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All in a Night's Work

All in a Night's Work
Paramount Home Entertainment
1961 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 94 min. / Street Date February 22, 2005 / 14.99
Starring Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Cliff Robertson, Charles Ruggles, Norma Crane, Jack Weston
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Art Direction Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Film Editor Howard Smith
Original Music André Previn
Written by Edmund Beloin, Maurice Richlin, Sidney Sheldon from a play by Owen Elford from a story byMargit Veszi
Produced by Paul Nathan, Hal B. Wallis
Directed by Joseph Anthony

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 ...

Joseph Anthony (Tomorrow, 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 Ocean's Eleven, 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 -)
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: February 24, 2005

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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