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All Night Long (1961)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of All Night Long (1961)
35mm, black and white, 95 mins
DirectorBasil Dearden
Production CompanyBob Roberts Productions
ProducerMichael Relph
ScreenplayNel King
 Paul Jarrico
PhotographyTed Scaife

Patrick McGoohan (Johnny Cousin); Marti Stevens (Delia Lane); Betsy Blair (Emily); Paul Harris (Aurelius Rex); Keith Michell (Cass Michaels)

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At an East London warehouse jazz party, a drummer plots his revenge on the people who thwarted his ambitions by spreading rumours and lies amongst them.

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Much disparaged by the Monthly Film Bulletin in 1962, from today's perspective All Night Long is an enjoyable curio: a not entirely successful but nonetheless entertaining attempt at restaging Shakespeare's Othello in the context of a fashionable London jazz party hosted by wealthy proto-yuppie Richard Attenborough, who appears to have anticipated the fashion for converting Docklands warehouses into loft apartments by a good two or three decades.

The initial focus is on the party's real-life celebrity guests: Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth and nearly a dozen other jazz musicians provide an on-location soundtrack that segues between background decoration and foreground showpieces, occasionally interjecting ironic commentary on the proceedings.

Once the main plot gets underway, the parallels with Shakespeare are signposted in the brightest neon - Cousin/Iago, Rex/Othello, Delia/Desdemona, Cass/Cassio, Emily/Emilia and Lou/Lodovico perform roughly similar functions, and until the unexpectedly happy ending All Night Long follows Othello relatively closely, albeit updated with contemporary props such as cigarette cases and tape recorders.

One of the screenwriters, the American Paul Jarrico (using the pseudonym Peter Achilles), was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and his other credits include Salt of the Earth (US, d. Herbert J. Biberman, 1954), a collaboration between blacklisted artists that was praised for its championing of the underdog in its portrait of striking Mexican workers.

All Night Long is far less direct, though the film does at least allude to the racial politics of the jazz and indeed the wider world in lines like Benny's "Rex wouldn't refuse Delia tonight even if she asked him to move to Jo'burg" (Johannesburg being at the heart of South Africa's apartheid regime) and what must have been an unusual number of mixed-race couples for a British film made in the early Sixties, even though the guests at Rod's party tend more towards the lighter end of the colour spectrum.

The performances are generally convincing, though the nearly forty-year-old Attenborough's attempt at portraying a youthful finger-snapping hipster will never go down as one of his finest hours, and the dialogue is more than somewhat contrived ("Oh baby, you're huffin' and you're puffin' over nothin'!"). But Patrick McGoohan is a suitably malevolent Johnny Cousin, in reckless pursuit of his doomed dreams, while Paul Harris' Aurelius Rex is a fine study in wounded dignity. Probably wisely, little attempt is made at involving the real-life musicians in the main story, though they acquit themselves well with what little dialogue they're given.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Cass and Rodney (3:13)
2. Cass and Rex (2:12)
3. Faking evidence (2:17)
4. Growing suspicion (3:06)
Original poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Men Are Not Gods (1936)
You Made Me Love You (1933)
Dearden, Basil (1911-1971)
McGoohan, Patrick (1928-2009)
Relph, Michael (1915-2004)
Contemporary Shakespeare
Othello On Screen