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Night After Night (1932)
A successful ex-boxer buys a high-class speakeasy and falls for a rich society girl, who doesn't know about his past. Complications ensue when some ex-girlfriends from his boxing days show up.
George Raft ... Joe Anton
Constance Cummings ... Miss Jerry Healy
Wynne Gibson ... Iris Dawn
Mae West ... Maudie Triplett
Alison Skipworth ... Miss Mabel Jellyman
Roscoe Karns ... Leo
Louis Calhern ... Dick Bolton
Bradley Page ... Frankie Guard
Al Hill ... Blainey
Harry Wallace ... Jerky
George Templeton ... Patsy (as Dink Templeton)
Marty Martyn ... Malloy
Tom Kennedy ... Tom (the bartender)
NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (Paramount, 1932), directed by Archie Mayo, from the play "Single Night" by Louis Bromfield, is a little remembered feature known solely for its movie debut of the legendary Mae West (1892-1980). Although NIGHT AFTER NIGHT focuses mainly on its leading players, George Raft and Constance Cummings, and a little more footage to Roscoe Karns and Alison Skipworth, this average story, set almost entirely in one night at a speakeasy, is mainly about a mug owning a speakeasy wanting to elevate himself into the upper class of high society, actually is more interesting when Mae West dominates the scene.
NIGHT AFTER NIGHT opens with the opening titles super imposed in front of a mansion with the underscoring to "There's No Place Like Home." With the credits still rolling, a brief history about the mansion is told, first seen with a "for sale" sign, followed by a sign reading "home for rent," and finally the last look of another sign "sold at public auction," before the list of cast credits is focuses fading out with the number of the house address of "55."
George Raft plays Joe Anton, a former boxer now the proprietor of a mansion converted into a New York City speakeasy (as pictured during the opening credits) who wants to become part of the social class. Because he has become interested in a mysterious but glamorous woman (Constance Cummings) who patrons his place unescorted night after night, he hires Mrs. Mabel Jellyman (Alison Skipworth), a middle-aged schoolteacher, to teach him the proper methods in speaking and the refinements of life. Eventually Joe becomes acquainted with the woman identified as Jerry Healy of Park Avenue who patronizes his place mainly because the speakeasy happens to be the mansion she had lived in years ago, but lost it after the Depression ruined her family, and is now recapturing old memories of the place. Because of Anton's involvement with "Miss Park Avenue," Iris Dawn (Wynne Gibson), one of his former mistresses who won't take rejection, becomes insanely jealous, enough to want to confront Joe and Miss Healy with a loaded pistol. Joe, however, gets even more complications when another one of his old flames, Maudie Triplett (Mae West), enters the scene with her vulgarity and broad humor, rousing up his place, enough to impress Miss Healy and embarrass Joe. (No wonder he's always "out" whenever she wants to speak to him on the telephone).
The supporting cast consists of Roscoe Karns as Leo, Joe's close friend and assistant; Louis Calhern as Dick Bolton, appearing only in one scene opposite Cummings; Al Hill as Blainley; Harry Wallace as Jerky; and Tom Kennedy as Tom, the bartender, among others.
Sadly, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT is a long forgotten and often neglected little movie from the Depression era. This being George Raft's initial starring role following numerous minor parts that began in 1929, and catching the attention with the public with his memorable supporting role as a quarter flipping gangster assistant in SCARFACE (United Artists, 1932) starring Paul Muni, Raft was now on his own, along with a Paramount contract. Not playing a gangster, his character in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT is involved with them in the storyline, particularly with its leader, Frankie Guard (Bradley Page) who wants to buy Joe's establishment so that his very own speakeasy won't have so much competition. Joe's price? Two hundred and fifty grand!
Anyhow, the storyline is slight, in fact, enough to stretch it to the 70 minute mark, with few of those minutes going to the fourth billed Mae West as Maudie. West fans would have to sit through more than a half hour of screen time devoted to other actors, particularly Raft and Cummings, before she makes her classic entrance, first outside the speakeasy surrounded by men, followed by her walk to the coat check room where the attendant looks over Maudie's jewelry and says, "Goodness! what beautiful diamonds." West responds, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie." With this line, and some others that were to follow, written especially by Mae West herself, a new star is born. In spite of West being out of view for long stretches, she helps the story after joining the dinner table with Raft, Cummings and Skipworth, the latter with whom she gets drunk after teaching her how to drink liquor. Later on in the story, Maudie (West) and Mrs. Jellyman (Skippy) awaken after sleeping in bed together, late in the afternoon, supply one liners which lead to misunderstandings that would still rouse up some laughter today.
