Tonight's the Night (1954)
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Lots of familiar Irish actors who regularly appeared in British films during the 40's & 50's are on show. Some of the comedy pieces are very funny indeed.
For me though, George Cole as the put-upon, hyper-nervous cellar-boy Terence, whose comedic timing allows him to steal every scene he's in, is the standout amongst a very talented cast. I think Bernard Cribbins must have studied this performance for his 60's comedy film appearances.
The lovely Irish-born actress, Noelle Middleton, makes a rare screen showing. The following year she appeared with David Niven again, in the excellent Carrington V.C, for which she received a BAFTA Best Actress nomination.
A 'slow to start' film that in the end seems to finish too quickly.
All in all, a little gem, so it is!
It was not Niven's sole attempt at reaching the dark side. He had done a marvelous job as the fascinating Aaron Burr in "Magnificent Doll" in 1946. There he was playing Burr according to the "official" version of American history, as an ambitious egomaniac we were just lucky to avoid as President. But if one's historic knowledge of Burr is such as to question that viewpoint the film's impact is spoiled.
Another film that shows Niven at his "worst" best side is this forgotten comedy. An elderly Irish landowner is killed in a fox hunt, and his nephew (Niven) is found to take over the estate. The problem is that whereas the dead laird was a fine example of noblesse oblige his nephew is a sophisticated urbanite who sees the estate as something to sell and pocket the thousands of pounds. His announcement at the annual hunt ball that it is the last is a wonderful moment of total shock for the locals. As Niven has a heart condition, the locals start thinking of causing a fatal shock to kill him. Unfortunately they can't get it into their heads to coordinate their efforts. The last thirty minutes is a marvel of comic pandemonium. One only wishes that the film was shown more frequently - it was seen by this viewer on television in 1966.
Since having placed him at the centre of their lives,the towns folk of a small Irish village are saddened to witness wealthy 82 year old landowner General O'Leary die on his death bed.One of the main things that the residences instantly start to miss about O'Leary,is that thanks to his old age,he was more than happy to buy everyone a drink,and to also let anyone go on his hunting estate for free.
With news of O'Leary's death spreading across the pond,O'Leary's nephew Jasper decides to leave England behind,and head straight for Ireland.Revealing himself to be much more aware then the General,Jasper announces to the towns folk that he plans to collect all of the debts which the General 'forgot' to pick up from the townsfolk.Feeling terrified about Jasper attempting to stop 'the good old days' the residences decide that the only way they can keep things going,is if they kill jasper.
View on the film:
Despite being filmed in England instead of the Ireland in which it is based in,director Mario Zampi and cinematographer Stanley Pavey give the film a warm,acrylic appearance,which gives the title a delightful slow- burn country atmosphere,and also acts as a perfect isolated location for some unexpected 'ghostly' events which invade the close-knitted town.
Keeping Jasper limited to a rough sketch so as to make him a boo-hiss figure,the screenplay by Jack Davies, Michael Pertwee and L.A.G. Strong reveal the dislike that the residences have for Jasper by superbly combining folk-style sharp one liners with tremendously done slap-stick set pieces,which go from a wire trap completely back firing,to a 'ghost' rising from the grave far too soon.
Whilst he is placed on the side-lines, David Niven gives a great,smirk- heavy performance as the wicked Jasper,as the beautiful Yvonne De Carlo gives the film a graceful note in her performance as Serena McGlusky,with De Carlo showing McGlusky to be in search of her happy ending with Jasper,whilst the towns people search for their happy ending,of Jasper.
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