The Night Fighters


1h 25m 1960

Brief Synopsis

An IRA member rebels against the groups efforts to help the Nazis during World War II.

Film Details

Also Known As
A Terrible Beauty
Genre
Drama
Action
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Sep 1960
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
D.R.M. Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Ireland; Dublin, Leinster, Eire; Dublin, Leinster, Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A Terrible Beauty by Arthur J. Roth (New York, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

In 1941, in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army has collaborated with the Nazis, hoping to liberate the province's six counties from the British. When a Nazi-trained IRA organizer comes to the town of Duncrana, the generally peace-loving Dermot O'Neill, who is influenced by his father's stories of the 1916 Easter Rebellion, naïvely pledges an oath of allegiance, at the prodding of his lifelong friend, Sean Reilly, and the bitter leader of the local group, Don McGinnis, a clubfooted young man who wants to be a hero. Dermot's enthusiasm is at first undiminished by the misgivings of his fiancée Neeve Donnelly, his quietly astute friend, shoemaker Jimmy Hannafin, and most of all his family, but he soon begins to question the moral justification of the organization. While raiding a hydro-electric plant, one man is killed and Sean is wounded. Dermot carries Sean to safety, but while his friend attempts to get home, he is captured and sent to jail. Although McGinnis refuses to raid the jail to rescue Sean, he instead arranges to raid a neighboring police barracks, which would endanger an innocent woman and her child. Dermot's disapproval of the raid leads to his break with the organization and he turns informer. In revenge, the IRA attempts to kill him, but Dermot is rescued by his brother Neil, Jimmy, and Neeve, and he and Neeve escape to Liverpool.



Film Details

Also Known As
A Terrible Beauty
Genre
Drama
Action
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Sep 1960
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
D.R.M. Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Ireland; Dublin, Leinster, Eire; Dublin, Leinster, Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A Terrible Beauty by Arthur J. Roth (New York, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Night Fighters


Based on the 1958 novel A Terrible Beauty (a phrase from Irish poet W.B. Yeats) by 33-year-old author Arthur Roth, a U.S. Air Force vet who had also served in the Irish army, The Night Fighters (1960) is a glimpse at a strange bit of World War II era-history. The Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, representing the Catholic minority, was ever determined to liberate their people from British and Protestant rule during the war. With the British about to take a beating from Hitler and his Nazi forces, the IRA, surmising that a Nazi victory would mean Irish independence at last, made the decision to collaborate with the Germans. The Night Fighters is a look at the conflicted loyalties that trouble the daring young IRA recruit Dermot O'Neill (Robert Mitchum) who comes to realize that some of his IRA cohorts are seriously misguided, and that the Nazis aren't to be trusted as allies.

Hoping to recreate the brooding Irish rebel mystique that worked so well in John Ford's moody, award-winning The Informer (1935), and Carol Reed's 1947 drama Odd Man Out, The Night Fighters contains all the requisite Irish color in the opening sequences – jolly pub talk, snatches of Irish ditties, and Irish lasses with smiling eyes – but soon changes into a dark tale of intrigue, clandestine plotting, and plenty of gunplay as the IRA gets further involved in dirty deeds behind the backs of the British authorities. Co-produced by Robert Mitchum's own company DRM Productions, The Night Fighters had a prestigious cast full of impressive Irish actors, including newcomer Richard Harris, who had come to acting after a thwarted rugby career. Harris' authentic Irish credentials (born in Limerick in 1930) made him the perfect choice to play Mitchum's lifelong pal Sean, a "true Irishman" who brings him into the IRA fold. Irish-born actor Dan O'Herlihy, who had a busy acting career in U.S. television and movies, was brought in as the fanatical unbalanced leader of the local IRA group, with former British beauty contest winner-turned-actress Anne Heywood as Mitchum's love interest. Cyril Cusack, who was raised in Ireland and was a child star and later theater producer there, was cast as a gentle but wise cobbler who tries to talk sense to the rebels.

This fine company of actors was directed by Tay Garnett, who launched his Hollywood career as a gagman for Hal Roach and Mack Sennett, then moved into a long career directing nearly every film genre, including probably his most acclaimed title, the sultry 1946 melodrama The Postman Always Rings Twice. In his memoirs, Garnett wrote that he realized The Night Fighters's story was far from the level of The Informer, but that he felt it could still be fashioned into a compelling movie. What he most regretted, however, was not being able to include in the film some of the off-stage antics of his boisterous and hard-drinking cast.

Certified hell-raisers, Robert Mitchum and Richard Harris were perfect partners in crime as they immediately embraced the Irish tradition of drinking and brawling. The most notorious incident took place in an atmospheric restaurant in Dublin, popular with the Abbey Theatre crowd, where Mitchum and company were dining. When a belligerent fellow demanded an autograph from the star, who was politely waiting for dinner with his wife (she had flown in for a visit), Mitchum became annoyed and scribbled an expletive and signed it "Kirk Douglas." The fan slugged Mitchum, who didn't fight back, but co-star Richard Harris, seated nearby, jumped up and enlisted the help of his theatre friends and soon the restaurant was a mélange of flying fists and broken bottles. Mitchum, however, never threw a punch during the fracas, a fact reported and appreciated by the local newspapers, who were much amused that the big American star had been slugged by a short bantam rooster of an Irishman.

