Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) has just returned to her small fishing village hometown, after ten years of being away in the big city. Because things hadn't worked out as she had hoped, Mae is disillusioned, especially with regards to men. At a local bar, she runs into fisherman Jerry Damato (Paul Douglas), who is immediately smitten with her.
After taking Mae on a date, Jerry introduces her to his friend, Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan), a cynical, unlikeable man, who is as disillusioned about women as Mae is about men. It is not a good first impression for either Mae or Earl...they argue and quibble and exchange barbs within minutes of meeting one another.
Eventually, because she wants the feeling of being protected by a strong man, Mae agrees to marry Jerry; however, she knows she doesn't really love him, nor is she cut out for the housewife kind of life. Although Mae soon gives birth to a baby girl, she's bored with marriage and with Jerry and finds herself drawn to the newly-divorced Earl. Though she at first fights the attraction she feels for Earl, Mae soon succumbs to her passion, and the two embark on an affair. In a small town, though, everyone seems to know everyone's business, and their relationship is found out.
What will Jerry do when he learns of Mae's affair with his best friend? What will Mae do when she's forced to choose between stability with Jerry and their baby daughter and passion with Earl? Can she figure out what she really wants out of life? And Earl? He says he loves Mae...but can such a selfish man ever really love? These are the questions that will play out in this very interesting film.
Clash by Night stars two of my favorites...Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan. Stanwyck is my third favorite actress, and Ryan, one very under-rated actor in my opinion, is my co-#1 guy. I'm not sure why I like that man so much...the characters he generally portrays are almost never likeable...they're usually cynical, angry "bad boys," which is not at all in line with who I am as a person. Even so, though, I am completely crazy about Mr. Ryan, and when I see his name among the cast of a film, I always give it a try.
As an aside, I want to say that Clash by Night is VERY dated (translation: chauvenistic) with regard to a man's treatment of his wife. There were several statements that made me cringe; however, it is what it is...a reflection of a different time, so I can easily overlook those statements. I just wanted y'all to be aware because some might be offended.
This film is out on DVD and should be readily available and quite easy to track down. (I got it from Net Flix.) Anyhow, happy viewing!!!