STREAMING SATURDAY! It’s Friday the Dog to the Rescue in EYES IN THE NIGHT
Welcome to another edition of Streaming Saturdays, where we embed a free, fabulous movie for you to watch right here every weekend!
This week: Eyes in the Night!
In 1942, a few years before he began turning out such classics as High Noon, From Here to Eternity and Oklahoma!, Fred Zinnemann directed a neat little thriller about a blind detective who starts out helping an old flame and ends up knee-deep in Nazis.
When Norma Lawry (Ann Harding) first turns to Duncan “Mac” Maclain (Edward Arnold) for help, her problem seems straightforward enough: a former beau (John Emery) and first-class heel is now wooing her stepdaughter, Barbara (Donna Reed). Norma wants Mac to uncover enough dirt on him to disillusion the headstrong girl—but when he turns up murdered and Norma is the prime suspect, the case gets more complicated.
With his trusty guide dog Friday at his side, Mac poses as a guest in Norma’s house to gather evidence—and, as often happens in ’40s films, he suddenly uncovers a nest of Nazis! This time, they’re determined to steal the Maguffin—oops, I mean military secrets!—from Norma’s husband Stephen (Reginald Denny), a scientist working with the government. Some of the baddies are also members of Barbara’s theater company, which seems to have sprung straight from the worst imaginings of every fearful parent who ever sent a child off to a liberal arts college: Everyone in the joint is creepy, especially the manager (Katherine Emery), who’s got some kind of Mrs. Danvers thing going on.
Meanwhile Mac’s assistant, Marty (Allen Jenkins), spends most of the movie getting beaten up, trussed up or otherwise hung up by one evildoer after another. So it’s a good thing that Friday is your basic canine god. There’s a scene where he… no, I won’t give it away. Suffice to say it involves reasoning out a plan, and then climbing, jumping, opening windows, and doing pretty much everything short of growing opposable thumbs and shooting it out with the Nazis. Friday came by his talent naturally: his father was MGM’s Flash the Wonder Dog, who worked in pictures from his puppyhood in 1925 until his retirement in 1938.
Mac is pretty fabulous too, not only outwitting the villains but even cornering one of them with a pistol—and Arnold is thoroughly convincing as a blind man. He personally lobbied MGM chief Dore Schary for the role (and reprised it three years later in The Hidden Eye) as a tribute to his father, who was sightless for the last quarter century of his life.
Harding is fine as usual, though it’s depressing to see her already relegated to mother roles while her earlier leading men, such as Laurence Olivier, Robert Montgomery, Ronald Colman, William Powell, Robert Young and Frederic March, were still just that—and continued to squire around much younger co-stars well into the 1950s. Reed, on the other hand, gets to sink her teeth into a role she rarely got to play: a double-barreled bitch.
Eyes in the Night was adapted from one of Bayard Kendrick’s Duncan Maclain novels, which were inspired by a chance meeting he had with a blind British ex-soldier he met while serving in the Canadian Army in World War I. Just by feeling his buttons, uniform and insignia, the man could glean Kendrick’s entire war record, as well as other details that might escape the notice of a sighted person. Writer/producer Stirling Silliphant later said Maclain was his inspiration for the James Franciscus TV series, Longstreet.
Settle in, kids, here we go!
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- Posted in: Movie Briefs ♦ Streaming Saturdays! ♦ The Story Behind the Film
- Tagged: ann harding, bayard kendrick, classic film, donna reed, dore schary, edward arnold, eyes in the night, fred zinnemann, from here to eternity, high noon, james franciscus, john emery, katherine emery, longstreet, mgm, Oklahoma, reginald denny, stirling silliphant, streaming saturday, the hidden eye