Big Night (1951): Losey’s Film Noir and his Last Feature Made in U.S

Produced by Philip A. Waxman, The Big Night was directed by Joseph Losey, who co-wrote the script with Stanley Ellin, Hugo Butler, Ring Lardner, Jr. based on Stanley Ellin’s novel Dreadful Summit. Hugo Butler and Ring Lardner, Jr. also contributed to the scenario but were uncredited due to political blacklisting.

On his teenage son Georgie’s birthday, Andy LaMain is beaten with a cane by Al Judge, a crippled journalist. Georgie wonders why his widower Dad’s girlfriend Frances did not come to the party.

Georgie gets a gun and goes looking for Judge, first in a boxing arena, then a jazz club. Georgie gets to know Cooper’s girlfriend Julie, and her sister Marion.

Upon finding Judge, he holds him at gunpoint and demands to know Frances’ whereabouts.  Judge explains that Frances was his sister and committed suicide because Georgie’s father refused to marry her. A struggle for the gun leads to Judge being shot.

The police come to arrest Andy, but then Georgie confesses. Andy reveals to his son that he didn’t wed Frances because he was still married to Georgie’s mother, who is not dead after all, but ran off with another man.

The story is contrived, but Losey directs with firm hand, though the acting never rises above the level of mediocrity.


John Drew Barrymore as George La Main
Preston Foster as Andy La Main
Joan Lorring as Marion Rostina
Howard St. John as Al Judge
Dorothy Comingore as Julie Rostina
Theresa Enright as the infant


Music by Lyn Murray

Cinematography: Hal Mohr

Edited by Edward Mann

Production company

Philip A. Waxman Productions

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: December 7, 1951

Running time: 75 minutes