Not too long ago we were gearing up for Halloween and looked at horror films featuring magicians. The great Vincent Price made an appearance, thanks to his murderous character in The Mad Magician. I believe in that article I mentioned that this was not the only time Price portrayed a stage magician. To be honest, he makes for a most excellent magician in the old turn of the century Mephistophelean mold. Price was tall, graceful and striking but still mysterious and imposing. He was also obviously comfortable on a stage. All of these features are put to work in his portrayal of Maximilian the Great in 1947′s The Long Night.
A remake of the 1939 French film Le Jour se lève (in which Price’s character is not a magician but a dog trainer), The Long Night is an underappreciated classic of the film noir genre. It tells the story of factory worker Joe (Henry Fonda), a simple but likable veteran, and his romance with Jo Ann (Barbara Bel Geddes). When Jo Ann meets Maximilian the amoral magi seeks to sweep her off her feet, and away from Joe, by offering her a job as his assistant (and lover). Maximilian’s underhanded methods prove too much for Joe to handle and conflict soon becomes inevitable. Anne Dvorak and Elisha Cook Jr. round out the cast for this fine film.
Unfortunately, The Long Night is a difficult movie to find. Thanks to the good folks at Turner Classic Movies, though, you can enjoy Vincent Price’s magic performance in the following clip: