The Big Night (1951)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Film Noir  |   Release Date - Dec 7, 1951 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 70 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Steve Press

Awkward teenager George LeMain (John Drew Barrymore, credited as John Barrymore Jr.) is given a small birthday party by his widowed father Andy (Preston Foster) at his bar. He is puzzled that his father's longtime girlfriend, Frances, is not there, but neither Andy nor Flanagan (Howland Chamberlain), bartender and George's surrogate mother, will say why. George is embarrassed when he is unable to blow out all the candles on his cake, but that's nothing compared to the humiliation to come when sportswriter Al Judge (Howard St. John) enters the tavern. Judge orders the elder LeMain to remove his shirt ("Show me some skin," he demands) and get down on all fours. Andy meekly offers no resistance when Judge brutally canes him. Enraged at both Judge and his father, George takes a gun from the cash register and goes off into the night to settle the score. His first stop is the fights, where after getting conned out of his money, he meets Lloyd Cooper (Philip Bourneuf), an alcoholic college professor who later introduces him to his girlfriend Julie Rostina (Dorothy Comingore) and her sister Marion (Joan Lorring). Although George and Marion hit it off, she tells him he is too young for her. Resuming his hunt, George finally comes face to face with Judge and learns that Frances, who was Judge's sister, had killed herself because Andy refused to marry her. Confused, George drops his gun and starts to leave. However, when Judge picks it up and turns the tables on him, George struggles for the gun, shoots Judge, and runs back into the night. When he gets home, he confronts his father with Judge's story. He learns not only that it's true, but also that his mother is not dead but had run off with another man. Joseph Losey's The Big Night functions largely as a perverse coming-of-age tale in which the price George pays for growing up is disillusionment with his emasculated father. Armed with this knowledge and a stronger sense of his abilities, George may now be better equipped to navigate the rejections, humiliations, and sadomasochistic relationships of his noirish world.



attack, father, generation-gap, injustice, officer, police, revenge, teenagers