Keith Andes and Marilyn Monroe in Clash by Night
Clash by Night was made during the new wave of dramatic films coming out in the early 1950s. They featured blue collared "real" characters with personal issues, set in unremarkable places. The most notable example of these films was A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Like that famous film, Clash by Night is also based on a play. The plot is pure soap opera, but the players are all well defined and there is some good dialogue.
Middle aged Mae Doyle returns to her family home in which her twenty something brother Joe, still lives. It is in a fishing village that she left years before with a man who turned out to be married. After living a life of questionable morality, she returns home down on her luck, or as Mae puts it, "Home is where you come when you run out of places."
She meets Jerry, who owns the fishing boat her brother works on. "I like you - you know that." Jerry tells a reluctant Mae who comes back with, "You don't know anything about me. What kind of an animal am I? Do I have fangs? Do I purr? What jungle am I from? You don't know a thing about me." Jerry sees only good in Mae. He persists and eventually they marry and have a child.
Before the marriage, Jerry introduced Mae to his best friend Earl. He is a married, woman hating drunk bigot. He eyes Mae, Joe's girlfriend Peggy and every other woman as only being good for one thing. He constantly talks about physically abusing women. He also sees right through Mae, "Don't kid me baby. I know a bottle by the label."
Mae's life seems set as wife and mother until one morning a hung over Earl tells Mae he loves her and makes a pass. She briefly plays hard to get, but once Earl starts kissing her, she responds and they start having an affair. Passions and tempers flair as Jerry learns of the affair. "Your no good. Your rotten." He tells Mae, who quietly responds, "I know Jerry. I know."
This was Monroe's first large, and least glamorous role. As Peggy, she wears blue jeans and acts more spunky than overtly sexy. She and Joe have a playful relationship that almost borders on violent. Early on he says he would beat her to keep her line, if they were married. She tells him otherwise. Later he chokes her with a towel and she punches him. He asks her to marry him after they get into a fight. After seeing how Mae and Jerry's marriage falls apart, Joe says to Peggy, "If what you think is Joe's alright until something better comes along, honey you better take another streetcar."
Clash by Night is dark and moody. You know it will not end well for someone. I hoped Mae and Earl would get their comeuppance, but I never really liked any of these people enough to really care. The ending is not completely satisfying but then neither is the rest of the film. Put this one down as memorable only as an early unique effort by Monroe.
Photos © Copyright RKO Radio Pictures (1952)