Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Night Editor (1946)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Night Editor (1946)

Columbia Pictures' and director Henry Levin teamed to create this short, hard-boiled, B-quality, noirish crime drama and police detective thriller with a prolonged flashbacked tale. It was the first (and only) film dramatized and based on a previous episode in the Night Editor radio series (broadcast weekly from 1934-1948). The low-budget noir was set up to be the account of a night newspaper editor's description of the 'inside scoop' on a current tawdry crime story.

The cautionary story, accentuated by crisp b/w cinematography and moody dark lighting, involved murder, infidelity, lust, blackmail, double-crosses, the blending of sex and violence, a manipulative and icy cold, treacherous, psychopathic blonde femme fatale, and a last minute twist ending. The tagline was an apt description:

"The Shock Story of a Double-Cross That Started With a Kiss...and Ended in Murder!"

The film opened on a hot summer's night as late-for-work, troubled young reporter Johnny (Coulter Irwin) slowly ambled into the fictional New York Star building and climbed to the second floor. He was slightly drunk and sick-looking, and known to be lazy and neglectful of his family and domestic duties for the last few weeks. He found a graveyard-shift poker game in progress among his colleagues in the city newsroom. Mr. Crane Stewart (Charles D. Brown), the editor of the newspaper, led the gathering, and also greeted hot-shot, hard-working homicide detective 'Doc' Cochrane (Robert Stevens) who declined to join in the game, and instead was completing some research in the newspaper morgue.

As he was playing poker with his friends, Stewart began to tell a cautionary Prohibition-Era story from the late 1920s or early 1930s in NYC, by prefacing it with a common human problem - similar to what Johnny was facing: "A guy will make a mistake, then he'll get in deeper and deeper, and the first thing you know, a mountain falls on him."

At the start of the film's long flashback, he recalled the quick-and-dirty story of the homicide division's Police Lieutenant Tony Cochrane (William Gargan) from a generation earlier - a compromised, morally-conflicted police officer involved in a murder investigation. [Note: It was glossed over that the 'Tony' in the story was the father of 'Doc' Cochrane.]

The tale began with a description of Tony Cochrane: a middle-class family man with a plain, unsophisticated yet devoted wife Martha ("Jeff"/Jean Donnell), and a young son named 'Doc' (Michael Chapin as young boy) that he doted on. But it soon became obvious that Tony was becoming more and more neglectful of his family. His son advised as he was put to sleep: "Keep your nose clean." Working nights, Tony's wife Martha suspected that he was cheating and faithless while away for long periods of time - she mentioned: "I love a cop. I'd like a husband too, for a change."

The first view of Tony's fur-wrapped, wealthy, high-sclass paramour Jill Merrill (Janis Carter) as he pulled up outside her walk-up townhouse was a legs-only shot. She seemed sexually-voracious and immediately demanded a kiss. He postponed her by asking - with vampirish overtones: "What do you want, blood?" and she responded: "Yes, blood!" He cautioned: "Don't boil over the edge, Jill. It ain't time yet. We got a little talkin' to do."

The Introduction of Femme Fatale Jill Merrill (Janis Carter)
Legs-Only Introduction
Jill: "Kiss me"
Tony: "We got a little talkin' to do"

Tony entered the Homicide Squad Room and the inner office of his superior, Police Captain Lawrence (Harry Shannon), where they discussed how he was working overtime on his cases and was lacking sleep. It seemed obvious to most of his colleagues (and his family members) that Tony's job performance and demeanor had changed, and he was suffering from being engaged in something nefarious.

Indeed, he was having an adulterous affair with Jill - a glamorous, big-league and sophisticated blonde out of his lower-tiered league (from the wrong side of the tracks), and he was ready to break off his sexual association with her after a year.

