Monday, March 20, 2023

Goodnight, My Love: A Made-for-TV Film Noir

The ABC Movie of the Week was unique among made-for-TV movie franchises in that its films spanned a wide variety of genres. It presented family dramas, thrillers, comedies, horror pictures, and even a kung fu movie. One of its most unusual efforts was Peter Hyams' homage to film noirs: Goodnight, My Love. Made in 1972, it's set in post-World War II Los Angeles and stars Richard Boone and Michael Dunn as a pair of gumshoes whose primary concern is the source of their next meal.Embed from Getty Images Richard Boone, Michael Dunn, and Barbara Bain.

Business starts looking up for Francis Hogan (Boone) and Arthur Boyle (Dunn) when the slinky Susan Lakely (Barbara Bain) saunters into their low-rent office. She wants the two private eyes to find her boyfriend, whom she claims has been missing for several days. Hogan is unenthusiastic about the case, but Boyle is hungry so they take the job.

Somehow, the boyfriend's disappearance is linked to a missing briefcase and a shady nightclub owner named Julius Limeway (Victor Buono). Limeway's henchman, Lakely's lies, and a couple of corpses muddle the clues as Hogan and Doyle try to uncover the truth--and get a decent dinner.

Richard Boone, who flashed plenty of charisma as Paladin in Have Gun--Will Travel, is surprisingly low-key as possibly the grumpiest detective in the history of cinema. It works, though, thanks to his castmates who elevate their game. Michael Dunn shines as Boone's witty sidekick, delivering his quips with style--even when he's not on camera. In one scene, when Susan expresses concern about Hogan's safety, the detective reassures her: "I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself." Offscreen, Dunn's sidekick adds: "I'm not so big."

Barbara Bain, who looks fabulous in the 1940s fashions, plays her femme fatale with a knowing wink, but never crosses the line into parody. The same applies to Victor Buono, who is ideally cast as the white suit-wearing villain who would have been played by Sidney Greenstreet once upon a time. Embed from Getty Images

I had the opportunity to interview Barbara Bain in 2019. When I asked her about Goodnight, My Love, she told me:

"I just loved doing that movie with Richard Boone and Michael Dunn. It was interesting to play this woman about whom we find out all kinds of things by the end. She's all 'poor me' in the beginning and not so 'poor me' by the end of it. I received extraordinary compliments about my performance. I spent some time with (director) Peter Hyams in the last year or two and we recalled making the film. Lee Strasberg (the famous acting teacher) said I was just wonderful. I can't even say it. I can't quote somebody else talking about me without being a little embarrassed. But after all these years, it was very nice to hear that from one's master teacher." Embed from Getty Images

For many years, it was hard to find a quality print of Goodnight, My Love. Fortunately, one of my Twitter friends (@CED_LD_Guy) has made it available on Rumble (a free streaming platform like YouTube). Click here to watch it.

Goodnight, My Love may not rank with the best of film noir, but it's an entertaining, well-made homage. It's also a great example of the kind of creative filmmaking that made the ABC Movie of the Week appointment television for those of us who grew it up in the late 1960s and 1970s.


Bill O said...

Unsold pilot I assume.

Rick29 said...

I don't think so. Barry Diller offered Hyams a chance to write and direct a Movie of the Week and he pitched this one and what would become Capricorn One.

DKoren said...

Thank you for including the link! I love the thought of Richard Boone and Michael Dunn pairing up as detectives! That is just too much fun. I'll be watching this post haste.

Karen said...

I look so forward to checking this out -- thank you for providing the link, and the heads-up about Rumble! Barbara Bain sounds so sweet, not wanting to brag about her performance. I saw her a few years ago at the TCM film fest -- she passed so closely in front of me that I could have pulled her ponytail!

Rick29 said...

That's a lovely memory!

Marianne said...

Barbara Bain also does a wonderful job as a femme fatale of sorts in season 2 of "Moonlighting," when she plays a murderer trying to fool the two detectives Maddie Hayes and David Addison. I haven't seen "Goodnight, My Love," but it would be worth seeing it for her performance, I'm sure.

Gerry Dooley said...

It's worth seeing for both Boone and Dunn who are very good in this