Paramount // 1961 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // May 20th, 2005
"Every girl deserves a man, whether she deserves him or not." -- Marge
All In A Night's Work is a strange sort of animal. Even more sexless than most sex comedies of the era, it attempts to pass itself off as sophisticated and risqué, but is obviously just a watered-down version of the stage play (itself an adaptation of a story by Margit Veszi). Rather than being the hedonistic romp that it yearns to be, All In A Night's Work only reinforces its own uptight sexual viewpoint until what might have been a delightfully titillating farce winds up as a rather stuffy and uninspired mess. There's nothing here that hasn't been done before: Doris Day practically wrote the book on this type of movie, and did it with more class and more sass.
Sure, it's a sex comedy, but the camera is far more salacious than any of the major characters. For instance, we are introduced to Katie Robbins thus: We start in on a pair of delicate feet in high-heeled pumps, then move up past trim ankles to well-turned legs in a snug skirt, pausing to rest for a moment on a nicely-proportioned backside; she turns to the side so that we can move even further up to reflect upon a pair of pert breasts in silhouette before finally settling on the pixyish innocence and adorability of Shirley Maclaine's (The Trouble With Harry) face. Like the cut of her jib?
Katie finds herself in trouble after thwarting the unwanted advances of a dirty old man in Palm Springs; taking the nearest escape, she lands in the room of highly respected magazine publisher Col. Ryder and is mistaken by the house detective for a call girl. The detective, perhaps sensing an opportunity for advancement, contacts the good colonel's heir, Tony (Dean Martin, The Young Lions). It seems that Col. Ryder has a history of winding up in compromising situations, but accusations of fooling around with a prostitute could ruin the magazine's image. It is decided that the best course of action is to find the girl in question and pay her off, but she may be closer than anybody thinks: Katie works in the research department of Ryder's magazine, and Tony has taken a shine to the lass, although she is engaged to an upstanding but rather bland veterinarian. Can she possibly be the woman in the case? What's to be done about her? Or will she simply have to live with the stigma?
Movie fans familiar with this type of mistaken-identity storyline (and if you're a movie fan, you must be familiar with this storyline) will quickly recognize the quandary that Katie finds herself in: Her attempts to maintain her innocence and reputation through a variety of circumstances quite outside her control only seem to advance others' perception of her as a golddigging adventuress. To his credit, pseudo-playboy Tony is never really convinced that Katie is what everyone else thinks she is -- he has to get her zonked on booze before she'll even do anything as improper as allow herself to be kissed, even though he plays a rather cruel trick on her to put his own fears about her to rest. Naturally, he's more than willing to take her into his arms after he's proven to himself that she is not what she has a reputation for being -- and after he convinces her fiancé (Cliff Robertson), that she is, and more, using a damning tape recording taken (of course) completely out of context.
Dean Martin could play the part of business-savvy playboy Tony Ryder in his sleep -- and practically does, gliding through his scenes with the sort of effortless charm and grace he did everything with, the suave "to hell with it" demeanor that made him the king of cool. As such, he sticks out like a well-manicured thumb amidst the rest of the cast. Although he is meant to be a lady-killer type, he's really quite tame -- at least, nothing in the movie shows him as anything other than a nice dinner date. Both Martin and Maclaine have done much better work (to begin with, they starred together in the Sinatra vehicle Some Came Running) -- of course, they were turning out remarkable performances all over the place around this time, Dino in varied movies like Bells Are Ringing, Rio Bravo, and Ocean's Eleven; Shirl in The Children's Hour, Ask Any Girl, and The Apartment.
Although the two of them carry off the rather weak script, clichéd even for its time, with the force of their own individual personalities, others in the cast aren't so lucky -- and as a result, some pretty darn fine character actors get wasted, rather than being used to shore the movie up. Charlie Ruggles (Bringing Up Baby), for instance, is given only a miniscule amount of time to shine as Cliff Robertson's dad, and a potentially interesting relationship between his character and Maclaine's is never given time or opportunity to develop. Likewise, a romantic subplot between Katie's man-hungry coworker Marge (Norma Crane, Fiddler on the Roof) and the cherubic detective Lasker (Jack Weston, The Incredible Mr. Limpet), who is doggedly determined to trap poor Katie, never reaches any sort of satisfying resolution. Gale Gordon (Mr. Mooney from The Lucy Show) and Jerome Cowan (Miles Archer in The Maltese Falcon and a regular in the Blondie series of comedies) get to wring their hands as worried corporate yes-men, but don't get to do much else. Although they do get some funny moments in a union negotiation scene early on, this plot point is one among the many that wind up neglected by the end of the story. Although a great deal is made of a plot device involving Katie's Chinese earrings -- one means "good," the other "luck," and mystical chimes underscore their introduction as characters, after a fashion, in the story -- this point is all but forgotten by the time the movie winds down. Too many unresolved subplots equals a thoroughly unsatisfying ending.
This is a rather plain-Jane movie, and so Paramount's plain-Jane treatment of it fits perfectly; the picture (bright and sharp) and sound (good mono) are great, but there's nothing at all in the way of special features. So be it. This is a rental at best, certainly not an essential for any DVD collection, unless you just happen to be writing your thesis on sex comedies in the movies, circa 1960. All In A Night's Work resembles nothing so much as a perfectly put-together strawberry shortcake. Light and sweet, it's delicious while it lasts, but hardly satisfying and with nothing in the way of nutrition.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated