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Yield to the Night (1956)


Main image of Yield to the Night (1956)
35mm, black and white, 99 mins
DirectorJ. Lee Thompson
Production CompanyAssociated British Picture Corporation
ProducerKenneth Harper
 Kenwood Films
ScreenplayJohn Cresswell
 Joan Henry
Based on the book byJoan Henry
Director of PhotographyGilbert Taylor

Cast: Diana Dors (Mary Hilton); Yvonne Mitchell (MacFarlane); Michael Craig (Jim Lancaster); Marie Ney (Governor); Geoffrey Keen (chaplain)

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Mary Hilton awaits execution after murdering her lover's other woman in cold blood.

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J. Lee Thompson's anti-hanging movie was produced at time when Britain's death penalty was the subject of national debate. Although not explicitly about the hanging of Ruth Ellis in 1955 (the subject, much later, of Dance With a Stranger, d. Mike Newell, 1984), her case shared many details with the film, including, most controversially, the actions on the day of the murder.

The production team denied any link between Yield to the Night and real life events, but admitted a strong propaganda element in its message against capital punishment. By the time of the film's release in August 1956, the Abolition Bill had been passed.

The film's greatest creative coup is the inspired casting of Mary Hilton. Despite good reviews in numerous supporting roles, Diana Dors was most famous for a sensational private life. Her image in the press as a worldly young blonde kept her in the public eye, but seriously limited any consideration of her acting ability. As Mary, Dors brought an expressive sexuality to the role, allowing us to believe her capacity for romantic adventure and passionate revenge. But beyond this, in the scenes in her prison cell, she revealed a truly compassionate understanding of her character. On several levels Mary is unsympathetic - she doesn't repent her murder, she shuns the affection of her loved ones, and continues to obsess about her lover. So it is to Dors' credit that the audience feel it unjustified and wasteful when Mary goes to her execution.

As well as forcing the public to take Dors seriously, Yield to the Night further raised the profile of J. Lee Thompson, who was making a name for himself as a director of social problem films.

Dylan Cave

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Video Clips
1. Walking to murder (3:13)
2. Describing the cell (2:39)
3. Prisoner and guard (2:12)
Original poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
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