Would You Hang Mary Hilton?

Yield To The Night 3

Often described as being based on the real-life case of Ruth Elliss, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, Yield To The Night (AKA Blonde Sinner) was actually in pre-production when Elliss was executed, and is really adapted from Joan Henry’s 1954 novel of the same name. Henry, who spent some time in prison herself, cowrote the screenplay along with John Cresswell for this 1956 J. Lee Thompson film. Its snickering marketing campaign played up Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood studios’ ‘blonde bombshell’ starlets: Diana Dors, who was already notorious in the UK tabloid press. But despite the sleaze factor, much of the movie showcased Dors in a decidedly un-glamorous way, challenged her largely un-tapped acting chops, garnered genuinely positive reviews and was even nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1956 Cannes festival.

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Dors plays Mary Price Hilton, a sexy good-time girl who sadly has known nothing but bad times with the rotten men in her life. In the pre-opening credits, we witness her gunning down another woman. The film switches to the convicted murderer in prison, its grim monotony and the fear of her impending execution abetted in some small way by a sympathetic guard played by Yvonne Mitchell. In flashbacks, Hilton recounts the seemingly inevitable chain of events that brought her to this end, most importantly a succession of duplicitous and abusive lovers. When she finally goes for what seems like a rare good guy, it all falls apart when he commits suicide (having been duped by another woman) and that’s enough to push Mary Hilton over the edge. And enough to drive her to murder, killing the woman. Followed by trial, conviction and a sentence to die by hanging.

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Diana Dors (born Diana Mary Fluck – a name that could cause real trouble on a theatre marquee if misspelled) really nailed it this one time, at least. I’m no expert on Dors’ filmography, but it seems to be mostly forgettable 1950’s/60’s sexy comedies and vintage trash exploitation movies. But her work in Yield To The Night had Hollywood beckoning (which turned out to be a short-lived stay) and is the one role she always claimed to be proudest of.

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