AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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While the City Sleeps
Alternate Title: News Is Made at Night
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
Release Date:   30 May 1956
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 16 May 1956
Production Date:   early Jun--early Jul 1955 at California Studios
Duration (in mins):   99-100
Duration (in feet):   8,966
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Cast:   Dana Andrews (Ed Mobley)  
    Rhonda Fleming (Dorothy Kyne)  
    George Sanders (Mark Loving)  
    Howard Duff (Lt. Bert Kaufman)  
    Thomas Mitchell (John Day Griffith)  
    Vincent Price (Walter Kyne)  
    Sally Forrest (Nancy Liggett)  
    John Barrymore Jr. (Robert Manners)  
    James Craig (Harry Kritzer)  
  and Ida Lupino (Mildred Donner)  
    Robert Warwick (Amos Kyne)  
    Mae Marsh (Mrs. Manners)  
    Ralph Peters (Gerald Meade)  
    Sandy White (Judith Fenton)  
    Larry Blake (Police sergeant)  
    Celia Lovsky (Miss Dodd)  
    Edward Hinton (Michael O'Leary)  
    Pitt Herbert (Carlo, the Blue Dell bartender)  
    Vladimir Sokoloff (George Pilski)  

Summary: In New York City, while drugstore employee Robert Manners is delivering a package to Judith Fenton’s apartment, he surreptitiously unlocks her door, then hides outside. After the building janitor, George Pilski, visits Judith, Robert re-enters and strangles the young woman, leaving the message “Ask Mother” scrawled in lipstick on the wall. When ailing media mogul Amos Kyne receives word about the murder, he calls to his sickbed his three key staff members, New York Sentinel editor John Day Griffith, newspaper photographer Harry Kritzer and Kyne wire services head Mark Loving. Amos also summons his favorite employee, former Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and novelist Ed Mobley, who now headlines a television program on Amos’ local station. After chastising the men for failing to pick up on the story earlier, Amos instructs them to label the murderer “The Lipstick Killer” and make the case front-page news. After the editors leave, Amos confides to Ed that he has made two big mistakes in his life: spoiling his only son, Walter, and not convincing Ed to take over his business. When Ed demurs that he does not want power, Amos reminds him that spearheading media outlets allows free speech to flourish and aids democracy. Suddenly, the ill man collapses, and soon after, Ed broadcasts the news of Amos’ death. Walter, an immature playboy with no understanding of the media, immediately takes control of the Kyne empire. In his father’s office, Walter reveals his plans to force Griffith, Kritzer and Loving to compete for the position of executive editor, the man who will make all the decisions while Walter takes the credit. Each man realizes that scooping the story of The Lipstick Killer will make him a frontrunner for the executive position, and so turns to his office allies to help him in secret. Loving calls in his girl friend, fashion columnist Mildred Donner, who advises him to collaborate with reporter Gerald Meade. Meanwhile, John approaches Ed, his former reporter, in the Blue Dell, the bar downstairs from the office. Ed refuses to take sides, but at home later, his girl friend, Nancy Liggett, who is Loving’s secretary, urges him to help John, and he agrees after she promises to marry him. At the same time, Walter invites his old friend, Kritzer, to dinner, unaware that he is secretly having an affair with Walter’s wife Dorothy and now hopes she will convince her husband to promote him. Later that night, John learns that an arrest has been made and asks Ed to get the details from his friend, police lieutenant Bert Kaufman. Bert allows Ed to see some of the interrogation of Pilski, whose prints were found in Judith’s room, but Ed quickly surmises that Pilksi is innocent. After another murder is reported, and a Strangler comic book left by the killer is discovered at the scene of the crime, Ed and Bert surmise that it must be the same murderer. Together, they devise a plan under which Ed will insult the killer on television in order to incite him into acting rashly. Meanwhile, Meade learns about Pilski’s arrest and informs Loving that the janitor is The Lipstick Killer. At the office, when Loving tells John and Walter that he is going to print the story, John points out that they may be committing libel. Walter is publicly embarrassed by his lack of understanding of the term libel, and Loving is forced to kill the story. Moments later, Ed addresses the killer directly on his broadcast, which Robert is watching at home. Ed’s description of him as a “mama’s boy” infuriates Robert, who lashes out at his mother for treating him like a girl during his childhood. Ed, Bert, John and Nancy meet at the bar, where Ed informs Nancy that they must use her as bait to trap the killer. After she learns that plainclothesman Michael O'Leary will follow her everywhere, Nancy agrees to the plan, and Ed announces their engagement in the newspaper to alert the killer to Nancy’s existence. Loving, sensing that he is losing the competition, solicits Mildred to entice Ed to their side. That night, she joins Ed at the Blue Dell and, after encouraging him to drink excessively, invites him home. At the same time, in the apartment that Dorothy keeps for trysts with Kritzer, she informs the photo editor that if she convinces Walter to hire him, Kritzer must from then on answer to her. Robert is sent to Dorothy’s to deliver a package, and when he spots her, is enflamed with lust. He does not have time to jimmy the door lock, but upon leaving, spies Nancy’s name outside her apartment, which is across the hall. He rings the bell but, getting no answer, races to the Kyne building and spies Ed and Mildred in the Blue Dell. Although Ed’s drunken state and loyalty to Nancy kept him from making love to Mildred, the next morning Mildred tells the whole office, including Nancy, about their assignation, and Nancy breaks up with Ed. Upon discovering that he has clinched a lucrative television contract, Loving celebrates his coup and assumes he has won the contest. Later, Ed tricks Nancy into meeting him and Bert at the bar, but she storms out. Although Robert is trailing her, he spots Michael and backs off. At the bar, Ed and Bert deduce that the killer will seek a new stimulus, and realizing that he may strike regardless of Michael’s presence, rush to Nancy’s. There, Robert has tried to gain entrance, but Nancy, assuming he is Ed, keeps her door locked. Robert instead follows Dorothy into her apartment and chokes her, but her screams alert Nancy, who helps Dorothy into her apartment. When Ed and Bert pull up outside, Nancy points out Robert, whom they pursue into the subway. After a harrowing chase, Ed and Bert capture Robert and arrest him. Ed calls John with the scoop on the arrest, prompting John to send Mildred to go to Nancy’s apartment to learn the identity of the latest victim, who is in fact Dorothy using the alias “Mrs. Charles Smith.” At the apartment building, Mildred immediately recognizes Dorothy, and together with Kritzer, works out a plan to blackmail Walter, who will want to avoid the humiliation of being publicly cuckolded. At the office, John is celebrating his triumph when Kritzer arrives and demands to talk to Walter. Later that day, Ed and John commiserate in the bar over Kritzer’s victory. Nancy, sitting a few seats away, and Walter, who has just joined them, are surprised to hear Ed announce he is quitting, as he can no longer work for a man who puts his own interests above those of the business. When Ed leaves, Nancy follows. Days later in a hotel room in Florida, Nancy reads Ed an article reporting that Walter has fired Kritzer, appointed John executive editor and named Mildred as his “personal assistant.” When she continues that Walter has announced Ed’s return to the paper, as managing editor, Ed tears up the paper, places his hat over the ringing telephone and kisses his new wife. 

