Newly minted college graduate and first time teacher Anne Leeds answers an advertisement for a part time evening job. Her intelligence and determination impress Rocco, the owner of a New York city night club. So Rocco hires her as his secretary, despite the fact that her prim innocence isn’t exactly the best fit for her new environment.
Anne is definitely a fish out of water and paired with her inexperience, she is not instantly popular with her new co-workers. Rocco’s business partner Tony Armotti takes a particular dislike of her and for Anne the feeling is mutual. Though, the womanizing Tony tries to get her fired, Rocco’s protective instincts keep her employed.
Slowly, Anne begins to win over the other employees of the night club with her sincerity and helpfulness. She even wins the grudging respect of Tony. Just when Anne is starting to feel at home in her job, she makes the mistake of falling for Tony which makes it difficult if not impossible for them to work together.
I had never heard of This Could Be the Night before. I’m not a particular fan of any of the lead actors. But when I saw Joan Blondell’s name in the cast, I decided to give it a chance. I’m so glad I did as I believe this is an underrated little comedy gem.
The leads play their roles ably. I loved Paul Douglas as the amiable, father figure boss for both Anne and Tony. He’s so much like a big teddy bear that one wonders how he ended up owning and running a night club for so long. Jean Simmons and Anthony Franciosa play off each other well in their opposites attract, hate/love story.
I actually found the supporting characters the most interesting. Julie Wilson plays Ivy Corlane, the sexy singing siren of the club. She is of course wise beyond her years, but not completely without a heart. Then there is Neile Adams, Steve McQueen’s first wife, as the up and coming new act. Her stage manager mom (Joan Blondell) is pushing her into the night club show business. Though she has the talent, she really just loves to cook. There’s J Carrol Nash as the club’s chef, Tom Helmore as wealthy customer Stowe Devlin who prefers to cook his own meals and dine in the manager’s office. Joan Blondell of course is a pushy but loving mother. Rafael Campos is the young busboy who just wants to change his Arabic name to something more American sounding. I appreciated how the film gave these characters humanity and made them a de facto family with the club acting as their home.
While This Could Be the Night isn’t completely free of cliches’ it is refreshingly uncommon among the films I’ve seen. The characters are unique but real with their quirks and foibles. The love/hate relationship between Anne and Tony is familiar, but plays out in an interesting way. Rocco’s night club manager is a lot less gangster and a lot more regular business man with a soft heart. Instead of the inhabitants of the club being portrayed as immoral night crawlers, they are just normal people going about their jobs. It’s not Anne who reforms them, but they who challenge her. And although everything does end rather happily, the relationship between Tony and Anne is not tied up neatly with a bow.
For me, This Could Be the Night is a perfect example of why I need to occasionally branch out in watching obscure films with actors who I’m not necessarily excited about. Because I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I was ready to watch it again.