The Night Fighters was filmed totally in Ireland, at Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow, at several Dublin locations, and in the countryside around Rathdrum, also in Wicklow. The moody black-and-white photography perfectly captured the bleak and murky goings-on, and the movie lacked nothing in the way of verisimilitude. Robert Mitchum had a pitch perfect Irish accent, and was able to do a bit of singing, too, giving his portrayal of Dermot O' Neill a dramatic depth tempered with a bit of Irish charm. Mitchum's seemingly lackadaisical approach to his own work was deceptive because he was always well prepared and highly professional on the set but his indifference to his profession off the set puzzled his British co-producer Raymond Stross. In fact, Stross reportedly developed an ulcer during the filming of The Night Fighters, while his star maintained a blasé attitude throughout the entire shoot.

Despite all the attention to detail and the fine cast, The Night Fighters was not a success, neither at the box office nor with critics. The odd mix of Irish color, complicated IRA political motives, World War II setting and unexpected Nazi sympathies made for an uncomfortable and sometimes nearly incomprehensible mélange. The blame was laid mostly on the script though the leading actors and the production design received good notices on the whole. At the very least, The Night Fighters is a chance to see the early Richard Harris, who would receive an Academy Award nomination a few years later for This Sporting Life (1963). It's also worth a look to see Robert Mitchum stretch his talents and try out his Irish brogue. However, if audiences were looking for an in-depth explanation of the complex historical forces at work in Northern Ireland at the time, a trip to the library would perhaps have been a better choice than to a movie theater to see The Night Fighters.

Producer: Raymond Stross, Robert Mitchum
Director: Tay Garnett
Screenplay: Robert Wright Campbell, Arthur Roth (novel)
Cinematography: Stephen Dade
Film Editing: Peter Tanner
Art Direction: John Stoll
Music: Cedric Thorpe Davie
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Dermot O'Neill), Richard Harris (Sean Reilly), Anne Heywood (Neeve Donnelly), Dan O'Herlihy (Don McGinnis), Cyril Cusack (Jimmy Hannafin), Niall MacGinnis (Ned O'Neill).
BW-90m. Letterboxed.

