Movie Mirrors Index

Clash by Night

(1952 b 105')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Adapted from a play by Clifford Odets, a restless woman marries for security and has a baby but then is seduced by another man.

         Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) arrives with a suitcase, and fishing captain Jerry D’Amato (Paul Douglas) remembers her. Peggy (Marilyn Monroe) works in the cannery and spars with Joe Doyle (Keith Andes). He tells his sister Mae that she can stay despite her past. Joe suggests that Jerry take out Mae. Jerry takes her to a movie and introduces her to projectionist Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), whose wife is on tour in burlesque.

         Mae tells Peggy that she wants a confident man. On Jerry’s boat at night Mae says marrying him would be wrong. Earl sees Peggy and Joe playing on the beach and buys her a beer. Earl dances with Mae and says his wife is still away. Mae drinks whiskey, and Jerry gets upset. When Earl tries to kiss her, Mae slaps him. Jerry borrows $2 from Earl to pay the bar bill for Papa D’Amato (Silvio Minciotti). Mae tells Jerry that she will marry him.

         At the wedding party Peggy is drunk. Papa says God made enough fish, wine, and love for everybody. Earl tries to kiss the bride and is frustrated.

Uncle Vince (J. Carrol Naish) complains to Jerry that Mae kicked him out of the house. Jerry is happy with their baby and says Earl is divorced. Earl arrives drunk and passes out.

         The next morning Earl asks Mae if she is happy and says he loves her. Peggy shows Mae the diamond ring that Joe gave her. Peggy leaves, and Mae tells Earl to get out. Earl grabs Mae, who resists and then gives in.

         Jerry brings drunk Papa home, and Uncle Vince tells Jerry that Mae is seeing Earl. Jerry searches and finds silk nightgowns and perfume. Earl and Mae come in, and Mae smells the perfume. Earl admits he bought them for her, and Mae says she was with Earl. Jerry asks why, and she says it got dull. Jerry calls them animals and walks out.

         On the beach Earl tells Mae that she must love him or Jerry, and he kisses her. At home Jerry asks Mae to forget the past, but she says she is leaving with Earl. Jerry says he could sell his boat. Mae says she does not love him, and Jerry says she must leave the baby. Uncle Vince suggests that Jerry consider strangling.

         Joe criticizes Mae, who packs and says goodbye to Peggy. Joe tells Peggy he wants a permanent marriage, and she hugs him. Jerry finds Earl working. They fight, and Jerry chokes Earl. Mae comes in and gets Jerry to stop. While Earl waits in the car, Papa tells Mae that Jerry took the baby. Earl and Mae discuss what to do. He shakes her and says she could lose both. Mae finds Jerry on his boat and asks him to forgive her. He says he will trust her and tells her to take the baby home.

         This drama directed by Fritz Lang explores a romantic triangle that develops because a woman loves two men in different ways. One is kind but seems weak and less interesting while the other is strong but selfish.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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