

    Not only La Rue in that one, but Helen Walker, the honorable Betty Cream herself.

  14. Fits a skate well?

  15. And she doesn’t go EVERYWHERE, you know.

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