It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
"Here's the World-Famous Novelist launching his latest bestseller..."
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
remarkable things: an author, the inventor of such catchy cliches as "the pen is mightier than the sword", "the great unwashed" and "the pursuit of the almighty dollar", and possibly a proto-Nazi
. However he is not remembered
for any of these: It is "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night..." that keeps him alive as a multimedia sensation beyond anything he could possibly have imagined — the ur
-touchstone for convoluted Purple Prose
and campfire Ghost Stories
The phrase has been so thoroughly mocked and re-used it should be a Dead Horse Trope
if it were not an Undead Horse Trope
: it's just too much fun. In fact, two yearly writing contests
are held (and named) in Lytton's honour.
of Weather Report Narration
. Not to be confused with Hostile Weather
or Stop Motion Lighting
. Thanks to the power of lightning
, of course, opening on a stormy night scene or at least featuring one has been a Horror trope since Universal's Frankenstein
Not to be confused with the Larry Blamire film Dark and Stormy Night
It was a Dark and Stormy Night. Suddenly...an example rang out!:
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- Snoopy writes his novel during a dark and stormy night in one of the Metropolitan Life commercials starring him.
Anime and Manga
- Detective Comics #500 turns Snoopy's short novel (see Newspaper Comics below) into a Batman story!
- Chantal, a character in The Sandman has a dream which is a loop of a sailor telling a story that begins with "It was a dark and stormy night."
- One issue of Wonder Woman has a supporting character narrating his meeting with Batman, beginning with: "He was a dark and stormy knight."
- When Kyon realizes that Haruhi might end the world in Kyon Big Damn Hero, he starts cursing the weather for not being dark and stormy.
- In The Ollivander Children 's sequel, The Ollivanders at War, Calliope Ollivander notes at the start of one chapter that it should be a dark and stormy night, but she can't quite tell, being trapped underground.
- Lampshaded in The Gloves Are Off — "It was a dark and stormy night- except that it was mid afternoon and partly cloudy."
- Used in chapter 1 of All-American Girl, where it is referred to as an old cliché.
- The original first chapter of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Reflecting Balance begins with a lampshaded instance of this line. In the revised version of the chapter, this was changed.
- Subverted, of course, in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "It seemed a fairly ordinary night when Brad Majors and his fiancee Janet Weiss, two young, healthy, normal kids, left Denton to visit a Doctor Everett Scott, ex-tutor and now friend to both of them." Though, how dark and stormy the night actually turns out later, can hardly be a matter of debate.
- Double Subverted: "It's true there were dark storm clouds, heavy, black and pendulous, towards which they were driving."
- National Treasure begins with such a scene when the young Ben is talking to his grandfather.
- In The Parent Trap (1998 version), it's heavily raining when Nicolas and Elizabeth say goodbye before she gets on a plane home.
- Throw Momma from the Train begins with Larry Donner having massive writer's block, unable to get past "The night was..." He discards such lame words as "foggy", "hot", even "moist". Hilarity Ensues later when he finds out one of his literature students used the same phrase he did ("The night was humid"). Later, Momma picks the perfect word ("The night was sultry", itself a Shout-Out to A Tale of Two Cities) which presses Larry's Berserk Button and causes him to declare quietly to Owen that he's getting up "to kill the bitch".
- Literally every single night in The Covenant is dark and stormy. Sometimes they're calm for a while, if nobody's got anything dramatic to say or anywhere ominous to be, but in the next shot, it's insta-storm.
- Appears in some English translations of The Three Musketeers. The original: "C'etait une nuit orageuse et sombre." Literally, "It was a stormy and dark night" (the primary meaning of orage is "thunderstorm"), but a translator could hardly be blamed for changing it just a little bit to match the cliché.
- One chapter of A Tale of Two Cities starts, "The night was so very sultry..."
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is a popular and critically acclaimed novel known for starting with the line. To her endless frustration, the UK publishers revised it to read "It was a dark and stormy night in a small village in the United States."
