Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Night After Night (1932) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Next week Kino Lorber will be releasing Blu-ray editions of Mae West's first nine films, originally released to theaters between 1932 and 1940.

I'll be reviewing the first eight films in that group, and they're all completely new to me. I started off with West's very first movie, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), in which -- despite the billing on the DVD cover -- she appears in support of George Raft and Constance Cummings.

I wasn't sure what to expect of this film, as reviews seemed to be all over the place. Leonard Maltin gave it two stars and called it "a crashing bore," while the current IMDb rating is a very respectable 6.8 stars, with over 640 viewers weighing in.

Danny of Pre-Code.com called it "woefully underseen" and "a nice little hidden gem," while Dan of Mystery File feels it's "quite a nice little movie indeed."

I'm pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it -- and I hope the esteemed Mr. Maltin will revisit it one day, as it's grand fun. I'm honestly surprised this film isn't better known.

Raft plays Joe Anton, who owns a speakeasy in a ritzy mansion which was formerly the home of Jerry Healy (Cummings), who has taken to sitting at a table night after night while she mourns the past and contemplates her future. Wealthy Dick (Louis Calhern) wants to marry her, but while she wants financial security, she doesn't love him.

Joe, meanwhile, is a busy fellow. He has two sort-of girlfriends, jealous Iris (Wynne Gibson) and laid-back, good-natured Maudie (West), who doesn't show up until well into the movie. He also has tutoring sessions every day with Miss Jellyman (Alison Skipworth), as he aspires to improve himself.  Miss Jellyman is a teacher who is both kind and determined as she works with Joe to clean up his grammar and help him better understand history and world events.

Meanwhile another gangster, Frankie (Bradley Page), is unhappy about Joe opening a business in his territory and is determined to push him out of the way, whether it's nicely (buying him out) or not-so-nicely (a gun battle is a distinct possibility).

The movie has a marvelous cast and gives them clever, interesting bits throughout. One of my favorite moments was early on when Joe unlocks a gun case and he and his men urgently arm themselves before heading to a confrontation with Frankie and his men.

Joe's righthand man Leo (Roscoe Karns) exclaims to wait a minute, and you think he's forgotten a weapon -- then he plucks a flower and puts it in Joe's lapel. You have to make sure you're properly dressed for possible gangland warfare!

Joe's first scene with Miss Jellyman is just delightful, as she patiently helps him read an article about world politics and converse on a higher plane. Miss Jellyman is unexpectedly drawn further into Joe's world when he asks her to dine with him and Jerry, wanting to make a good impression on the "high-class" Jerry with his erudite older friend.

Of course, wouldn't you know it, right in the middle of dinner is when Maudie (West) appears back in Joe's life and upsets the apple cart...but, hilariously, the earthy Maudie and the refined Miss Jellyman hit it off and become friends. There's a scene where Maudie asks Miss Jellyman to join her in business and Miss Jellyman is flattered but feels she's clearly too old for what she thinks Maudie's business is...it turns out her impression is not exactly correct. Both ladies add some excellent comedy to the movie.

The always-lovely Theresa Harris has a too-small role as a ladies' room attendant, and this is one of numerous films featuring a pair of future stars as extras, "Wild Bill" Elliott and Dennis O'Keefe. They're each in the same nightclub scene; O'Keefe is the drunk passed out asleep with his head on a table, and Elliott can just barely be glimpsed on the dance floor. One of these days I'm going to attempt a count on how many movies feature both of these men in their bit player days.

I run hot and cold on Raft, finding him stiff in some films and more interesting in others; he's really quite good in this. His hurt when he believes he's been rejected by Jerry is palpable. 

Cummings, who I really liked in both SEVEN SINNERS (1936) and HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940), is also good as the lovely yet brittle Jerry, wrestling with her heart and her finances.

The movie was directed by Archie Mayo and filmed by Ernest Haller.

The movie runs a brisk 73 minutes. Script contributors included Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Mae West, who apparently played a key role in creating her character and writing her own dialogue. One of her classic moments comes when a hatcheck girl (Patricia Farley) exclaims "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!" and West's character replies "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie!"

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks good and has a strong soundtrack, especially given the movie's vintage. The disc includes the movie's trailer, five additional trailers for other Mae West films, and a commentary track by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson.

My Mae West viewing started out on a strong note with this film, and I'm curious to become further acquainted with her work this summer thanks to Kino Lorber's releases.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Vienna said...

Why haven’t I seen this. I like West and Raft. You’ve made it sound really interesting and fun.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Just ordered it!

1:18 AM  
Blogger Mae West NYC said...

Paramount originally wanted Texas Guinan ["Queen of the Night Clubs"] for the role of Joe Anton's ex-girlfriend. But Guinan, in poor health, declined. Since George Raft and Mae had already done some serious canoodling in NYC, Raft suggested the Brooklyn bombshell for this minor part. But the body language, fast pace, and trademark Guinan lines ("Goodness had nothing to do with it," etc.) present a different Mae to the Silver Screen. When have you ever seen Mae move so fast in any of her starring roles?
Come up and see Mae! https://maewest.blogspot.com/2021/06/mae-west-blu-ray-mae-4.html

4:10 AM  
Blogger dfordoom said...

I'm a huge George Raft fan so I guess I'm just going to have to buy this one.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy it, DforDoom!

Thanks for your feedback, MWNYC.

Best wishes,

11:02 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Just watched it and enjoyed it if only for Mae West and Allison Skipworth. I know it was her first film, but it seems ridiculous Mae didn’t have a number. Must try and see more of Ms. Skipworth. Her scenes with Mae were so good. Roscoe alarms always good too.
So thanks for the recommendation.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, thank you so much for taking the time to circle back to this review after watching it and let me know your thoughts! Very glad you found so much to enjoy in it. Especially interested as I've chatted with a couple people on Twitter who weren't fans, while I find it such a nice watch. Glad to know you found it worthwhile!

Best wishes,

1:36 PM  

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