Production Company: Bert Friedlob Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Fritz Lang (Dir)
  Ronnie Rondell (Asst dir)
Producer: Bert Friedlob (Pres)
  Bert Friedlob (Prod)
Writer: Casey Robinson (Scr)
Photography: Ernest Laszlo (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Carroll Clark (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gene Fowler Jr. (Ed supv)
Set Decoration: Jack Mills (Set dec)
Costumes: Norma (Cost)
  Bob Martien (Ward)
  Jackie Spitzer (Ward)
Music: Herschel Burke Gilbert (Mus comp and cond)
  Alfred Perry (Mus ed)
  Joseph Mullendore (Orch)
  Walter Sheets (Orch)
Sound: Jack Solomon (Sd eng)
  Buddy Myers (Sd re-rec)
  Verna Fields (Sd ed)
Make Up: Gus Norin (Makeup supv)
  Cherie Banks (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Leo Taub (Asst to the prod)
  George Yohalem (Prod supv)
  Mike Kaplan (Tech adv)
  Joe Franklin (Set cont)
  Violet McComas (Set cont)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the novel The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein (New York, 1953).
Authors: Charles Einstein

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Teleradio Pictures, Inc. 9/5/1956 dd/mm/yyyy LP6517

PCA NO: 17678
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Newspaper
 
Subjects (Major): Infidelity
  Multiple murderers
  Publishers and publishing
  Reporters
  Rivalry
  Romance
 
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Bars
  Business ethics
  Comic books
  Drunkenness
  Engagements
  False accusations
  Fathers and sons
  Heirs
  Janitors
  Mental illness
  New York City
  Photographers
  Playboys
  Police
  Pulitzer Prize
  Subways

Note: The working title of this film was News Is Made at Night . On 19 May 1954, HR reported that producer Bert Friedlob and writer Casey Robinson's "new firm" had purchased the rights to Charles Einstein's novel. According to a 3 Nov 1955 HR news item, United Artists was set to distribute the film, but Friedlob and fellow producer Eliot Hyman had sold the finished picture to RKO, thus "affording an immediate release for the film."
       As noted in a 9 Jun 1955 Var article, Friedlob announced that the film would address one of the concerns currently publicized by Senator Estes Kefauver, that of the effect of comic books on "juvenile delinquency." DV reported on 13 Jun 1955 that Friedlob had invited Kefauver to view the film, suggest dialogue changes and use the production as a "weapon in the growing battle against the corrupting force of comic books on young minds." The publicity sparked a rebuttal from film producer and comic book publisher Tony London, who, in a 13 Jun 1955 DV article, censured Freidlob for "picking on an entire industry just because there are a few bad books." Just before the film's release, Dell Pocket Books published a paperback edition of Einstein's novel, changing the title from The Bloody Spur to While the City Sleeps . That edition, as noted in a 3 Apr 1956 HR news item, included RKO credit information on the cover.
       A 12 Apr 1956 HR article states that Joseph and Irving Tushinsky made a deal with RKO to convert the film to SuperScope for foreign distribution. Although HR announced in Jun 1999 that producer Michael Steinberg had signed with RKO subsidiary Radio Pictures to produce and direct a remake of While the City Sleeps , that film was not made. Modern sources add Andrew Lupino to the cast.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   5 May 1956.   
Daily Variety   13 Jun 1955.   
Daily Variety   2 May 56   p. 3.
Film Daily   14 May 56   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   19 May 1954.   
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jun 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 1955   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Nov 1955.   
Hollywood Reporter   4 Jan 1956   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jan 1956   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Apr 1956   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Apr 1956   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 56   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 1999.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   5 May 56   p. 882.
New York Times   17 May 56   p. 37.
Variety   9 Jun 1955   p. 1, 7.
Variety   2 May 56   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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