Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Savant picked this comedy out of a list (that happens) and more or less found out why he's
never having heard of it before - it's not all that good. All in a Night's Work is a generic
and somewhat slack example of what passed for bedroom farce in 1960, with Shirley MacLaine and
Dean Martin trying hard to keep the comedy afloat.
Playboy tycoon Tony Ryder (Dean Martin) inherits Ryder publications when his
father dies unexpectedly in bed in a Palm Beach hotel. Company detective Lasker (Jack Weston)
comes forth with evidence that there was a mystery woman involved, seen running from the hotel
room wrapped only in a towel. He braces the company for a blackmail shakedown just as Tony is
trying to float a loan for a major expansion. By a series of mistaken assumptions,
the innocent mystery girl turns out to be a researcher on the Ryder staff, Katie Robbins (Shirley
MacLaine). Ryder makes it his business to neutralize his company's exposure to scandal - by
seduction if necessary.
A pile of writers (including pulpmeister Sidney Sheldon) can't make All in a Night's Work
work; it's altogether possible that their main job was to clean it the original play. Like most
sex-oriented comedies of the time, there's not only
no sex in this movie but not even a trace of hanky-panky. Nobody even makes any good verbal
references to imagined liasons, dirty or otherwise. It's all a misunderstanding. The misunderstandings
are a misunderstanding.
Dean Martin's supposed playboy character never does anything underhanded
or caddish and is of course only faking it when he pretends to put the major moves on poor
confused Shirley. For her part, MacLaine seems to have no sexual imagination whatsoever and the
script has to get her drunk just to make her do anything even slightly ill-advised. The big thrill
in this show is the idea of ol' Shirl running in a panic down a hotel corridor wearing one abbreviated
blue towel. I think all the filmmaking effort went into inventing a towel-garment that looks
ready to come apart at any moment. It's probably under-laced and glued to MacLaine more
firmly than a corset.
There are plenty of fun bedroom farces that only tease with their sex content, but All in a
Night's Work is not one of the good ones. The jokes lack wit and the characters are
uninteresting, even with a good selection of actors. Cliff Robertson has a lame role
as the clueless fiancée, a
veterinarian (funny!) who psychoanalyzes his patients (laugh riot!). Charlie Ruggles and
Mabel Albertson are stock parents unimpressed by MacLaine's bad performance as a daughter-in-law
candidate. The various worried execs (Gale Gordon, Jerome Cowan) have nothing to do and even Jack
Weston fails to make his dogged detective act add up to anything. Norma Crane (famous as Golde in
the 1971 Fiddler on the Roof) has potential as a man-hungry pal in the research
department, but her pursuit of Weston's character isn't allowed to develop. The story even expends
a lot of attention on MacLaine's Chinese earrings, without "paying them off" in the dialogue or
thematic department. Not every romantic comedy needs to be a masterpiece like
Trouble in Paradise but,
come on now ...
The Matchmaker) directs the
script as best he can, but most scenes lack anything the needed bouyancy. Good character
actors who often save movies with their clowning (Gordon, Cowan, Ian Wolfe, Mary Treen) don't
get a chance to make an impression. We're always way ahead of the story.
All in a Night's Work looks plenty cheap as well. The entire movie plays on a half-dozen interior
sets and the one exterior is a matte shot. It looks like a television show with brighter lighting
and good widescreen compositions.
Dean Martin made his mark as a serious actor in Some Came Running (with MacLaine) and
The Young Lions but
probably realized that comedies were a safer bet. His screen persona soon devolved into a
skirt-chaser with a drink in his hand. MacLaine's career at this time was a big success story.
Made amid titles like
The Children's Hour and
The Apartment, All in
a Night's Work is utterly forgettable. Ask Any Girl, her MGM picture from the year
before, is equally forgotten but a much funnier and more interesting romantic farce.
Paramount's plainwrap DVD of All in a Night's Work has a great enhanced transfer and clean
sound for this underachieving comedy. Has this one been on television for forty years and Savant's
never picked up on it? The more you think you know, the less you really do know ...
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
All in a Night's Work rates:
Movie: Fair + (unless you're crazy about MacLaine, then it's Good -)
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2005
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2005 Glenn Erickson
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