Clash by Night

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 15


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,925
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Movie Info

Adapted from a play by Clifford Odets, Clash by Night is a pretentious but well-staged "kitchen sink" drama involving love and lust in a tiny fishing village. Desperate for security and happiness, Barbara Stanwyck enters into a loveless marriage with cloddish but likeable fisherman Paul Douglas. Douglas' best pal is local movie projectionist Robert Ryan, who makes a beeline for Stanwyck. She entertains thoughts of leaving Douglas, but is dissuaded by her knowledge of his volatile temper. Given the film's title, a "clash by night" is inevitable, but the results aren't as horrible as Stanwyck imagined. Counterpointing the film's main triangle is a subplot involving the tempestuous romance between Keith Andes and Marilyn Monroe, the latter playing a naive but sexy young girl who yearns for the sort of adventure that the "worldly" Stanwyck has supposedly experienced in her life. Clash by Night was directed by the mercurial Fritz Lang, who enjoyed working with the ever-professional Stanwyck but had the devil's own time coaxing a believable performance out of Monroe (though he certainly succeeded).

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Critic Reviews for Clash by Night

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (4)

Audience Reviews for Clash by Night

  • May 10, 2018
    Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan play a couple of dissatisfied, bitter middle-aged people in 'Clash by Night', a film which may leave you as dissatisfied as it left me. It's a shame, because the combination of director Fritz Lang, Barbara Stanwyck, and Marilyn Monroe was intriguing. In the film, Stanwyck has returned to the fisheries in Monterey after failing to realize her big ambitions on the east coast, and Ryan is not happy in his marriage. Stanwyck rebuffs Ryan's advances because he's married, and then softens towards a nice guy (Paul Douglas). The film has several issues, starting with the characters being one-dimensional and not remotely likeable. Stanwyck is cynical, Douglas is cartoonishly simple, and Ryan is a glowering bully, who, among other things, gives us a highly racist and horrifying impression of Chinese people. The acting is overplayed and poor, particularly from Douglas and Ryan, but even Stanwyck's performance is uneven, though she has her moments. At various points all three actors break out into torrents of emotion in the least authentic way. There is also zero chemistry between Stanwyck and Ryan, and too often the dialogue or delivery is overwrought. Lang piles it on with obvious symbolism in shots of stormy clouds and the ocean pounding the shore. Everything about it seems heavy-handed, and on top of it all, the ending is unbelievable and groan-inducing. I would watch it just for the scenes with Marilyn Monroe, who is incidental to the main story, but delightful. She is unaffected and natural, as is Keith Andes, who plays her boyfriend (and Stanwyck's brother). I give one star for her, and one star for Stanwyck's better moments, and because I adore her so. After that, I have to say, whew it's tough. Not sure why this one gets as many high ratings as it does.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 20, 2011
    In "Clash by Night," Mae(Barbara Stanwyck) has returned to Monterey after a ten year absence to be reunited with her younger brother Joe(Keith Andes) and meets his girlfriend Peggy(Marilyn Monroe) who work in the local cannery. Jerry(Paul Douglas), who owns his own fishing boat, runs across Mae in a bar where he has found his elderly father(Silvio Minciotti) who his uncle Vince(J. Carrol Naish) was supposed to have been looking after. Jerry wonders aloud if he has a chance with her. It turns out that yes he does and they go out for a date to the movies where he introduces her to his pal Earl(Robert Ryan) who works there as a projectionist. Directed by Fritz Lang, "Clash by Night" is a compelling slice of life movie, performed well by its eclectic cast, that is set in an insular community that has to work hard for everything that it gets. Jerry is his own boss and is considered a success. With that comes added responsibilities like taking care of his older relatives. At the same time, he looks up to Earl who has the slightest of connections to show business and through that to the outside world. That's where Mae just returned from, jaded from her experiences.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 31, 2009
    Come on, what hot blooded, wire bra-ed bombshell wouldn't choose the dashing Robert Ryan over the lumpy Paul Douglas? Except, of course, when Douglas is a kind-hearted, lovable teddy bear and Ryan is a self absorbed, misogynist prick. Barbara Stanwyck was a master at playing flawed characters and her Mae Doyle is about as flawed as they come. Bad girl, good film, great actress.
    Randy T Super Reviewer
  • Dec 04, 2007
    fritz lang's "clash by night" is a psychological drama about the paradoxical mentality of female perplexity about life and its harboring cease. babara stanwyck would be the individualistic rebel lady who drifts everywhere to seek her dreams even eventually she winds up with "big dreams, small results" stanwyck plays mae doyle, a woman who wanders from home for 10 years, a prodigal daughter retreats back to her homeland with one bitter remark "home is the place to go when you run out of places", a woman who wants her man to "fight off the blizzards the floods" just to make her feel "confident"....a egoist who abides nothing but motivated by her anguishes to live and explore the world with novelty. a woman who claims that she would never be satisfied enough to give any man happiness since her character is webbed with too much ambivalent affirmations to be genuinely tamed by any man, and mae shrewdly sneers at the world with her sass and sharply sardonic wits until she meets her fellow rebel earl (robert ryan) who is a cynical grudgy man embittered with spousal tumults, uttering quibs like "wouldn't you wanna cut a beautiful dame up?" "i like the woman who stays on ceiling when i throw all of them above"...a volcanic man with enough individuality to rival mae....and this resistant ambiguity also arouses mae's animosity.....thus she chooses to marry her another suitor jerry with the clumsy looks of ape but has a generous heart of gold despite his simple-mindedness cannot provide the thrilling kicks of life mae's always craving for. it might appear somehow melodramatic but the script offers plenty of wisecracking wisdom between the lines to depict each character with enough distinctive contour of humanity. and the episode of marilyn monroe who plays the girlfriend of mae's brother is also quite pleasantly juxtaposed with her talks of feminism and refusal of being trapped as cannary in marriage.... inevitably mae's being lured away by charismatic earl who whispers love with more refined skills than stupified jerry....ultimately mae succumbs to her sense of feminine duty instead of her intense drive of egoism....accurately speaking, she lifts up the veil of her selfism to ripe into mature womanhood since the world is not always "her disappointment, her unhappiness"... only brilliantly talented stanwyck could incarnate into such fickle role with multiple outbursts of complexity conviningly....only stanwyck has enough charisma to redeem this character with comprehensible pathos...a well-performed stagy flick upon the theme of woman and her choices over the crossroad of life.
    Veronique K Super Reviewer

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