Parked at a deserted beachfront location at Mitchell Beach - a popular lovers' lane spot for couples, he delivered an ultimatum to Jill. Her first reaction was that she suspected his wife had found out about their secretive and romantic entanglement, but he denied that was the case. Tony knew his time was up with her and that the woman was trouble, and he attempted to drop the haughty and rich socialite. But she was sexually irresistible to him and his resolve weakened:

Tony: "This is the end of the line, baby. This is where I get off."
Jill: "Did she find out about us, is that why?"
Tony: "Nobody found out anything. You're just no good for me. We both add up to zero."
Jill: "So that's it."
Tony: "Yeah, that's it. I'm sick of the whole crazy mess. I'm sick of playin' games - at the office, with my kid. I shouldn't be playin' those games with my kid."
Jill: "Afraid your little angel will find out about us? She and that sweet little kid of yours."
Tony: "I would've quit long ago. You're worse than blood poisoning."
Jill: "To hear you talk, you'd think I was crawling after you. I don't need you. I can buy and sell you. I don't know why I bother seeing you."
Tony: "You don't know why? I'll tell ya. You're rotten rich through and through. Like something they serve at the Ritz, only it's been layin' out in the sun too long."
Jill: "That's right, Tony. You're not my kind - the clean cut type. But your little tootsie-wootsie loves her great big stupid peasant."
Tony: "Yeah, for all your dough, like a ton of bricks!"
Jill: "How picturesque. And you were totally unresponsive."
Tony: "You're like a sickness. I was sick."
Jill: "No, Tony, it was a fever."
Tony: "It's a nightmare with convulsions."
Jill: "No more fever. You can go back to that little rat-race and that home of yours."
Tony: "Never mind what I'm going back to."
Jill: "Pretty little house, pretty little wife, pretty little brat."
Tony: "SHUT UP!" (He grabbed her but then kissed her)
Jill (as she embraced him): "You'll never get away from me, Tony. I won't let you. You're like me. There's a meanness inside of you that either has to hurt or be hurt. We were meant for each other, darling." (They continued kissing)

Their Break-Up
"This is the end of the line, baby. This is where I get off"
Jill: "I don't need you"
Tony: "You're rotten rich through and through."
An Irresistible Kiss
Jill: "You'll never get away from me, Tony."
Startled by Another Car's Headlights

Suddenly mid-kisses, the duo were startled by the bright headlights of another car (an open convertible) that pulled up nearby, with another couple inside. Then, they heard a woman's scream, and witnessed the male driver standing outside the vehicle and brutally bludgeoning, pummeling and striking his female companion to death with a tire iron. In their switched on headlights, they caught a clear glimpse of the murderer.

Tony's instincts immediately kicked in - he pulled out his gun and began a rapid pursuit after the fleeing killer making his getaway, but Jill yelled for him to stop: "Tony, please stop, there'll be a scandal. Your wife, she'll leave you. You'll lose the kid." Tony slowly responded and lowered his gun - realizing that he couldn't report the crime without revealing their scandalous and cheating affair - something that would ruin his life. He walked over to the open passenger door where the female victim's legs were extended, and saw her bloody corpse. Stunned by the sight, he walked back over to his car: (Tony to Jill: "He killed her. Beat her brains out with a tire iron. He got away").

Jill wanted them to keep their eye-witness experience to themselves, so that they wouldn't get involved: "You're not going to say anything, Tony. Let the cops find out for themselves." Tony felt he was neglecting his obligations as a cop to prevent the murder and stop the killer: ("I'm a cop. I didn't even try to stop him"). Then, the frenzied and perverse Jill became borderline orgasmic and sexually aroused with bizarre erotic excitement when she voyeuristically begged to see the bruised and battered body of the female victim: ("Tony, I wanna see her. I wanna see her, Tony! I wanna look at her!"). But Tony told her to shut up, denied her the crazed possibility, and drove away.

[Note: It was later revealed that the young woman was prominent young socialite Elaine Blanchard (Betty Hill) who was beaten to death with a tire iron by her boyfriend-killer, later revealed to be Douglas Loring (Frank Wilcox), a married banker. Jill knew the killer very well, but never let on.]

