Drowning in a Sea of Bliss

ON SUCH A NIGHT might not qualify as a forgotten gem but its certainly a curio. Grant Richards (as “Nicky Last”) is going to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit but a flood gives him a second chance. His new wife, Karen Morley tries to rescue him with Alan Mowbray’s travelling magic show but they’re pursued by the real killer, Eduardo Ciannelli (as “Ice Richards”) and a fast-talking newspaperman (Roscoe Karns) and they all end up stranded by the flood in a southern mansion full of stereotypes of one kind or another (white-bearded colonel, superstitious black servants).

The verbose and ebullient Mowbray (as Professor Ricardo Montrose Candle) seems to be inhabited a role conceived for WC Fields — florid speech, including “comic” racism (“My suntanned friend”), elaborate endearments, legerdemaine, perhaps with Lupe Velez as the missus ( “My little cactus flower.”) Here, she’s played by Milly, much later in THE CONFORMIST as Trintignant’s mum. Such recasting would have moved this movie towards INTERNATIONAL HOUSE territory. Despite the thriller aspects — which show signs of promise early on — it’s halfway to such lunacy anyway. WC Fields in a disaster movie is an inspiring thought. You could get him to say the title: “Why, it’s a veritable towering inferno.” “My, my, my, this is quite the Poseidon adventure.”

And yes, E.A. Dupont directs. There’s a bit of unchained camera business going on, but it doesn’t rise to the spectacular. Still, it’s a peculiar and different film, an independent production now seemingly extant only in a ratty, fuzzy form. I’ll take what I can get: several of Dupont’s US films aren’t discoverable at all…

Oh, and Mowbray speaks of composing a song to be entitled “Drowning in a Sea of Bliss,” but since he never gets anywhere with it, I’m attempting a set of lyrics.

I’m drowning in a sea of bliss

Sinking down for your liquid kiss

It’s not that surprising

The water is rising

With the sound of a terrible hiss

A dum-dee dee dum…

ON SUCH A NIGHT stars Philo Vance; Pendola Molloy; Oscar Shapeley; Dr. Satan; Madre di Marcello Clerici; Granville Thorndyke; Dr. Lupus Crumm; Mrs. Leeson; Himmelstoss: Capt. Englehorn; Teeler Yacey; ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ Brewster; Uncle Cato; Black Mammy (uncredited); Little Joe Jackson; Yankee on Street (uncredited); and Fantastic Brown.

8 Responses to “Drowning in a Sea of Bliss”

  1. My new favourite song!

  2. David Ehrenstein Says:

    And speaking of Bliss Norman Lloyd R.I.P. having worked with everyone from Welles to Chaplin to Jean Renoir to Joseph Losey and Marty Norman Lloyd is in many ways THE CINEMA ITSELF.

  3. We’re just gearing up to write something about him. A great loss.

  4. chris schneider Says:

    Possible last line : “To die … on such a night as this!”

  5. Excellent!

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