Cast & Crew
J. Lee Thompson
Mary Hilton crosses London with determination and, upon reaching her destination, murders socialite Lucy Carpenter as she unloads packages from her car. Later, Mary, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to die, learns, while serving time, that her appeal for a stay of execution has been denied. Mary is kept under constant surveillance in her cell by two guards at all times, who change shifts regularly. Her favorite guard is Pat MacFarlane, because she is compassionate toward the agitated prisoner. One afternoon in the prison yard, Mary realizes that the murder and her execution are the result of having met Jim Lancaster: Mary is working as a sales clerk when Jim comes in to buy perfume for Lucy. One evening, Mary joins her friend Doris at a nightclub where she again meets Jim, who plays the piano there. Although Mary is married, she and Jim start seeing each other romantically. Mary leaves her husband Fred after falling in love with Jim, and is disappointed when Jim does not ardently return her affection and insists that she get her own apartment. Now as the countdown to her execution continues, Mary is uninterested in visits from her mother, her distraught brother Alan, and even Fred, whom she never loved. Mary recollects that the first thing she noticed about Lucy was her black suede pumps: Mary becomes jealous after Doris tells her about seeing Jim and Lucy together at an expensive nightclub. One night Jim stands up Mary and his landlady lets her into his apartment. When he arrives home, Jim admits he is in love with Lucy. A few weeks later, Jim appears unexpectedly at Mary's apartment after not seeing her for a while. Although the drunk and suicidal Jim is distraught because Lucy failed to keep their date, Mary lets him spend the night and hides a gun she finds in his coat pocket. The next morning, Mary begs Jim not to leave her, and reminds him they had been invited to a New Year's Eve party that night, but Jim is obsessed with Lucy. Mary now awakens in her prison cell, hysterical after having dreamt about Jim leaving her. Her next visitor is Miss Bligh, an elderly prison reformer who tries to console Mary. Mary falls into a depression as her prison routine continues and the date of her execution nears. Mary remembers when Jim failed to show up for New Year's Eve: Jim's landlady checks his apartment after Mary calls and discovers that Jim has committed suicide. Mary is further devastated when she reads Jim's suicide note because it is addressed to Lucy. In a newspaper article published after the inquest, Lucy makes light of her relationship with Jim and indicates she was trying to get rid of him. Mary finds the key to Lucy's home in Jim's belongings, which his landlady gave her, and starts stalking Lucy, with plans to murder her to avenge Jim's death. Remembering the shooting, Mary awakens in prison startled by the nightmare. Later, Mary bonds with her guard Pat, whose clinically insane mother just died. Mary soon notices that she is experiencing a sense of clarity as a result of her impending execution. After her last appeal is denied, Mary is overcome by fear but is met by kindness from everyone in the prison and receives final visits from Fred and Miss Bligh. The morning of her execution arrives, and following an uneaten breakfast and prayer, Mary is led through the door in her cell she has most dreaded, the one that leads directly to the execution chamber.
J. Lee Thompson
Charles Lloyd Pack
L. V. Clark
Harold V. King
A. G. Scott
J. Lee Thompson
G. B. Walker
Yield to the Night (aka Blonde Sinner)
The film reunited Dors with filmmaker J. Lee Thompson and novelist Joan Henry, the director and original author (respectively) of the prison drama The Weak and the Wicked (1954). Thompson, who came to directing from writing plays and screenplays, and Henry had become romantically involved during the film and started working together on a follow-up. Henry recalled the origins of the idea in a 1999 interview. "Lee and I were talking one day and he was against capital punishment like me, and he said, 'I've always wanted to write a book or a play about a man in a death cell.' I said, 'Well, I couldn't write about a man, but I might be able to do that about a woman.' So he really gave me the idea, and then I showed him a plan." The novel was published in 1954 and Thompson went about pitching it to the studios. It was a serious project that, for all the sensationalist elements, made an impassioned case against capital punishment and Thompson refused to compromise on his vision. He had little luck until real life made the fictional story timely: Ruth Ellis, a beautiful young blonde nightclub manager and model, shot her abusive lover to death in cold blood and received a death sentence. The parallels were uncanny and the film went into production after her execution, giving the filmmakers the opportunity to play up those parallels to Ellis' story. (The story of Ruth Ellis was later dramatized in the 1985 film Dance with a Stranger.)
The role of Mary was developed with Dors in mind and she jumped at the chance. "After ten years of vamping, I have got what I originally wanted to do - a really strong, dramatic role," she told "Photoplay" in 1956. Thompson and Dors were both under contract to Rank and Thompson was determined to cast Dors in the lead, finally taking the project to an independent studio when Rank balked at their sex bomb playing an unrepentant killer.
Thompson opens the film on the murder scene, which he shoots in a series of fractured images and extreme angles, and sets the credits to a brassy, swanky score that suggests lurid subject matter to come, but he contrasts the film noir imagery and attitude of the flashbacks to Mary's life with the much more sedate, introspective scenes in the prison as Mary awaits the result of her appeal. It was a real showcase for Dors, a break from the string of sassy temptresses and dumb blondes to play both a shop girl in a passionate affair and a deadened, resigned woman on death row, and she put everything into the role. The studio used sexy pin-up images of Dors to publicize the picture and played up the lurid elements of the film but there is no glamor to the prison scenes, which she plays in drab prison outfits and no makeup. The studio publicist even brought journalists in to observe Dors shooting the climactic prison scenes. "A lot of stars wouldn't do it but with Dors it's different," observed Thompson. "I think she is, if anything, different with an audience. She likes to have a reaction to the performance."
Yield to the Night finished production before Christmas 1955 and made its world premiere in 1956 at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival (the only British film entered in the festival), where she received a standing ovation. Critics praised the film for its sober approach to the subject. Thompson's direction was singled out (John Dyer wrote that Thompson revealed "a fine sense of style, resourceful and very rarely mannered" in Films and Filming) and Dors received the best notices of her career to date. She was very proud of both the picture and her performance. "I didn't have to work for my looks and my figure," she explained in a 1956 interview with Picturegoer. "I inherited them. And I get no kick at all being told that I'm gorgeous. But tell me I'm an actress and you'll make my day." She was at the top of her career, the second highest-paid actress in England (behind Vivien Leigh), and constantly on magazine covers. But the film was not popular with audiences and it did not lead to better roles for Dors, at least not until the 1960s as she aged out of her sex-bomb image.
Meanwhile Yield to the Night became part of the debate over capital punishment and the film was screened for members of parliament as they debated a bill to abolish the death penalty, which was eventually passed in 1965. Ruth Ellis was the last woman ever executed in England and Thompson remarked that "I like to think that it had some small part in removing the death penalty."
Yield to the Night (aka Blonde Sinner)
TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002
The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.
Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.
His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).
Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers - J. Lee Thompson
Director J. Lee Thompson was married to the writer of the book this film is based on, Joan Henry. They met while Thompson was filming Weak and the Wicked, The (1953) which was also based on a novel by Joan Henry.
The opening and ending cast credits differ in order. In June 1956, the film was released in England under the title Yield to the Night. According to an October 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Allied Artists changed the title to Blonde Sinner for release in the U.S. The viewed print was a British release print, and bore the title Yield to the Night. Actress Diana Dors provides intermittent narration throughout the film as her character, "Mary Hilton."
According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Allied Artists had a pre-production agreement with producer Kenneth Harper. According to reviews, the British release ran for 100 minutes. The December 14, 1956 Daily Variety review noted that the film was given an "adults only" rating in Great Britain. The poem "Loveliest of Trees" from A Shropshire Lad (London, 1898) by A. E. Housman is partially quoted in the film.