Nightfall (1957): Tourneur’s Film Noir, Starring Aldo Ray, Brian Keith and Anne Bancroft

Jacques Tourneur directed Nightfall, a crime film noir, starring Aldo Ray, Brian Keith and  the very young Anne Bancroft.


Theatrical release poster

It uses flashbacks–camera work by the distinguished cinematographer Burnett Guffey–as a device to tell the story, which was based on a 1948 novel by David Goodis.

On a Los Angeles sidewalk, Ben Fraser (James Gregory) asks James “Jim” Vanning (Aldo Ray) for a light, then after some chitchat, boards a bus.

Jim goes into a bar, and a femme named Marie Gardner (Anne Bancroft) is sitting beside him. She then asks to borrow $5, claiming she forgot or lost her wallet. He agrees and she accepts his dinner invitation.

During dinner conversation, it turns out that Marie is a model and Jim a commercial artist. Leaving the restaurant, they are met by John (Brian Keith) and Red (Rudy Bond), who drive Jim to deserted spot. They do not believe him when he claims not to know where their $350,000 is. After knocking him out, they discover the slip of paper on which Marie had written her name, number and address.

In the last scene, both men fight, ending up on the ground in front of a driverless vehicle. While Jim gets clear, Red is not so lucky.

In 1950, the story was adapted for TV as “Sure as Fate.”

The lead role went to Aldo Ray, who was under contract to Columbia, but has been on suspension for refusing the lead in Beyond Mombassa.

It would take another decade for Bancroft to be taken seriously in Hollywood, after scoring on Broadway in several successful productions, including The Miracle Worker, which would earn her the 1962 Best Actress Oscar, when it was made into a movie.

The shoot took place in Los Angeles, with location work downtown and at MacArthur Park.

Aldo Ray as James Vanning
Brian Keith as John
Anne Bancroft as Marie Gardner
Jocelyn Brando as Laura Fraser
James Gregory as Ben Fraser
Frank Albertson as Dr. Edward Gurston
Rudy Bond as Red


Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Ted Richmond
Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on Nightfall by David Goodis
Music by George Duning
Cinematography Burnett Guffey (Black and white)
Edited by William A. Lyon
Production company: Copa Productions

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: December 6, 1956

Running time: 79 minutes


TCM showed the movie on November 8, 2020.