Gregory Peck Shines in the Cold War Tale “Night People”

Night People is a riveting 1954 drama that is set in Berlin in the tumultuous years following the end of World War II. When a young American G.I. stationed in West Berlin is grabbed by the Soviets and spirited over the border, intelligence officer Lt. Col. Steve Van Dyke (Gregory Peck) must finesse the captors’ demands for the delivery of two former Nazis. Complicating matters is the arrival of the soldier’s father, connected power broker Charles Leatherby (Broderick Crawford), who threatens to tank the negotiations.

Rich with surprises, a foreboding atmosphere and unforgettable performances from its leads as well as supporting cast members Buddy Ebsen, Anita Bjork, and Rita Gam, Night People is an at times noirish effort that explores the evil that men do, and how one person can be a beacon of light and hope despite the darkness. This new version will hopefully bring this underrated effort from director Nunnally Johnson to a larger audience, as it was originally a box office disappointment (possibly due to rumors of on-set discord between the film’s star and its director). Despite this, its writers were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (it lost to Broken Lance). It is a film worthy of critical re-evaluation and public awareness.