- The opening narration to Animorphs #2 chapter 16 reads as follows:
It was a dark and stormy night.
- The only way that the 1980's horror-pastiche that was the Fighting Fantasy Gameboy House of Hell could begin on......
- Found in the Discworld series. The follow-up gag usually being along the lines of "I'm sorry, but it was, a scene like this just demands it, okay?" Alternatively, it is pointed out that is should have been a dark and stormy night, but that's weather for you.
- The prologue of Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) begins "It was a nice day. All the days had been nice." Then, after quickly covering Man's Fall from Eden, the short chapter ends with "It was going to be a dark and stormy night." It then proceeds to shamelessly mock the phrase during the first chapter, with the following quote:
"It wasn't a dark and stormy night.
It should have been, but there's the weather for you. For every mad scientist who's had a convenient thunderstorm
just on the night his Great Work is complete and lying on the slab, there have been dozens who've sat around aimlessly under the peaceful stars while Igor
clocks up the overtime."
- Children's author duo Janet and Allan Alberg have a truly excellent picture book that is titled for this trope and deliberately uses it. It's about Talking the Monster to Death.
- Bunnicula, a series of Affectionate Parody horror novels about, well, a vampire bunny who vampirizes fruits and vegetables, begins its third story thus:
"IT WAS NOT
a dark and stormy night. Indeed, there was nothing in the elements to foreshadow the events that lay ahead."
- Ray Bradbury's detective novel Let's All Kill Constance begins with the unnamed narrator giving this line, then apologizing to the reader and giving a more original and detailed description of the truthfully dark and stormy night.
- There are no doubt many stories that start with original and detailed descriptions of dark and stormy nights, but just for starters here's one by Patrick O'Brian:
The night was old, black, and full of driving cold rain; the moon and the stars had already passed over the sky. But anyhow they had been hidden since midnight by the low, racing, torn cloud and the flying wetness of small rain and sea-foam and the whipped-off top of standing water. Dawn was still far away: from the dark east the mounting wind blew in gusts; it bore more rain flatlings from the sea.
- The opening of Julian May's Jack the Bodiless is: "It was a dark and stormy night, as so many nights were on Denali, where topography and climate conspired to produce some of the Galaxy's worst weather."
- Castle Murders by John DeChancie opens on a college campus, with the Spoonerism "It was a stark and dormy night..." He uses the line "It was a dark night of Sturm und Drang."
- One of Stephen Leacock's early-20th-century parodies of Bronte-style romantic literature, the short story Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen, begins with a parody of this opening:
It was a wild and stormy night on the West Coast of Scotland. This, however, is immaterial to the present story, as the scene is not laid in the West of Scotland. For the matter of that the weather was just as bad on the East Coast of Ireland.
But the scene of this narrative is laid in the South of England ...
- Time Pressure by Spider Robinson begins with this sentence, then has a paragraph about how yes, it really was a dark and stormy night, and he's saying it even if it's cliche. He then returns to his sentence: "It was a dark and stormy night—when suddenly the snot ran out . . ."
- Roald Dahl's short story The Great Automatic Grammatizator features Adolph Knipe, a computer engineer and aspiring writer. One of his short stories start with this phrase. Due to his failure as a writer, Knipe constructs a computer that writes successful fiction.
- The tongue-in-cheek opening sentence of Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil reads: "It was a dark and stormy afternoon on the high moors of Northumberland." Of course, at the time Lori is driving en route to an Old Dark House in Hostile Weather...
- The first line of the Mercedes Lackey novel The Oathbreakers is this. The next paragraph is a telepathic complaint about how the focus character is thinking in cliches. This is followed by a retort that the night really is dark and stormy.
- The opening of the short story "'The Five Barley Grains" in The Legionary from Londinium & Other Mini Mysteries starts out the way. Caroline Lawrence said that like Snoopy, she always wanted to started a story with that stock phrase.