The next day, the now-compromised NYPD cop Cochrane was called to the beach crime scene, to investigate the killing with his partner Ole Strum (Paul E. Burns), but he was unable to reveal to anyone that he had been present and witnessed the crime. He heard a description of the girl's lethal injuries ("Skull crushed like an eggshell by repeated blows with a blunt instrument"). There were two pieces of evidence that seemed promising:

  • two sets of fingerprints that were not the victim's (on the dashboard and door handle, and on the victim's handbag)
  • a second set of tire tracks

Captain Lawrence asked Tony to capture the extra set of balloon tire tracks at the murder site with a plaster impression. Robbery was a possible motive, but it seemed "too easy" an explanation - the victim (who had been drinking) had $200 in cash in her possession and was wearing about $12,000 dollars worth of jewelry. She might have picked up a hitchhiker or someone had seen her ostentatious jewelry and robbed her. Pawn shops were to be surveyed during the case. Conjectures were made that the victim had a "love angle" - maybe she was involved in a dangerous affair with a married man. Tony was instructed to review Elaine's bank statements (canceled checks). Strom mentioned to Tony that he was acting strangely - hinting that he sensed that Tony was somehow involved:

"Maybe I'm just a dumb cop, but whatever's bothering you Tony, believe me, it ain't worth it."

In addition, a list of the names of the dead victim's friends were compiled - and they included - to Tony's surprise - the names "Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Merrill." He was reminded that his own mistress Jill was cheating on her elderly husband Benjamin Merrill (Roy Gordon). Tony phoned the Merrill residence, but was unable to reach Jill. Then he phoned his wife Martha and admitted that he had been a 'stranger' - causing her to perk up, but then after he encouraged her to leave the house, the call didn't end well.

Two New York Star Newspaper Headlines
Following the Case

Knowing that his wife would be out of the house between certain hours that evening, and to cover his own guilt and involvement (specifically, the tire track evidence that linked his car to the site), Tony began to switch out his tires in his garage. In the middle of the job, Martha returned home, and he snapped at her for showing concern and for inquiring about what he was doing.

Tony visited the home of the Merrills as part of his investigation, since their names were on the victim's friends list. It was revealed that Tony had first met the couple (and Jill) a year earlier about a different case - presumably when he started his affair with her. After her husband left for the office, she admitted she had put on "an act" for him, and offered a reunion drink and her close company.

He told her he had reconsidered their recent breakup: ("I'm just giving up struggling. I know when I'm hooked....Yeah, you got my number and I know it...I said to myself, 'What's the use of struggling. You go for her, and she goes for you'"), but then he came close for a kiss in order to confront her for information he knew that she had - her friendly association with the killer, but she wouldn't reveal the man's identity:

Tony: "Tell me, baby, what was the name of the guy that bumped off the Blanchard kid?"
Jill (snarling): "WHAT?!"
Tony: "You heard me. He's one of your fancy friends!" (She jumped up from the couch and attempted to hit him with a bottle)
Jill: "Let go of me. You're such a smart detective, find out for yourself!"
Tony: "You know him."
Jill: "Sure I do. Now you try and find out who he is."
Tony: "That's a criminal offense what you're doing."
Jill: "That's right, but it works both ways."
Tony: "I could sure throw a monkey wrench into your pretty, little domestic merry-go-round."
Jill: "Don't be cheap."
Tony: "At these prices?"
Jill: "I won't be threatened."
Tony: "OK, Jill." (He prepared to leave, and then she began hugging him)
Jill: "I don't know his name, Tony, honest. I must have seen him at a party or something."
Tony: "That's alright, Jill. I just wanted to find out whose side you were on."
Jill: "Your side, Tony. Your side." (He denied allowing her to kiss him)

She begged as he held the upper hand over her: "Come back and see me, Tony." He sarcastically promised he would: "I'll come back and see you, baby. That's one thing you can be sure of. We're partners, ain't we?"

