Night Editor (1946)

Night Editor (1946) is a lousy husband crooked cop journalism and media-framed film noir murder and police procedural directed by Henry Levin and starring William Gargan, Janis Carter and Jeff Donnell.

This quiet epic of quick production B or C-movie magic and exploitation melodrama was adapted from a well-liked radio show bearing the same title. Its screenplay drew inspiration from an episode of the radio series titled Inside Story

Produced by Columbia Pictures as a B-movie, it was intended to launch a sequence of movies chronicling the nocturnal adventures of crime reporters at the fictitious New York Star newspaper. However, no subsequent films in the Night Editor series were produced.

Sony Pictures later included Night Editor in its collection Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume II, alongside Women’s Prison, One Girl’s Confession, and Over-Exposed.

Film noir framing techniques in Night Editor (1946)

And yes, before the case has even landed on the desk and the lipstick is applied and the safety catch taken off and the slugs slipped into the clip and the hat ins on straight, you can glean from these titles alone the exploitative anti-female time-slipping moral urban nastiness of real noir. 

Read them and weep for the integrity of the film industry, and as a final insult, Night Editor should barely be in this set as the focal slap is fairly upon the lousy husband and not exactly the femme fatale, who is in this instance expected to be Janis Carter, although this is not a high quality femme fatale presentation. Merely a bad woman does not make a femme fatale, although a crooked cop is always a crooked cop.

Jeff Donnell in Night Editor (1946)

The narrative then rolls open as Crane Stewart (portrayed by Charles D. Brown), the chief editor at the New York Star, recounts a gripping tale to his poker buddies about a police officer entangled in a homicide case.

Normal enough stuff and yet through a series of flashbacks, embedded noir framing taking the structurally convoluted routes to narrative as it likes to, Stewart narrates the story of Police Lieutenant Tony Cochrane (played by William Gargan), a devoted family man who embarks on an affair with the alluring socialite Jill Merrill (Janis Carter). 

William Gargan  in Night Editor (1946)

During a clandestine rendezvous at a beachside lovers’ lane, Cochrane and Merrill become accidental witnesses to a brutal murder, where a man savagely kills his girlfriend with a tire iron.

Bound by their illicit affair, the pair find themselves unable to report the crime without exposing their own infidelity, leading to a complex web of deceit and danger. As Cochrane is tasked with investigating the very murder he secretly observed, he faces the moral quandary of upholding justice while keeping his own dark secret hidden.

Janis Carter and William Gargan in Night Editor (1946)

Crooked cop posing as the intrepid homicide sleuth Gargan, ensnared in a torrid liaison with the thrill-seeking aristocrat Carter, becomes an eyewitness to a dastardly deed of murder most foul! Amidst their forbidden tryst, they chance upon a villainous act that could see Gargan ensnare the perpetrator with the iron grip of justice. 

Yet, such valorous action would cast him into the maelstrom of scandal, threatening to shatter his domestic bliss and tarnish his badge of honor. What path shall this paragon of virtue tread? Will he rise as the beacon of righteousness or descend into the shadowy abyss of depravity?

This is something slight and yet soulfully captures essence of the 1940s film noir, a short story woven with threads of the police procedural, the dark allure of noir, and the raw emotion of melodrama. 

The narrative crescendos as the spectre of classism looms, and the duplicitous Carter, a veritable siren of high society, stands at the crossroads between her blue-blooded lineage and the noble act of truth. It is here that the tale’s suspense soars to strange and fantastic heights, ensnaring the viewer in its thrilling embrace. This is because all the men in the cinema are confused into a horror of observation, and once sold on the drama, have never seen any person as beautiful and frustrating as Janis Carter.

As for the women, they are viewers of something less catastrophic but brought to a reminder of how they might yet achieve marital and social power, possibly via the medium of cruelty and beauty, those road to riches, with riches being one of the final stops on the deadly road of moral decay.

The film’s narrative fabric is interwoven with the dark threads of noir, painting a portrait of societal divides and cynicism. Tony, a man from humble beginnings, reaches beyond his station for the incandescent Jill, only to suffer the consequences of transgressing societal boundaries. 

Night Editor culminates in a stark depiction of the walking dead man motif, a narrative device seen in classics like Double Indemnity and D.O.A. leaving Tony a mere shadow of his former self — a cautionary figure for the likes of Johnny.

Janis Carter and William Gargan in Night Editor (1946)

Released by Columbia Pictures, the film boasts a symphony of perfect tempo, shadows that dance with secrets, and a visual feast that captures the very soul of cinema, all performed by a cast whose talents shine as brightly as the stars themselves. 

Amidst this grandeur, Carter’s portrayal of the femme fatale is fairly chilling, a performance that does not carve her name into the annals of Hollywood’s most diabolical temptresses but works as a working example of the nexus where entertainment and decline collide.

