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William A. Seiter
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So Ends Our Night is based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel Flotsam which describes the plight of refugees in Europe, dislocated from their homes and sometimes families as a result of the politics of tyrannical European states, specifically Nazi Germany. Any place they went the refugees were not welcomed becoming a drag on the economy of any place they lived. The film concentrates on a group of several now stateless Germans who seem to keep running into each other. The novel came out in 1939 before a formal war started, but the German intentions were becoming clearer every day.
Specifically it concentrates on Fredric March who was an underground member in Germany who had to leave in a hurry, he could not take his ill wife Frances Dee. March becomes a surrogate parent to both Glenn Ford and Margaret Sullavan who find a difficult path to love when they're first concern is survival.
Previous to So Ends Our Night coming out, Remarque novels such as All Quiet On The Western Front and Three Comrades were filmed with marked success by both Universal and MGM. All Quiet On The Western Front won a Best Picture Oscar and a Best Director Oscar for Lewis Milestone and Three Comrades got good critical reviews in 1938. Margaret Sullavan was in Three Comrades and she was the love interest of one of the comrades, Robert Taylor. Would that So Ends Our Night was as good.
The performances by the players were all good, Glenn Ford was lent out from Columbia Pictures for his first A film and got great reviews as a tender callow youth. He and Sullavan seemed to have good chemistry, but the film lacked the production values that a major studio could have given it. And the script seems to drag and the direction is sluggish.
Margaret Sullavan who specialized in playing tragic heroines who are escaping from the Nazis, she just came off doing The Mortal Storm for MGM which is about folks about to become refugees. Compare that film with MGM quality on it to this one and you'll see what I'm talking about. According to a biography about her by Lawrence Quirk she resented the way the title was changed, preferring that it be called by the novel's rightful name. This name implied all kinds of innuendo that the film never delivered. True, but that was a common enough practice back in the day. And So Ends Our Night needed any and all help to get the movie going public into the theater.
In that same book Fredric March and Glenn Ford both praised Sullavan's abilities and considered a milestone to have been able to work with her. Sullavan in fact got director John Cromwell to direct Ford as a callow and clumsy youth in matters of love whereas he'd come off like Cary Grant in earlier takes. I think she was on target there.
Still the film definitely needed major studio backing to have put it over better.
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