RARA-AVIS: Re: Night of the Following Day

From: Richard Moore ( moorich@aol.com)
Date: 21 Dec 2006

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, DJ-Anonyme@... wrote:
> Richard,
> You mention that the director, Cornfield, and Brando argued over the
> ending of Night of the Following Day. Did either of their endings
> correspond to the one in White's book? And is there anything in that
> book to link it to surrealism? I haven't read The Snatchers, but based
> on the couple of White novels I have read, I can't imagine any
> connection, quite the opposite.

I have not read the Lionel White novel THE SNATCHERS but it is clear from the commentary track that Cornfield came up with the "surrealistic" ending when he wrote the script with a friend--more on that later.

The Brando ending (as briefly stated by Cornfield) was more conventional by comparison but it was a hard, tough ending that I think might have worked better as a close to the violence that leads up to the end.

> And what were those two doing making a French film? (Is it in French
> English?) > Mark

The film was made in France and is in English, although interestingly the American cast members have a few lines in French. However there is no pretence in the movie that they are anything other than Americans speaking some French.

Here is the background as given by Hubert Cornfield on the commentary track--which the more I listen to it, I have to wonder if he forced by illness to use some device or other to approximate speech. I do not vouch for the facts but simply am relating Cornfield's statements.

Cornfield says he learned sometime after the fact that Stanley Kubrick had bought the rights to THE SNATCHERS intending it to be the basis of his first Hollywood movie. However, Kubrick learned that there was a ban on movies about kidnapping at that time. Cornfield says Kubrick went back to White and said 'is there any other book you have available at the same price' and that is how Kubrick ended up with the rights to CLEAN BREAK, which became "The Killing."

Shortly after this, Cornfield buys the rights to THE SNATCHERS and by this time the ban had been relaxed. So Cornfield collaborates on a script with a friend and "everyone loves the script" but even with the ban relaxed there is a reluctance to do a film about a kidnapping. From the context of what Cornfield says I gather that the novel and that original script concerned a kidnapping of a child.

So Cornfield puts it on the backburner and there it stays for ten years until he is "down and out in Paris." He starts fooling around with the script and comes up with the idea of changing the kidnap victim from a child to a young woman. This will ease the minds of those concerned about child kidnapping. He also comes up with his surreal ending, which with appropriate warnings I will give further along.

About this time he gets a call from his friend Elliott Kastner, who used to be Cornfield's agent at MCA. Kastner is calling to congratulate Cornfield on his marriage and after the usual blah-blah asks what he is working on. Cornfield tells him he's solved the problem with that old kidnapping script and tells him of the changes. In his notes Cornfield has broken the segments into time periods and when Kastner asks him what it is now called he says "The Night of the Following Day." As soon as he hears the title, Kastner says "I want in."

A relative short time later, Kastner tells Cornfield that he is going to pitch Richard Boone for the lead. A couple of weeks later, Kastner calls Cornfield in Paris and tells he that he has Brando for the lead. "What about Boone?" Cornfield asks and learns that Boone has agreed to take a secondary role. So that is how Cornfield ended up as co-writer, director and producer (with Kastner as one of the executive producers) making the movie in France.

According to Cornfield, Brando quickly turned against him and did everything he could to humiliate him and sabotage the movie. This includes trying his damndest to seduce Cornfield's wife. One of the best scenes in the movie takes place in a bathroom with a passed-out Rita Moreno in a bathtub full of water resisting Brando's attempts to wake her. It is a fantastic scene and a highlight of the wonderful performance by Moreno with Brando contributing a very naturalistic support. It was a huge surprise to learn that Brando was completely drunk during the filming of the scene and only artful cutting salvaged enough footage of him to make it work. This was not the last time such artful editing was necessary. The final scene of the movie calls for a simple close up of Brando smiling but he made faces for take after take and eventually Cornfield went frame by frame to get a suitable image of Brando smiling to freeze-frame for the closing shot.

The point was finally reached in filming that Brando refused to work with Cornfield anymore. A scene key to the plot remained to be filmed with Brando. Because it would mean he would no longer have to deal with him, Cornfield says he agreed to let Richard Boone direct that scene. He was unhappy with the results saying Moreno's brother appears too soft in the scene but it seemed to work reasonably well to me.

Here are some of my thoughts after two viewings. I state it this way as my opinions shifted after the second viewing and may yet again.

Any movie I can watch twice in a week and expect to watch again in the not too distant future has value and can be recommended--especially to fellow Rara-Avis members. The acting by every cast member is at a very high level. Cornfield says Moreno and Brando looked down their nose at the French actor who played a policeman who always seemed to be popping up calling him a "conventional" actor. Cornfield says he thought the fewllow did a fine job and I agree. Boone is quite good and, despite his antics behind the scenes, Brando's performance is at a very high level. Drunk or sober, happy or rebellious, Brando holds the viewers attention.