Next, Tony visited the Hudson National Bank to review Elaine's cancelled bank checks. He was brought to the desk of the bank's VP, Douglas Loring - where he was shocked to recognize Loring as the man (having an affair with Elaine Blanchard) who fled from the car at the beach after killing her. The smooth-talking Loring claimed he had been family friends with the Blanchards for years, and regretted her death at so young an age.

As Tony departed from the bank, he did a double-take when he heard a newspaper vendor exclaiming that the Blanchard killer had been arrested and that the beach murder mystery had been solved. A tramp named Phillips (Charles Wagenheim), a journeyman-carpenter, was seated in Captain Lawrence's office when Tony returned. Supposedly it was an "open and shut" case, because Phillips was found with some of Miss Blanchard's jewelry, and his prints were all over Elaine's purse. (Tony realized that the opportunistic tramp had only robbed the dead woman at the beach and stolen from her, but did not commit murder.) He worried that the convicted yet innocent man would soon face the death penalty (the electric chair).

Tony met up with Jill on a sidewalk, and as they walked along, she spoke about recognizing the "murderer" sitting in the bank nearby: "Of all places, in a bank. Sitting there as calm as...In a bank. He doesn't look like a murderer. I think he's rather attractive." Tony quipped: "So's a snake." She invited Tony on a date - completely uncaring and unphased that the case was improperly concluded and that an innocent man was facing the death penalty ("They got the murderer, didn't they? Some thieving little tramp").

They spoke further a few minutes later in the public library between stacks. Jill continued to be uncooperative, intimidating, insensitive, and completely lacking a moral compass when she blamed the victim for her mishap: "Elaine was a nasty little brat. She probably had it coming to her..." She also added: "She probably deserved it." The cold-hearted Jill thought nothing of the innocent man who had been charged:

"What's the difference?...Tony, honey, he's just a little nobody. Who's going to miss him? Besides, he did rob the body."

She refused to cooperate and confess the real truth to the authorities, and condemned Tony's white-knight search for the truth: "You're acting like a fool. Looking for more trouble?...Tony, dear, you're not the Galahad type. Do you want to mess up both our lives, lose your job, your wife, your child? What about his wife? If you feel so big-hearted, why don't you think about what it will do to her?" Tony had suspicions that the promiscuous and duplicitous Jill was also romantically involved with the married killer, and saw through her outer beauty into her inner rotten core:

"You're rotten! Pure, no-good, first rate, grade-A, number 1 rotten!"

When she claimed she loved Tony, he called her a venomous and lethal black-widow spider: "A fine kind of love, a female spider." He refused another request for a date with her.

Through trickery, Tony was able to obtain Loring's fingerprints (by touching and identifying some of Elaine's jewelry, and then by signing a release form with a fountain pen), and matched them to his fingerprints in the car. Although Tony thought he had enough evidence to incriminate Loring, in the office of DA Bill Halloran (Jack Davis), Loring openly confessed that he was the last person to see Miss Blanchard alive on the afternoon of her death, and said she was in love with him. Because of their acquaintance, naturally his fingerprints would be the second set of fingerprints in the car.

Loring then delivered a more stunning revelation - he claimed he was also romantically involved with Jill, and his alibi was that they were at a late movie together on the night of the murder - an outright lie - and she was conveniently there in the office to corroborate his whereabouts.

Feeling completely stunned and betrayed, Tony went to get a drink at a bar and called Jill to meet him. He was flabbergasted by her duplicity: "What kind of a hot brick did you hand me down at the DA's office?" He insisted that she revise her alibi and admit her lies to the DA: ("You're gonna tell him you weren't with that ape, but with me that night"). She called him a "poor, dumb cop," and concurred that she really did have a "new boyfriend" (Loring) that was more her "type." She sneered: "You can go back to your Martha now." She refused to recant her deceptive lies, and claimed that by 10 o'clock the next morning (the time of Phillips' execution), it would all be over.

