Seldom Scene
Movie reviews by Gerald Panio

Close this search box.

All Night Long (1981)

BEN, giving great weight to each word, and with a certain vicious audacity:  William, when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen.  When I walked out I was twenty-one.  And, by God, I was rich!  He goes off into darkness around the right corner of the house.

WILLY: …was rich!  That’s just the spirit I want to imbue [my sons] with!  To walk into a jungle!  I was right!  I was right!  I was right!

–from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Now there’s a telling phrase: “a certain vicious audacity….”  It makes one wonder exactly what Ben did in that jungle to make himself rich.  It also reminds me of the attitude I’m seeing from a lot of public officials these days.  I don’t want to scare anyone, but I’m afraid the Eighties might be back.  You know, the infamous “Me” decade?  That rampage of untrammeled corporate lust and unholy fiduciary narcissism that Tom Wolfe blew into oblivion with The Bonfire of the Vanities.  The un-golden era that celebrated the law of the jungle and trashed the Golden Rule.  The era that either proved that not enough high school students were still reading Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace, or that a whole generation had missed the point.

What else but a wholesale return of the Eighties could account for the current state of provincial and federal politics? Outrage is beginning to seem an inadequate response.  And therein lies the reason for this month’s movie choice: a new hero for our times.  We need a few more George Duplers in Cabinet these days.  George who?  George Dupler (Gene Hackman) is the middle-aged executive in Jean-Claude Tramont’s 1981 comedy All Night Long who finally says enough is enough.  At first, I thought I’d picked this month’s movie as a kind of guilty pleasure.  Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, and Barbra Streisand in a dark comedy?  Who would have thought?  And who would have seen it?  I still intend to sing the actors’ praises, but I’ve come to realize that what satisfied me most about this picture was its wry humor and its genuine outrage: the sweet audacity to affirm that efficiency and sanctimoniousness are no substitutes for heart and soul.

The opening five minutes set the entire film’s tone. The camera pans across the mirrored glass façade of the corporate headquarters of Ultra-Save.  In faceless unctuous voice-over, the company president runs through his spiel: “You’re an old company man, George.  This decision is for everyone’s good.  For the company and for you.  In this company we listen, because we’re in the people business.  Feel free to express yourself….”  There’s a second pause, and a chair explodes through the glass wall.  This is followed by our first sight of George Dupler, lying sedated on an office desk.

Not a likely introduction for a hero, but that’s what George ultimately proves to be.  He’s not the kind who takes on the System and single-handedly brings it to its knees.  All Night Long isn’t Gladiator or All the President’s Men or even Erin Brockovich.  No George Dupler action figures have ever been, or will ever be, produced.  Dupler’s heroism comes in walking away from a soulless, joyless life. Making such a decision, from so deep within the Establishment, when genuine power is within one’s hands and a twenty-year pension is on the line, takes a rare courage.  Most, including George’s wife and his former executive co-workers, call it lunacy.

After the chair-through-the-window-and-punch-the-boss-in-the-nose incident (“a profound adaptational response to emotional distress,” declares the company psychiatrist) George Dupler is demoted to night manager of a huge 24-hour L.A. drugstore.  Prolonged humiliation is ultimately more satisfying from a corporate point of view than a simple firing.  But George isn’t crushed.  He’s smart and experienced enough to manage half a dozen such operations.  Instead of stress and humiliation, the company’s really given him a chance to reflect on his life.  His recent experiences give him an easy bond with the drugstore’s eccentric night crew of misfits and transients.

The drugstore is also a good set for some slapstick humor—an attempted robbery by an Amazon, an Apocalypse Nowtake-off with a battery-powered toy helicopter—but most of the humor in All Night Long is sly and pointed.  The drugstore’s day manager, trying to impress Dupler with his cool demeanor, points out a typical “dirtbag” client in the TV monitor and says, “Just don’t show fear.”  The dirtbag turns out to be George’s 18-year-old son, Freddy (a very young Dennis Quaid), dropping in to say hi to dad.  When the same manager tells George, “Watch me!  In six months I’m moving up to headquarters,” George’s response is, “That’s where I was.”  Two guys going into a bar to pick a fight backtrack because they’ve left the lights on in the car.  The entire sexual state (very sorry) of the marriage between George and his wife Helen (Diane Ladd) is encapsulated in an amazing 10-second scene of broken eye contact and coded non-verbal signals. And when a neighbor tells George, “Your son’s an excellent painter, you should encourage him,”  one’s sudden fantasies of hidden artistic talents in the barely sentient Freddy are immediately demolished by, “He did our bedroom walls Friday night.  Latex enamel, quick, in and out like there’s no tomorrow.”