- The first book of the Knight and Rogue Series begins with "To say it was a dark and stormy night would be a gross understatement." The character narrating that chapter goes on to exaggerate the weather for the rest of the paragraph before settling into his regular snarky tone.
- In the Goosebumps novel The Blob That Ate Everyone, the protagonist acquires a typewriter that alters reality. So when he types "It was a dark and stormy night", it actually becomes one.
- 1634: The Galileo Affair references the famous line, in regards to the stormy evening at the start of the fifth chapter.
The autumn night that Don Francisco Nasi
was musing on was a filthy one, slapping its rain and wind against the glass. It was the kind of night on which bad novels began.
- The first line of the sixth book in the Septimus Heap series, Darke, is "It is a Darke and stormy night."
- In Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, Pseudonymous Bosch begins Chapter 5 of the gothic version of The Case of the Missing Author with "It was a dark and stormy night," only to recall that it had already been established that it was morning at that point in the story, so it would have to begin another way.
- In Sonic The Hedgehog And The Silicon Warriors, after the intro, the first sentence is this word for word. Of course the setting is also taking part during a storm as the Mad Doctor performs his latest experiment.
- Following on from the above book Sonic The Hedgehog In Castle Robotnik; for the second book in a row the story starts of with this line, but this wasn't enough for the author as the second chapter starts off with "It was another dark and stormy night. In fact, it was even darker and stormier than the first dark and stormy night." And it happens yet again with the fifth chapter, by now the author is really poking fun at himself "It was yet another dark and stormy night; blimey, everyone was thinking, but Mobius has had a real run of bad weather lately."
- Played straight in the The Raven.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...
- This is used as the opening lines of Judy Moody: Girl Detective. Also, in Judy Moody: Mood Martian, after Judy writes a story that begins with this and only gets worse from there, it convinces her that writing isn't the thing to do to improve her mood.
Live Action TV
- The Blutengel song "The Oxidizing Angel" begins on this theme.
- Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" includes the lines "The deal was made in Denmark / On a dark and stormy day"
- Mercedes Lackey wrote a song entitled "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" set in her Heralds of Valdemar universe. The song is a comedy about a Countess who is a Giftedly Bad singer who is apparently murdered by her henpecked husband who decides he can't take her nagging or nightly 'singing' practice anymore. She was apparently so unpopular that everyone else in the estate helped establish the Count's alibi.
- The P.D.Q. Bach song "Es war ein dark und shtormy Night."
- The band Creature Feature has the song "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night" as the first song on their album of the same name.
- Peanuts: Mocking this phrase perhaps began with, and was certainly popularized by, Snoopy's incarnation as World-Famous Novelist, with his typewriter set atop his doghouse. He eventually managed to string together an entire 'novel' out of banal dramatic clichés, including the oft-heard opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night... Suddenly, a shot rang out!"
The first "dark and stormy night" Snoopy strip was in 1965, and according to Word of God, the original joke was that you have a dog doing something incredible like using a typewriter, only to type such a notorious cliché. From there Charles Schulz built it into a Running Gag. The full opening of Snoopy's perennial novel was:
It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up. Part 2: A light snow was falling, and the little girl with the tattered shawl had not sold a violet all day. At that very moment, a young intern at City Hospital was making an important discovery.
After which he fears that he may have written himself into a corner. He does manage to weave this together: the intern finds a comatose patient has awoken — the sister of the boy from Kansas, who loves the girl with the tattered shawl, the daughter of the maid who escaped the pirates. Then Linus asks "But what about the king?" and gets a typewriter to the head.
Snoopy's responses to Lucy's feedback:
- Lucy, having read a draft of the aforementioned novel, tells Snoopy that his writing lacks subtlety. His new draft commences with: "It was a kind of dark and sort of stormy night..."
- Lucy tells him he has to focus on the characters more, and create an iconic hero protagonist. So he changes it to "He was a dark and stormy knight..."