Essentially, this is a light drama with a touch of comedy, especially with dialogue spoken by West. NIGHT AFTER NIGHT is one of those rare cases to use two tough babes in the story instead of the standard one, with West being the most original and natural of the two. West's role might have been played by Wynne Gibson herself, or Glenda Farrell on loan from Warner Brothers, but the movie wouldn't have been much had it not been for West with her unique style the way she presents herself on screen. While debut films of future major stars are seldom promising, with this one being no exception, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT has become the one and only movie in which West would play a supporting role. Unlike latter West comedies, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT does not take time out for a song or two, but popular tunes of the day, many introduced in other Paramount 1932 productions, including "Everyone Says I Love You," "Mimi," "Isn't It Romantic," "You Little So and So," and "Love Me Tonight" are heard as instrumental and underscoring music, especially during the night club gathering with an orchestra playing these tunes in the background.
Although it was Raft who encouraged Mae West to come to Hollywood to accept this minor supporting role, he probably never imagined that she would walk away with the movie. They were never teamed again on screen, though, reportedly remained good friends over the years. Interestingly, they both died the same year of 1980. So in spite of NIGHT AFTER NIGHT being the film that launched George Raft career, instead established Mae West into a box office attraction. For Raft, maybe she done him wrong.
Another unfortunate thing about NIGHT AFTER NIGHT is that because it essentially belongs to Raft and Cummings, it hardly ever became part of commercial television's Mae West festival back in the 1960s and 70s. In fact, this was and still is the least known and revived of her movies. Fortunately, MCA Home Video did include NIGHT AFTER NIGHT as part of the Mae West centennial package, releasing all her Paramount movies of the 1930s, including the neglected NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, which would be the only way to see the introduction of Mae West today, if one can find these video copies now, considering them being all out of print. The legend of Mae West has dimmed some over the years, but once watching any of her movies, even the one that offers little of her presence as NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, it would become apparent that she was something special. Goodness probably had nothing to do with it, but talent and her dialogue delivery sure does.
I was expecting a lousy film whose only value was as the debut film of Mae West - I mean Leonard calls it a "crashing bore"! But what I got was a delightful film, excellently acted by all, with a profound theme and great dialogue. It is a film about dissatisfaction - all the characters are unhappy with their lot and desperately grasping for change. George Raft, the slick gangster, wants an education and true love. Constance Cummings also wants true love, although she thinks she wants security. And Alison Skipworth wants the wild life instead of school teacher drudgery. Only Mae West seems happy with her place as a man-devouring cosmetician.
This film is not a comedy - although it has many hilarious scenes (wait until you see West and Skipworth in bed together!). It is a frank and insightful drama, very risque and dangerously sexual. George Raft is unusually sensitive, Constance Cummings outstanding and Alison Skipworth dazzling. The supporting cast is also fine - led by the incomparable Mae West. A rare treat from the early 1930's.
Night After Night finds George Raft as a former boxer now owner of a swank speakeasy who is looking to move up in class. A part Raft could really identify with considering his own humble circumstances.
In addition Raft is juggling three women, society girl Constance Cummings, former flapper Wynne Gibson, and the one and only Mae West.
Without Mae in this film, Night After Night would be just a routine film with nothing terribly special. But because Mae made her screen debut, the film has come down as a legend.
West is only on the screen for about 15 minutes of the film, but it's 15 unforgettable minutes. Raft is trying to acquire some culture and polish and hires Alison Skipworth to educate him in the finer arts. He brings her along to dinner with Constance Cummings to impress Cummings and Mae crashes the party.
When Paramount hired West they apparently did not know what to do with her. The part she has here as originally written is a supporting role. Remember she was a star on Broadway and wrote a lot of her own material. Mae persuaded the powers of Paramount to let her write her own lines and she wound up stealing the film.
As this was pre-Code the budding relationship of Mae to Skipworth shows more than a hint of lesbianism. As it was Mae West was quite the gay community icon, still is.
Without her, Night After Night is a routine, even substandard melodrama, with Mae it's a classic.