JEAN-LUC GODARD once remarked that all you need to make a ﬁlm is `a girl and a gun' and the opening sequence of Yield to the Night (J. Lee Thompson, 1956) looks like a textbook illustration of his axiom. The girl is Mary Hilton, played by Diana Dors, who whips out the gun from her handbag and promptly shoots the woman she holds responsible for her lover's suicide. As a result, she ﬁnds herself convicted for murder and sentenced to death. Most of the ﬁlm's action takes place in Mary's condemned cell as she waits to hear if her appeal has been successful and relives her doomed love affair with Jim (Michael Craig) that led to her crime passionel and her arrest. The ﬁlm, unusually, does not have a happy ending: there is no last-minute reprieve for Mary. The ﬁlm concludes as she is led away to the gallows.
Yield to the Night is often mentioned in connection with the contemporary case of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Although the ﬁlm's scenario has a number of similarities to the Ellis case (a glamorous blonde murderess, a shooting), it is not, as is sometimes stated, based on it. The screenplay had been written two years before, and the ﬁlm's appearance in the wake of Ellis's execution was coincidental. Nonetheless, this was a ﬁlm that sought to enter the contemporary public debate on hanging, and to argue the abolitionist case to as many people as possible, through the medium of popular commercial cinema. What is particularly interesting about Yield to the Night is that it does not deal with a miscarriage of justice, like the later American anti-hanging ﬁlm I Want to Live! (Robert Wise, 1958). Mary Hilton is deﬁnitely guilty of her crime but the ﬁlm still maintains that it is wrong for the state to hang her. To make a clear case against capital____________________