Paramount production and release. Directed by Archie Mayo. Adapted by Vincent Lawrence from Louis Bromfield's "Single Night." Continuity by Kathryn Scola. Ernest Haller, photog. At the Paramount, New York, week of Oct. 28. Running time, 76 minutes.
Judicious casting, pacing that inspires excitement and dialog that sparkles are three forms of flattery for this cut-and-dry scenario. The cast is interesting, the pace commands attention and the dialog is exceptionally entertaining, so here is one instance where a story's shortcomings can be overlooked. The points in its favor make "Night After Night" and entertaining and probably profitable talker. Further than that, it's another advancement for George Raft and an auspicious start for Mae West in her first talker.
Raft as a mugg proprietor of a class speakeasy with a Park avenue yen is the central figure from start to finish, but it's the quartet of varied femininity surrounding him that gives the picture its real character nourishment. Miss West is last but not least of the femme foursome which includes Constance Cummings, Wynne Gibson and Allison Skipworth. That each fits perfectly in her role, in appearance and performance, and that each is a distinct type without a conflict attests to an expert casting job.
Bootlegger stuff and some gangster atmosphere climaxed by and off screen shooting finish are played down to run secondary to the feminine interest. Raft is mixed up in both. The women are: a past flame (West), recently discarded sweetheart (Gibson), present head woman and "nice" girl (Cummings) and a middle-aged school teacher employed to give the mugg English lessons. When the Misses Skipworth and West are on view, together or separately, the laughs come often, and in the brief period assigned them as a team the comedy pace is even speedier. They do a virtual cross-fire two-act when doubling. Miss West's dialog is always unmistakably her own. It is doubtful if anyone else could write it just that way.
The way the West-Skipworth moments stand out suggests the picture could have stood more of them, but the obvious intent is to nurse Miss West along. She's tossed into this one rather abruptly and without bearing on the plot, much in the manner that Jimmy Durante has been handled by Metro. That's okay if they don't do it too often. As long as this film proves the former legit name has something for pictures it wouldn't be taking a chance to shoot the works on her from now on.
Miss Skipworth's intelligent painting of a cultured lady having her first taste of hotcha is a gem. Misses Cummings and Gibson are more restricted than their elders, holding down ingenue-like roles that call for looks mostly. But they deliver in every way. No leading man has been more ably supported.
Story is merely that of a mugg who yearns to toss off the mugg staff after falling in love at a distance with a Lady. That he winds up with his goal attained doesn't matter much, although the happy ending changes the tone that runs through the story up to them. He's told midway by one of the girls he is more likable when he's himself.
Roscoe Karns is the only other make player of story importance, being active in most of Raft's scenes as the speak owner's combination pal and handy man. He grabs laughs, too. Louis Calhern is in for one scene.
Except for minor footage in the Park avenue lady's apartment the action doesn't leave the speakeasy. The place is one of those brownstones in the 50's and the twist is that before becoming a ginmill it was the "nico" girl's birthplace and home. Story was adapted from Louis Bromfield's "Single Night," but the dialog that was added made the story and the picture.
- Bige, Variety, Originally published November 1, 1932