Tony felt compelled to confess to his partner Ole that he was present at the beach site where Loring committed the crime ("I saw him do it"). He provided concrete "proof" or evidence of his involvement with femme fatale Jill ("a pretty bad one") - by showing Ole his switched-out, discarded tires in his garage with distinctive marking on the tire tracks. He briefly spoke to Martha about how he was mixed up in a major problem that he was resolving, so that he could return to her - but he hinted that he might lose his job. He realized that his confession would destroy his career and marriage, and inevitably result in jail time.

Tony (with Ole) went to arrest Jill at a party late that night in her home. Tony discovered her in her kitchen with Loring - in mid-kiss and embrace. When Loring left, Tony told her that he had revealed solid evidence of their involvement, and insisted on taking her to the DA's office: "Now we go down to headquarters and sing a duet. You're gonna tell them you lied about Loring." She falsely claimed that he had made her stronger so that she could confess - and asked for one final kiss: "Why I suppose we're through. You can give me one goodbye kiss. Come on. One farewell kiss. It won't hurt much" - and then like a venomous spider - after he called her "a screwy dame," she attempted to kill him by stabbing him in the back with an ice-pick. And then incredulously, she claimed that she didn't mean to kill him.

Although shocked and seriously wounded, Tony (sweating profusely) was able to quietly lead Jill out of the house to the awaiting police. She told him: "I'll tell them, Tony, honest." He resigned (by handing over his detective's badge to Captain Lawrence). Ole reminded him of the consequences: "You lose your job, maybe Martha and Doc. You go to jail. It took a lot of guts. I'm proud of you, Tony." And then Tony collapsed onto the ground.

Night editor Crane Stewart's flashbacked story ended - it immediately sobered up the young drunken and "mixed-up" reporter Johnny. In the film's last minute plot twist reveal, after hearing the story, Johnny had already left the office and walked into the lobby of the newspaper building. Realizing he was out of cigarettes, he asked to buy a pack from the familiar cigarette/cigar stand vendor - Tony. Suddenly it dawned on him that this 'Tony' was the main protagonist of the story - Tony Cochrane - the father of grown-up homicide detective 'Doc' Cochrane in the office. He was overjoyed to meet him, but then decided to hurry home to his wife in order to not repeat Tony's mistakes.

Tony - The Lobby's Long-Time Cigarette/Cigar Vendor
Johnny: "Tony!"

Opening Setting For Film: Newspaper Office

Drunken Reporter Johnny (Coulter Irwin)

Editor Crane Stewart (Charles D. Brown)

'Doc' Cochrane (Robert Stevens)

Flashback: Tony Cochrane (William Gargan) with His Young Son 'Doc'

Tony's Plain Wife Martha ("Jeff"/Jean Donnell)

The Bloody Murder Scene:

A Brutal Bludgeoning

A Clear View of the Killer

Tony's Pursuit with a Gun

Jill's Efforts to Stop Tony, Threatening Scandal

Tony's Viewing of the Dead Female Victim

Tony and Jill Discussing the Murder

Jill's Perverse Desire to See the Bloody Body

Tony with Partner Ole Strum

Ole Strum's Suspicions About Tony

The Names of Friends of the Victim - Including Jill and Her Husband

Jill with Her Elderly Husband Benjamin

Tony on the Phone with His Wife Martha

Tony Speaking With the Merrills

Private Time with Jill - To Confront Her About Her Knowledge of the Killer!

The Hudson National Bank VP: Douglas Loring (Frank Wilcox) - The Killer

Falsely Arrested Murder Suspect - Phillips

Mrs. Jill Merrill - Without a Conscience

Jill - Uncaring and Insensitive About the Murdered Victim or the Innocent Suspect

Loring's Confessions in the DA's Office - Stunning News to Tony

Jill Corroborating Loring's False Alibi

Jill Claiming To Tony That She Had a "New Boyfriend" (Loring)

Tony Reconciling Himself With Martha

Tony Discovered Jill Kissing Loring in Her Kitchen During Party

Jill Plotting to Kill Tony With an Ice-Pick When He Forced Her to Confess

Wounded Tony Leading Jill Out of the House to Authorities

Tony Resigning From the Force By Turning In His Badge

Tony Collapsing onto the Ground


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z