It turns out that the latter comment also describes Freddy’s current relationship with the neighbor’s wife, Cheryl.  The role of Cheryl Gibbons suits Barbra Streisand to a tee.  Ironically, it’s the only role she’s ever played that wasn’t written expressly for her.  She was brought in only when the original actress backed out of the picture.  Cheryl is a convincing blend of intelligence and insecurity.  She’s a very smart woman who has an instinctive sense of her own worth and of how to satisfy the basic needs that will keep her sane.  But she also feels duty-bound to play out the trophy-wife role life has dealt her.  Her husband’s a controlling creep (“I have all I can do to keep up with her—her mind, her ideas—you gotta keep’em in line”), and she’ll cheat on him for pleasure and a taste of revenge (she has the chutzpah to let Freddy charge her husband for the paint job), but she still feels she owes him a surface loyalty for a picture-perfect suburban life.  At the moment in her life when she meets George, Cheryl is a woman on the cusp of abasement or liberation.

Liberation’s not an easy path.  She likes to have her cake and eat it too.  Freddy’s a pretty big cake.  So is her duplicitous Martha Stewart reign as a suburban queen.  A blond widow instead of a black one.  Take this exchange:

George: Helen tries very hard to organize our lives.

Cheryl: Like planning to have one kid, you mean?

George: Nobody plans to have someone like Freddy.

Cheryl: I did.

Trying to get her to commit to a new life, George quotes her own words back to her about too many people leading double lives.  Cheryl’s reply is a shocked: “I only said it—I didn’t mean it!”

Deep down, of course, she does mean it.  She helps George find a new center in life; he helps her finally realize that there’s a possibility for a whole life instead of half a one.  Always, there’s underplayed irony.  George and Cheryl’s first tentative kiss takes place against a Kentucky Fried Chicken neon backdrop.  Unlike recent, popular pictures like American Beauty, All Night Long is genuinely about adult rebellion.  Usually what we get is mid-life-crisis, adolescent acting-out masquerading as rebellion.  Barbra Streisand dumping Dennis Quaid for Gene Hackman isn’t exactly the kind of scenario aimed at today’s demographics.

It is, however, deeply satisfying.


Looking Back & Second Thoughts

“There’s only one goddamned pillow here!  What kind of person has only one pillow!?”

                  –Cheryl Gibbons

For the life of me, I can’t remember why I originally chose to review All Night Long.  It might have been because I liked Gene Hackman as an actor.  It might have been because the cover of the VHS tape gave Barbra Streisand a Marilyn Monroe vibe.  It might have been a recommendation from a friend.  Somewhat surprisingly, the film still holds up for me today—although you’d never know that from the anemic 5.5 Imdb rating and the “disappointing” verdicts of Siskel & Ebert.  The film’s social satire has lost none of its bite, but steers clear of the corrosive cynicism that strangles laughter.  The chemistry between the lead actors is right on target.  Gene Hackman and Barbra Streisand have each won two Oscars; Diane Ladd has been nominated three times.  That kind of talent pays off, even in a modest film such as All Night Long.  Roger Ebert though that Streisand’s talent was wasted here.  I disagree.

Barbra Streisand manages to imbue the role of Cheryl Gibbons, the archetypal “dumb blonde” trophy wife, with intelligence, dignity, sass, moxie, and joie de vivre.  This isn’t a star turn, just fine acting.  Where Marilyn Monroe’s characters were always vulnerable, Streisand gives Cheryl Gibbons an inner resilience that makes her transition from window-dressing to independence entirely convincing.

The Imdb biography describes Streisand as “one of the most successful personalities in show business. She is the only person ever to receive all of the following: Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, National Endowment for the Arts, and Peabody awards, as well as the Kennedy Center Honor, American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement honor and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Chaplin Award.”  Quite a resume.  It shames me to admit that I’ve seen very little of her work on screen.  The only exceptions are this film and A Star is Born (1976).  I have some catching up to do.  One of the fringe benefits of working on this online version of Seldom Scene is taking advantage of chances to make up for oversights, lost opportunities, and unexplored pathways in cinema history.