by Lisa Mateas
The Night Fighters

The Night Fighters

Based on the 1958 novel A Terrible Beauty (a phrase from Irish poet W.B. Yeats) by 33-year-old author Arthur Roth, a U.S. Air Force vet who had also served in the Irish army, The Night Fighters (1960) is a glimpse at a strange bit of World War II era-history. The Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, representing the Catholic minority, was ever determined to liberate their people from British and Protestant rule during the war. With the British about to take a beating from Hitler and his Nazi forces, the IRA, surmising that a Nazi victory would mean Irish independence at last, made the decision to collaborate with the Germans. The Night Fighters is a look at the conflicted loyalties that trouble the daring young IRA recruit Dermot O'Neill (Robert Mitchum) who comes to realize that some of his IRA cohorts are seriously misguided, and that the Nazis aren't to be trusted as allies. Hoping to recreate the brooding Irish rebel mystique that worked so well in John Ford's moody, award-winning The Informer (1935), and Carol Reed's 1947 drama Odd Man Out, The Night Fighters contains all the requisite Irish color in the opening sequences – jolly pub talk, snatches of Irish ditties, and Irish lasses with smiling eyes – but soon changes into a dark tale of intrigue, clandestine plotting, and plenty of gunplay as the IRA gets further involved in dirty deeds behind the backs of the British authorities. Co-produced by Robert Mitchum's own company DRM Productions, The Night Fighters had a prestigious cast full of impressive Irish actors, including newcomer Richard Harris, who had come to acting after a thwarted rugby career. Harris' authentic Irish credentials (born in Limerick in 1930) made him the perfect choice to play Mitchum's lifelong pal Sean, a "true Irishman" who brings him into the IRA fold. Irish-born actor Dan O'Herlihy, who had a busy acting career in U.S. television and movies, was brought in as the fanatical unbalanced leader of the local IRA group, with former British beauty contest winner-turned-actress Anne Heywood as Mitchum's love interest. Cyril Cusack, who was raised in Ireland and was a child star and later theater producer there, was cast as a gentle but wise cobbler who tries to talk sense to the rebels. This fine company of actors was directed by Tay Garnett, who launched his Hollywood career as a gagman for Hal Roach and Mack Sennett, then moved into a long career directing nearly every film genre, including probably his most acclaimed title, the sultry 1946 melodrama The Postman Always Rings Twice. In his memoirs, Garnett wrote that he realized The Night Fighters's story was far from the level of The Informer, but that he felt it could still be fashioned into a compelling movie. What he most regretted, however, was not being able to include in the film some of the off-stage antics of his boisterous and hard-drinking cast. Certified hell-raisers, Robert Mitchum and Richard Harris were perfect partners in crime as they immediately embraced the Irish tradition of drinking and brawling. The most notorious incident took place in an atmospheric restaurant in Dublin, popular with the Abbey Theatre crowd, where Mitchum and company were dining. When a belligerent fellow demanded an autograph from the star, who was politely waiting for dinner with his wife (she had flown in for a visit), Mitchum became annoyed and scribbled an expletive and signed it "Kirk Douglas." The fan slugged Mitchum, who didn't fight back, but co-star Richard Harris, seated nearby, jumped up and enlisted the help of his theatre friends and soon the restaurant was a mélange of flying fists and broken bottles. Mitchum, however, never threw a punch during the fracas, a fact reported and appreciated by the local newspapers, who were much amused that the big American star had been slugged by a short bantam rooster of an Irishman. The Night Fighters was filmed totally in Ireland, at Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow, at several Dublin locations, and in the countryside around Rathdrum, also in Wicklow. The moody black-and-white photography perfectly captured the bleak and murky goings-on, and the movie lacked nothing in the way of verisimilitude. Robert Mitchum had a pitch perfect Irish accent, and was able to do a bit of singing, too, giving his portrayal of Dermot O' Neill a dramatic depth tempered with a bit of Irish charm. Mitchum's seemingly lackadaisical approach to his own work was deceptive because he was always well prepared and highly professional on the set but his indifference to his profession off the set puzzled his British co-producer Raymond Stross. In fact, Stross reportedly developed an ulcer during the filming of The Night Fighters, while his star maintained a blasé attitude throughout the entire shoot. Despite all the attention to detail and the fine cast, The Night Fighters was not a success, neither at the box office nor with critics. The odd mix of Irish color, complicated IRA political motives, World War II setting and unexpected Nazi sympathies made for an uncomfortable and sometimes nearly incomprehensible mélange. The blame was laid mostly on the script though the leading actors and the production design received good notices on the whole. At the very least, The Night Fighters is a chance to see the early Richard Harris, who would receive an Academy Award nomination a few years later for This Sporting Life (1963). It's also worth a look to see Robert Mitchum stretch his talents and try out his Irish brogue. However, if audiences were looking for an in-depth explanation of the complex historical forces at work in Northern Ireland at the time, a trip to the library would perhaps have been a better choice than to a movie theater to see The Night Fighters. Producer: Raymond Stross, Robert Mitchum Director: Tay Garnett Screenplay: Robert Wright Campbell, Arthur Roth (novel) Cinematography: Stephen Dade Film Editing: Peter Tanner Art Direction: John Stoll Music: Cedric Thorpe Davie Cast: Robert Mitchum (Dermot O'Neill), Richard Harris (Sean Reilly), Anne Heywood (Neeve Donnelly), Dan O'Herlihy (Don McGinnis), Cyril Cusack (Jimmy Hannafin), Niall MacGinnis (Ned O'Neill). BW-90m. Letterboxed. by Lisa Mateas

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris


Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old.

Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination.

Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You."

The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father.

Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000).

Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris

Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old. Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You." The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father. Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000). Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Which are we to serve first?
- Dermot
Ireland, of course!
- Sean
In doing so we stand to lose all the rest.
- Dermot
Have I the look of an idiot?
- Dermot
For the sake of our friendship, I'd better not answer.
- Sean
Sometimes I think the I.R.A. was invented by a manufacturer of trench coats to keep up sales.
- Dermot

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film, and the title under which it was released in Britain, was A Terrible Beauty, the title of the novel on which it is based. After the opening credits, a written prologue superimposed over a shot of a road sign pointing to Londonderry, reads: "In a campaign timed to coincide with the German Invasion of England, IRA groups were reformed all over the North. Even in farming communities where the war, as yet, was little more than newspaper headlines." As noted in the Variety review, the film was shot in Dublin, "in and around the Ardmore Studios." Hollywood Reporter production charts list the production company as Cineman Productions, although screen credits and reviews only list it as D.R.M. D.R.M. Productions and Raymond Stross are listed as the producers on reviews and onscreen. D.R.M. Productions was owned by Robert Mitchum.
       Although his name does not appear in other sources, a February 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Richard Collins collaborated on the screenplay with Robert Wright Campbell. Collins' contribution to the screenplay has not been determined. Although a February 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that negotiations to cast Dana Wynter were taking place, and an August 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that director Tay Garnett "was tagging" famed Irish playwright Brendan Behan for a role, neither Wynter nor Behan appeared in the film. Although his appearance in the film has not been confirmed, an August 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Stross also cast Robert Briscoe, Lord Mayor of Dublin, in the film. According to modern sources, Briscoe was the first Jew to be elected Lord Mayor. He was re-elected in 1961. Briscoe previously had been a gunrunner for the Irish Republican Army during Ireland's War of Independence.
       According to a September 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was completed at $40,000 under budget. Shortly after the film was produced Stross married actress Anne Heywood, who portrayed "Neeve" in the film. Modern sources add T. P. McKenna, and Gerry Sullivan to the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 1960

Released in United States Fall September 1960