William Gargan in Night Editor (1946)

In the quick and marvellous magic of Night Editor, the past and present converge in a dance of flashbacks. Within the hallowed halls of the New York Star, Johnny (Coulter Irwin) staggers in, weary from nocturnal escapades. Amidst an eternal card game, the venerable newsroom sage, Crane Stewart (Charles D. Brown), seizes the moment to weave a cautionary tale of Police Lieutenant Tony Cochrane (William Gargan), whose fall from grace is precipitated by his infatuation with the dazzling Jill Merrill (Janis Carter).

Jill’s entrance, framed by a shot of her legs alone, sets her apart from Tony’s unassuming wife Martha (Jeff Donnell). As Tony’s home life frays under the strain of his affair, he faces a stark admonition from Police Captain Lawrence (Harry Shannon) about his haggard appearance. Resolving to end the affair, Tony’s confrontation with Jill at a seaside lovers’ lane is abruptly overshadowed by a more final severance nearby—a murder, no less shocking for its setting. The scene’s raw intensity, deemed suitable only for a B film, is heightened by Jill’s morbid fascination with the crime.

Public encounters in Night Editor (1946)

The visual magic cameratic story showing of the noireau's noir, Night Editor owes much to the cinematographic prowess of Burnett Guffey and Philip Tannura, whose work on genre-defining films like Johnny O’Clock and In a Lonely Place has earned them acclaim. The screenplay by Harold Jacob Smith drives the film forward with relentless momentum, securing its place as a standout in the film noir pantheon.

The film, set in the roaring '20s, parades its characters in the garb of the '40s, a curious anachronism that begs the question—could not the mighty Columbia have conjured the ghosts of flappers and dappers past with a mere flick of their wand? This, my dear connoisseurs of cinema, is the enigma that lingers long after the credits roll.

Unhatted and un-maled in Night Editor (1946)

The film’s most striking noir element is the treacherous femme fatale, Jill, whose chilling indifference escalates as the plot thickens. Tony’s insight into her character—that she must either inflict pain or endure it—rings true as the story unfolds. 

The film’s commentary on moral ambiguity and class warfare is encapsulated in the figure of the banker, the true murderer, whose embrace with Jill symbolizes the beating gender-crazed black and white half-alive and shaded dark heart of film noir.

Amidst the secluded throes of this quite unlikely romance, beautiful high society wife with crappy cop, what could she see in him, the adulterous duo becomes the unwilling audience to a heinous homicide. Cochrane, ensnared by the dread of his affair’s exposure, finds himself paralyzed, unable to pursue the perpetrator or confess to his clandestine witness, despite the grim duty that falls upon him to spearhead the ensuing murder probe. 

Janis Carter, in a performance that’s criminally overlooked, shines as the deadly siren, her lines dripping with venom (“I don’t need you; I can buy and sell you”), and her sadism tinged with a peculiar desperation, manifest in her macabre plea to gaze upon the gruesomely battered remains. 

End of the line in Night Editor (1946)

A modest cinematic endeavour it may be, yet Night Editor captivates, its pulse rooted in the relentless rhythm of sadistic spectacle, nasty ass fun in a manner of speaking, shooting into the curious minds of the ridiculously influenced cinema goers on 46 with the following teasers and attractors:

In the middle of a kiss...Murder!

The Shock Story of a Double-Cross That Started With a Kiss...and Ended in Murder!

See Radio's Night Editor! Now on the Screen!

Based upon the radio program "NIGHT EDITOR" by HAL BURDICK

Good morning Night Editor (1946)

Directed by Henry Levin and scripted by Hal Smith from the eponymous radio show by Hal Burdick and Scott Littleton’s short story Inside Story, Night Editor found Mischa Bakaleinikoff providing the score, though rumours suggest Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s uncredited involvement.

“You are just no good for me. We both add up to zero.”

Yet it does remain a treasure trove for aficionados of the noir style. The film’s conclusion has polarised generations of film noir experts, and its impact on newcomers could very well determine their final judgment of the film and curse them with an evil taste for the style which may see them forfeit work and family to suck up every last hour of the endless noir catalogue in an effort to understand the early genius of this fine cinematic and historic era.

Night Editor (1946)

As a film noir femme fatale Janis Carter shows no guile but is a coarse and crude campaigner, and the killer is a weaselly sort of sorts.

The narrative ensnares Tony Cochrane (Gargan), a policeman entangled in an affair with the serpentine Jill Merrill (Carter), despite having a beautiful, devoted wife and an adoring son. A violent murder unfolds before the lovers’ eyes during a clandestine rendezvous, and Cochrane, dreading the scandal, shirks his duty to justice. Such fateful choices often precipitate a downward spiral…

Indeed, the film is replete with steamy encounters, flashbacks, rain-slicked streets under the glow of streetlamps, shadowy alleyways, dimly lit rooms—especially within the police station—and scenes rich in symbolism and metaphor (consider those tumultuous waves). Yet, it’s the sharp dialogue, the fusion of sensuality and brutality, and a femme fatale of remarkable stature that elevate this film to new heights.

Hand in your badge . . . in Night Editor (1946)

Night Editor (1946)

Directed by Henry Levin

Genres - Crime, Drama , Film Noir, Journalism and Media Noir  |   Run Time - 68 min.

Night Editor (1946) on Wikiepdia

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