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Film / Clash by Night

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Clash by Night (1952) is a Film Noir directed by Fritz Lang.

The film begins with May Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) returning to her industrial hometown after 10 years of absence. She comes back and reconnects with her brother, Joe (Keith Andes) and his girlfriend, Peggy (Marilyn Monroe). A local of the town, Jerry D’Amato (Paul Douglas), has always had a crush on Mae and gathers up courage to ask her out. Mae knows they aren’t right for each other, but she accepts his eventual marriage proposal so she can finally settle down. The only problem is Jerry’s friend, Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), is the kind of man Mae always falls for.

This works shows the following tropes:

  • Brief Accent Imitation: A very racist example where Jerry gets a kick out of Earl’s imitation of a Chinese accent. It’s mostly used to show how much of a Jerkass Earl is.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jerry once he realizes that Mae has been cuckolding him and he nearly kills Earl because of his mixture of rage and jealously.
  • The Drifter: Mae left for New York around 1942 to marry for money.
  • Destructive Romance:
    • Mae cheats on Jerry with Earl and is ready to abandon him.
    • Joe mockingly chokes Peggy with a towel when she says something he doesn’t like, and he often shows very disturbing bouts of jealousy. Being The '50s, this is shown as A-OK behaviour for a man to keep his woman.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Early actually says "drowning my sorrow" before downing bourbon shots, after grousing about his failed marriage.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We learn a lot about Mae when she comes into a diner in her first scene and asks for a brandy, in the daytime.
  • Fanservice: Does the movie have a scene with Marilyn Monroe in a bikini? Why, yes!
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: Peggy's cheerfulness is contrasted with Mae's cynicism when Peggy comes out twirling in the dress Mae gave her, while Mae is doing laundry.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Uncle Vince, you big boob!"
  • Housewife: The very thing Mae doesn’t want to be but eventually becomes.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How Mae and Earl get caught. Jerry finds a perfume bottle and a negligee that he’s never seen before in Mae’s drawer. Earl almost gets away with saying that it was an innocent gift, but he gives the game away when he mentions that the gift was a negligee.
  • Jerkass: Earl for going behind his best friend’s back with his wife.
  • Kind Hearted Simpleton: Jerry’s as bland as a bowl of water, but he’s a relatively nice guy who truly loves Mae and their baby.
  • Immigrant Parents: Jerry’s dad is an alcoholic who was a fisherman, too, but he can no longer work. That won’t stop him from constantly looking for a job.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Mae’s relationship with Joe. She has a marriage that she could be perfectly content with, but she wants what she has always fallen for.
  • Maybe Ever After: After Mae decides to stay, she finds Jerry on his boat with their daughter. He lets her see the baby and seems to soften up a bit.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Mae wants a man that can take care of her; she’s sick of taking care of other men. That’s why her choice to marry Jerry is so erroneous.