As George Dupler, Gene Hackman presents a darkly entertaining portrait of a middle-class “salaryman” whose life is upended through corporate downsizing.  Unlike those sad cases one hears of who continue to pretend to go to work for weeks or months after losing their jobs, Dupler walks away from his futureless sinecure, his pension, his Stepford Wives suburban home, and his Stepford Wives spouse to pursue a dream in a 4000 square foot abandoned warehouse loft, with a woman who has her own dream to pursue.  No guarantees that either the dreams or the relationship will last, but who doesn’t like the idea of a second chance?  Look around, and you’ll likely see friends and neighbors who have remade their lives with new partners and/or new livelihoods.

The film’s perfect opening shot, one of my all-time favorites, introduced by the cliched bromide “Feel free to express yourself,” shows the audience that what follows isn’t going to be Death of a Salesman.  Later in the film, all of George’s frustrations with his dead-end life are captured in two back-to-back monologues, delivered as he’s throwing clothes into a suitcase: “I assume full responsibility for everything!!—Cheryl Gibbons, unemployment, inflation, high interest rates, low productivity, Moscow, Peking, Korea, Vietnam, Iran.  You name it, I’ll be sorry for it”….”I don’t know [where I’m going].  I don’t understand anything.  I don’t understand my son.  I don’t understand my wife.  I don’t understand myself.  I don’t know if there’s not enough gas, or too much sun.  Not enough atomic energy or too much nuclear waste.  I don’t know if there’s not enough love, who’s hiding what from whom, what’s right and what’s wrong…..” What he does understand is that there has to be more to living than a loveless marriage and toadying up to pinheads in suits.

A young Dennis Quaid, in the role of George’s not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed son, Freddie (and one of Cheryl’s disposable extramarital bedmates), provides some excellent comic relief.  Kevin Dobson plays Cheryl’s husband Bobby as a character out of a bad Seventies porno film, with suit and mustache to match.  He captures the casual viciousness that’s one of the markers of an abusive relationship.

I’d like to recommend All Night Long as part of a triple feature that also has The Hospital (1971) and They Might Be Giants (1971) on the same bill.  All three films have similar protagonists who suddenly discover, with bewilderment and bemusement, and a touch of black humor and – fantasy, that the status quo sucks.

Born In Brussels, Belgium, Jean-Claude Tramont directed only four feature films, two of which were for television.  Tramont died in 1996, at age 66.

Director of Photography Philip H. Lathrop’s career also spanned 30 years.  He has 89 credits as a cinematographer on Imdb.  Two Oscar nominations.  Lathrop died in 1995, age 82.

Writer W.D. Richter has 15 screenwriting credits on Imdb, over some 30 years.  He was nominated for an Oscar for Brubaker (1980), and for a Hugo for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).


Available on YouTube?   No, but available at at 

Movie Information

Genre: Social Satire | Romantic Comedy
Director: Jean-Claude Tramont
Actors: Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, Diane Ladd, Kevin Dobson
Year: 1981
Original Review: June 2002


Second Stories – It Had to be Done

The National Film Board of Canada presents indigenous filmmaker Tessa Desnomie’s 22-minute short film on residents’ memories of the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Labret, Saskatchewan.  From the website:

This short documentary explores the legacy of residential schools through the eyes of two extraordinary women who not only lived it, but who, as adults, made the surprising decision to return to the school that had affected their lives so profoundly. This intimate and moving film affirms their strength and dignity in standing up and making a difference on their own terms.

Second Stories follows on the heels of the enormously successful First Stories project, which produced 3 separate collections of short films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Second Stories builds on that success by continuing the training with 3 of the 12 Indigenous filmmakers who delivered such compelling short documentaries.

The Academy Museum Finds Good Intentions in Messy Film History

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The New York Times film critic, Manohla Dargis, reflects on the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.  The second link takes you to the Academy Museum website, and some cool browsing.  From Dargis’s article:

Movies are many things: art, artifacts, representations, statements, manifestations of specific times and spaces, real and imagined. But they’re also filled with and defined by material objects that have their own meaning and magic. Nothing makes that clearer than “The Path to Cinema: Highlights From the Richard Balzer Collection,” a fantastic selection of early optical devices with marvelous names like the praxinoscope that speak to our curious human desire for viewing machines….

