Written and Directed by Peter Hyams
Starring Richard Boone, Michael Dunn, Barbara Bain, Victor Buono
I’ve written before on my feelings for made-for-TV movies of the 70s: most were pretty dismal affairs. Well, since this blog is called “Great but Forgotten,” it’s also my pleasure to point out the ones that prove me wrong. Goodnight, My Love shows that the form could come up with some gems.
The film is set in the film noir world of the 1940s, and starts out with a man being murdered. Then we discover private eye Francis Hogan (Richard Boone) and and his partner Arthur Boyle (Michael Dunn) broke and desperate for clients. A beautiful dame, Susan Lakely (Barbara Bain) comes in and hires them to find her boyfriend. They take on the job, and it leads to the gang leader Julius Limeway (Victor Buono), who tells them the scram. But it turns out that Lakely has not been entirely honest with them.
Peter Hyams wrote and directed. At the time, Barry Diller of ABC gave many directors their first breaks, and he greenlit this Raymond Chandler pastiche about a world weary private eye and dwarf partner. The dialog has just the right amount of cynicism and the same worldview as Chandler.*
The cast is perfect. Richard Boone is perfect in this sort of role: gruff and hangdog. I’ve always been a fan of Michael Dunn, and, as usual, he was great. Barbara Bain makes an excellent femme fatale, and, of course, Buono’s trademark was the sinister Sydney Greenstreetesque fat man.**
My favorite moment is something that I’ve remembered vividly since it came out. Boyle drives the car, set up with a booster seat and blocks on the pedals. He leaves it with valet parking, and the valet has to figure how to squeeze himself into the seat. It’s understated and hilarious.
One of the most interesting things is a lack of a backing track. Except for scenes in Limeway’s club, there is no music. It’s an interesting idea, and makes the action more subdued.
The movie got some very good reviews, but like all made-for-TV movies, it’s been forgotten. It did start Peter Hyams’s career; he went on the direct Capricorn One, Outland, Narrow Margin, and Timecop.
*Though, of course, the prose isn’t up to his level. But very little writing is.
**Don’t judge him by Batman.