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Singing in the Dark

Singing in the Dark(1956)

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As World War II rages, a young Jew and his mother line up for the selection process at a European concentration camp. The young man's mother is sent to her death, and he is struck on the head by a guard. After the Allies liberate the camps eight months later, the young man, now called Leo, goes to an immigration office, where another refugee from the camp tells Ruth, an American woman who works there, that Leo has no memory of his previous life, adding that the inmates named him Leo because he has the heart of a lion. Ruth befriends Leo, and on the boat to America she tells him that her uncle, Dr. Neumann, is a great psychiatrist who can help Leo recover his memory. Leo settles in Philadelphia and begins therapy with Dr. Neumann, but remains fearful of both his past and his future. Although he and Ruth have fallen in love, Leo feels he cannot ask her to marry him yet. Later, at the hotel where Leo works as a desk clerk, two gangsters show up looking for Joey Napoleon, a comedian in the hotel's nightclub. Joey tells Leo about his gambling debts and borrows some money from him. Joey's girl friend Luli, who owns the nightclub, tells him that she is putting the club up for sale because business is dead. Joey idly speculates that the kindhearted Leo may really be a millionaire, with money stashed away in Europe, and soon convinces himself that this is true. At the club that night, Leo arrives for dinner with Ruth and Dr. Neumann just as Joey is assuring the gangsters that Leo's fortune is due to arrive any day. Reluctantly, Leo goes along with Joey's lie that he is going to lend the comic a large sum of money. Joey and the gangsters get Leo drunk, whereupon Leo launches into a musical number, revealing an operatically trained voice. No one is more surprised by this than Leo, who had no idea he could sing. The next morning, Dr. Neumann explains that the alcohol relaxed Leo's inhibitions to the point where his true self broke free. Meanwhile, Joey has started planning Leo's singing career, despite Luli's warning that Leo is a risky proposition because of his amnesia. That night, Joey pours Leo a big drink and persuades him to sign a contract making Joey his manager. Joey goes on to give a magnificent performance in the club, attracting the attention of mobster Biff Lamont, who decides he wants a share in Leo's career. Leo becomes a huge success, but Ruth is concerned about his dependence on alcohol. Looking at Ruth, Leo at last finds his voice without being drunk and declares his love for her in song. Joey goes to see Dr. Neumann, who tells him that Leo will still be able to sing when he recovers his memory, but he will be a new person and may choose a new life. At one of their sessions, Dr. Neumann injects Leo with a narcotic to hypnotize him, then leads him through a memory of being a small boy and watching his father sing in the temple. Joey tells Biff that Leo is regaining his memory and might decide to quit singing for them, noting that the contract he had Leo sign would not stand up in court. Biff decides to hire an out-of-town thug to keep Leo in line and asks Joey to make the arrangements, stressing that there must be no connection between Biff and the enforcer. The guilt-stricken Joey is unable to betray Leo, however, and when the thug from New Jersey shows up, Joey gives him Biff's address. Later, at the club, Biff's henchmen haul Joey into Leo's dressing room and start to beat him up. Leo intervenes and one of the men breaks a bottle over Leo's head, releasing a flood of memories, including his beating by the Nazi guard. He remembers that his real name is David and that he is a cantor, like his father. Later, as Ruth puts candles in a menorah, Leo speaks of the miracle of finding himself. He quits show business and becomes a cantor again, no longer singing in the dark.