.…the museum has set its sights on filmmakers who together tend to represent a parallel, less-known vanguard that has been systematically ignored, forgotten and marginalized. To that end, the museum has made some,,,notable choices, including about canon formation. The indie movie “Real Women Have Curves” has been given pride of place next to “Citizen Kane” in the second part of “Stories.” This section also highlights Bruce Lee; the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (a collaborator of Alfonso Cuarón); and the editor Thelma Schoonmaker (best known for her work with Martin Scorsese). Also here is the African American pioneer Oscar Micheaux, a radical independent who worked outside of Hollywood. His exhibit and another temporary one organized by Spike Lee include some of the few references to D.W. Griffith, of “The Birth of a Nation” infamy.

Wars, Whores, and the Moral Reconstruction of the West: Unforgiven and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In a long-form article for the Bright Lights Film Journal, historian Jay Goldin compares & contrasts two classic modern westerns.  From the introductory section of the article:

In Good Bad Ugly, that future is hard to imagine. The movie presents a world that is morally adrift and three protagonists, each appearing alone and out of nowhere, who are adrift in nearly every way. Only Tuco (Eli Wallach) has anything like a genuine connection to another human being (his brother, Father Pablo Ramírez [Luigi Pistilli]) or a past that we know anything about. Blondie and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) are almost complete ciphers, not only to the audience but to each other and to Tuco. We learn virtually nothing about them, not even their real names.

They inhabit a frontier world defined not just by a civil war but also by a Hobbesian war of all against all in which individualism and self-interest reign supreme. The film’s title is something of a joke, because from a moral standpoint, there’s little to differentiate the “good” from the “bad” from the “ugly”….

Films Worth Talking About:

La femme de l’aviateur, The Decline of Western Civilization, Pour la peau d’un flic, Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate), Ragtime, Reds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Elephant Man, One From the Heart, Diva, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Man of Iron, Das Boot, Pixote, Gallipoli, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Mephisto, My Dinner With André, On Golden Pond, Quest for Fire, Excalibur, Stalker, Atlantic City, An American Werewolf in London, Scanners, Clash of the Titans, Time Bandits, Pennies from Heaven, Ticket to Heaven

The Bigger Picture

FilmsThe Hospital (1971), They Might Be Giants (1971), The Seven-Year Itch (1955)





The Word on the Street

Streisand is excellent in this role, she totally loses all the Streisand mannerisms& personna that she is famous for,: she is not Fanny, not Dolly, not Katie or even Esther, she is Cheryl, with a hint of Marilyn Monroe, even sings off key… gives a very believable performance..much underrated!!!The film is short,sweet and to the point not a great movie, but certainly not the disaster thought to be..nicley directed by Jean Claude Tramont with a European flair…Hackman is really wonderful in his role and there is a nice chemistry between the leads.    [olddiscs]

A huge box office bomb upon release, ALL NIGHT LONG has been criticized by many for it’s uncomfortable mix of odd-ball comedy and quaint slice-of-life drama. Though it received some positive reviews (most notably from Pauline Kael and ROLLING STONE magazine), most mainstream critics hated it and audiences all but completely ignored it. It is also often cited by most of Streisand’s die-hard fans as their least favorite film of the actress. While the film is certainly not without it’s flaws, I have interestingly always thought ALL NIGHT LONG contained somewhat of a bizarre charm, and I’ve always wished it would receive a re-evaluation from the film-going public.   [robb_772]

…the real reason to watch this movie is Gene Hackman. Hackman is the most overlooked actor of all time. Unfortunately, he came along at the same time that his more flashy peers Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson did. While his understated performances got lost in the shuffle, time has proved him to easily have the most lasting power. While all four of those have suffered downturns in their career–temporary in the cases of Hoffman and Nicholson, erratic in the case of DeNiro, tragically permanent in the case of Pacino–Hackman never for a moment stopped turning in quality performances.
All Night Long is one of his greatest. While this guy could have become a sad sack that we merely pity, Hackman turns him into a fighter, watching the insanity taking place around him.    [simpsonsfan62]

In the almost 40 years since this release, Gene and Babs have expressed negativity towards the film if they indeed acknowledged it at all. And many Streisand fans denote it as a low point in her career. But the casual movie watcher might not be so harsh, and see this for what it is: a harmless, amiable trifle.    [Hey_Sweden]