Night World

Night World

-"Will you have a little drink?"
-"No, thanks. I’m trying to live long enough to see good liquor come back."

Night World aka Everybody Comes to Happy’s

I don’t know if it’s because it’s their centennial year, but I seem to have Warner Bros. on the brain (beyond just the lame Casablanca joke). For the second time in under three weeks, a pre-Coder from another studio - in this case, Universal - is giving me WB vibes. Warner Bros. loved to put out fast-moving comedy-drama hybrids which interwove a myriad of plotlines unified by a confined setting and timeframe (think Union Depot, Life Begins, Central Park, etc.). After a stylish bright-lights-big-city montage brimming with gams, garters, and booze, Night World takes place entirely within - or just outside of - an NYC nightclub run by the aforementioned "Happy" (Boris Karloff, sporting a mustache and a mean right hook) and observes the lives and struggles of various employees and patrons over the course of several hours. And, since we’re on Carl Laemmle’s turf, this means we’re treated to the most unexpected of Frankenstein cast member reunions.

Adultery, organized crime, deadly familial drama - take your pick. Babyfaced Lew Ayres (billed above the title) and comely Mae Clarke are our primary focus. He’s pickling his liver in an attempt to forget that he is the (literal) son of a bitch-who-killed-his-father in cold blood, and she’s the kind-hearted hoofer trying to help him snap out of it. They’re very cute together (also, she saves him from a bear attack; no, I will not explain further), but there are plenty of side interests to enjoy, as well. George Raft, cast before the release of Scarface made him a star, has a small part as a “Broadway tinhorn” with designs on Clarke, Dorothy Revier gets to play the bad girl as Karloff’s faithless spouse, and Clarence Muse elevates his role as the Black doorman above the way it plays on paper (his interaction with Clarke is particularly lovely). He broke my heart.

There’s some unfortunate - though hardly unexpected - pansy humor, tiresome drunk antics (I’m looking at you, Bert Roach), and other badly aged moments (the "hilarious" outcome to a bet Raft makes with Clarke). I also found Hedda Hopper (before her professional gossip days) as Ayres’s mother to be an overly convenient villain. But it’s a fascinating little curio with a fab cast, smart-mouthed chorines, some nice tracking shots (far more dynamic than my last experience with director Hobart Henley), and an unforgettable final smile from Boris.

Oh, and despite having a runtime of less than an hour, the film still makes room for Busby Berkeley to stick his camera between a line of ladies’ legs. Told you it reminded me of Warner Bros.

Many thanks to Blair Russell for putting this one on my radar.

-"What did you say your first name was?"
-"It’s still Ruth."
-"That’s a swell name."

Available here.

Postscript - Was Robert Emmett O'Connor even allowed to play anything other than an Irish policeman?

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