Cinema Versus ‘Night and the City’ and Unlikable Characters

One of the first things you learn when you’re learning to become a screenwriter is that your protagonist (see: main character) should be likable. It makes sense, you want someone the audience can see themselves in so they can form an emotional attachment to their plight and their story. Considering that most people see themselves as “good”, you obviously want your main character to be some form of “good guy” with a few flaws to humanize him or her. But what happens when the story you want to tell doesn’t call for a good guy? What if your story is about bad guys?

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Lobby card for NIGHT AND THE CITY

1950’s NIGHT AND THE CITY, directed by Jules Dassin and written by Jo Eisinger, based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Kersh, is a prime example of a film with dastardly, wicked, and some may say irredeemable characters. A staple of noir, NIGHT AND THE CITY is the story of Harry Fabian (played by Richard Widmark), a hustler and insufferable heel, and his attempts to make it big in the seedy underworld of the East End of London. He finds what might be his last and only shot in wrestling, an industry controlled by ruthless gangsters and racketeers. His doomed journey towards the big time is speckled with a fantastic and equally dark supporting cast, including Phil Nosseross (played by Francis L. Sullivan), a portly and imposing gentleman who owns the Silver Fox nightclub, his wife Helen (Googie Withers), a conniving femme fetale, Kristo (Herbert Lorn), the dangerous racketeer who runs wrestling in London, and The Strangler (Mike Mazurki) one of Kristo’s violent and unstable star-wrestlers.

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