Negatives? For any "caper" movie, the plan of action is an important element. Typically, the plan is perfect and so is the execution until a certain point when things start going wrong. In this film, the plan is a good one and so is the execution. I especially liked the bit of business that has the father going into a bank to change the marked bills for unmarked currency.

But then better than two-thirds into the film, many things begin to go haywire. This includes planned elements that for the life of me (and I've watched it twice) make no sense. Damon Knight once observed that an idiot plot was one that required characters to become idiots in order to carry it out. Hereafter I will give some plot details but I will warn again before I mention the surrealistic ending.

All that is left to succeed is to get the money from the father and maybe/maybe not free the daughter. So what's the deal with the bomb the kidnappers set to go off? It seems out of left field to me. They don't need a diversion. They just need to quietly get the money and get the hell away from there. The whole bistro scene makes little sense to me. Admittedly, fine movies have their own logic--ala "The Big Sleep"--but those gaps are still worth mentioning.

On another front, Boone decides to seize control and gives Brando exactly one hour to do his thing with the explosion, get the ransom and return or else Boone will molest the girl. I don't get the one hour deadline. Boone clearly wants the money and wants to molest the girl. Why should he put a hard time limit on either activity, which seems to run concurrently.

But even our most beloved noir/hardboiled movies have gaps--often great gaps--in logic. But most of them have a satisfying ending and "The Night of the Following Day" does not.

***Spoiler Warning*** Beware Below

Cornfield says when he was rewriting the old script ten years later in Paris, he stole the structure from the 1945 British Film "Dead of Night" which I admit I have not seen. In the rewrite (and as filmed) the young woman (played by Pamela Franklin) is having a "premontionary dream". None of this actually happened. At the end of the movie, the scene shifts back to the airplane where the young woman is a passenger and landing in Paris. Rita Moreno is the flight attendent and Marlon Brando is the driver picking her up. The final shot is a freeze-frame of Brando smiling--the last shot Cornfield had trouble getting.

Leading up to that--in my opinion lame-ass ending--is a sequence where Brando with Moreno and her wounded brother are returning with the ransom. As they near the hideout, Brando asks to be let out and tells Moreno to go forward and he will follow with his "burb gun", an automatic with a folding stock. The car with Moreno and her brother is shot up by Boone almost immediately after Brando leaves it. The brother crawls out with the briefcase containing the ranson as the car ignites into a ball of flame. Boone comes over and kindly relieves him of the briefcase and then walks down to the water wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella.

Brando lets him walk onto the flats (the tide is out) and then sends a several round burst his way. It's a very nice scene with Boone collapsing and then slowly pushing his way upright again using the umbrella and grasping the briefcase as if he had stumbled in the park. Another brief burst puts him down again.

Brando walks over to the wounded, prone Boone, who asks "What are you going to do now Lochinvar?" Brando procedes to drag Boone out where the incoming tide will drown him.

***Pause for a lengthy aside***Because of my eighth grade English teacher Mrs. Lee, I know that Lochinvar (perhaps under an improved spelling) was a hero of the Waverly novels by Sir Walter Scott. No, my rural Georgia elementary school did not teach the Waverly novels in the eighth grade. Mrs. Lee, however, knew them well and would refer to any young male demonstrating a moonstruck interest in a female as a "young Lockinvar." When I was in the eighth grade of a dismal rural Georgia school, we had school-wide movie presentations for which the principal would charge 25 cents. The principal was by occupation a Baptist minister, although I am sure he earned more as a principal than he did as a preacher. He made a tidy sum from the movies. We were enduring one starring Easther Williams when my friend June switched places to sit behind me. Signs of romance? Well, maybe. June preceded to kick the hell out of my back. All I could do to retaliate was to reach my hand behind me and bang with my fist against her shin. And, boy, that hurt. After a bit of this, June and I were called out of the auditorium and taken to the principle's office. It gradually became clear to me that they thought I had been sticking my hand up June's dress. My mind reeled. At the time (this was the late 1950s), I might as well have been accused of assasination. I did a "I think I know what you are accusing me of (as they were very hazy on the details) but I never...blah, blah. They didn't believe me. The principal told me-- I ain't making this up--"Richard if you told me it was raining outside, I'd have to go outside to check." I never said another word to the mother fucker as I had never given him any cause to doubt me about anything. The truth is this: it never occured to me to feel up June. I was just trying to hurt her because she way kicking me. Once I was accused I thought: Damn! I should have tried to feel her up!! It was a perfect opportunity!

Anyway, the Boone ending would have had him shooting Boone, having the Lochinvar conversation with him and dragging him out to meet his death by the incoming tide. The scene would have had Brando sitting on the briefcase with the ransom while observing Boone's death.

To me this is a better ending than the one the movie endures now.

Enough for now.

Richard Moore

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