- Lucy complains that he's never tried to write anything romantic, Snoopy changes "Suddenly, a shot rang out" to "Suddenly, a kiss rang out". This is punnier in German, where "Plötzlich hallte ein Schuss!" becomes "Plötzlich hallte ein Kuss!" Perhaps not a coincidence since the author knew a little German.
- Lucy wonders if "suddenly" is the right word in this instance. Snoopy changes it to "Gradually, a shot rang out."
- Snoopy attempted to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, focusing more on Rhett and Scarlett's relationship. He got as far as "It was a dark and stormy marriage" before deciding it was a bad idea.
- Lucy tells Snoopy that all good novels begin with "Once Upon a Time". Snoopy promptly reboots: "Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night..."
- Lucy complains that all Snoopy's novels begin with that line. Snoopy, Completely Missing the Point, promptly changes it to "It was a stormy and dark night..."
- Lucy again complains that all Snoopy's novels begin the same. Snoopy writes "It was a dark and stormy noon..."
- Lucy says that Snoopy should write a Christmas story. He starts with "It was a dark and stormy Christmas night..."
- Speaking of holidays, she also suggests he write a Thanksgiving story. Snoopy gets as far as "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a turkey rang out!"
- Lucy suggests he write a political novel, and he comes up with, "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a vote rang out!"
- He tried to change it once without Lucy, writing, "It may have been dark. It may have been stormy. But one thing was certain, it was night." Then, after rereading it, he thought, "I think that could be shortened somehow..."
- Another strip, Snoopy is typing a letter to his mother to wish her a happy Mother's Day, which includes, in part, "I remember the night I was born. It was a dark and stormy night..."
- In Prickly City, Winslow starts a book like this (while sitting on a doghouse) but rejects as too doggish.
- A Zits strip where the punchline was the character Pierce perched on top of Snoopy's doghouse in the final panel, texting "It Wz a Drk N Strmy Nite" or something along those lines.
- During one WWE storyline "Sexual Chocolate" Mark Henry was receiving therapy from an inconveniently hot therapist for his sexual addiction. When she asked him about his first sexual experience, he said, "Well, it was a dark and stormy night, and I was real scared!" She asked why he was scared and he immediately replied, "Because I was all alone!"
- In Once Upon a Mattress, the Minstrel sings that the Princess came to the castle "on a stormy night." He later notes, in correcting this "not quite accurate" version of the fairy tale: "That, of course, is utterly untrue. It didn't storm that night at all. In fact, it wasn't even night. And the princess only looked as though she'd come in from a storm."
- A comedy/mystery stage play written by Tim Kelly is entitled It Was A Dark and Stormy Night.
- Despite being in a visual medium, Wild ARMs 3 opens with the words "It was a dark and stormy night," overlaid on animated storm clouds. Unironically.
- Also played completely straight in Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, this is both the setting and the title of the prologue.
- The opening of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, "It was a cold and snowy day...", is a deliberate toying with this trope: Pixy recalls the weather during his very first mission as Cypher's wingman and in the final mission, the two of them duke it out above the Avalon dam in a snowstorm, with Pixy nostalgically remarking "Here comes the snow", making it both an Ironic Echo and a Book Ends. It then becomes apparent that Pixy chose a cheesy phrase to begin his story specifically to point out the similarities between his first and last meeting with Cypher.
- Lampshaded in Animal Crossing: Wild World:
"It was a dark and stormy night. A single figure stood alone in the downpour... Huh huh huh! It's like the opening to a really good bad movie.
- In Borderlands, Marcus beings the introduction to the Zombie Island of Doctor Ned DLC with this quote, followed by what sounds like surpressed laughter. Seeing as the entire DLC is an affectionate parody of zombies and horror, the phrase is quite fitting.
- In Corpse Party PC-98, telling a certain horror story on a dark and stormy night actually triggers Sachiko's curse, pulling them and anyone listening to the tale into Tenjin Elementary.