Friday, February 5, 2016

review of Night World (1932)

Well, I've been awake since about 4 am, and after I got up and dressed and packed my stuff up and made myself a cup of tea, my husband informed me that both our schools were closed for the day. Damn. Usually I sleep in on a snow day. But as long as I was up, I decided to take advantage of the extra time.

I looked up another pre-code movie that's available for viewing on YouTube. I ended up choosing Night World (1932). I picked this one because the cast included some very well known actors, like Boris Karloff. Karloff is of course known for his role as the monster in the classic Frankenstein films.

Now you probably recognize him

Also in the mix were Hedda Hopper, who is better known for her Hollywood gossip column, and George Reft, who became known for his gangster roles. And actress Louise Beavers appears as the maid, which is not surprising considering she built her career on playing maids and mammies. Let
's put a pin in that for now though, because a discussion of race relations in 1930's Hollywood is much too big a topic for this little post.  Lastly, it featured an early musical number directed by Busby Berekely. Berkeley's numbers were known for using large numbers of showgirls, dancing in complicated patterns that when combined with the camerawork and cinematography of the era, created a kaleidoscope effect. The lavishness of these numbers represent the Golden Age of musicals.

Among Judy Garland enthusiasts, Berkeley is known as one of her most infamous antagonists; he was purported to be incredibly demanding taskmaster who expected nothing less than perfection, not just in the performances from but in the actresses themselves. It's kind of offensive when one considers his expectation because he really utilized the showgirls as props, rather than individuals, inferring that they're more useful as objects rather than people. Here's a brief sample of typical Berkeley:

Also typical of a pre-code film, and typical of Berkely, there is some sexual innuendo in the little diddy. The girls are all in a conga line, doing little jumps, like  a ballet saute, and as they move toward the camera, they move their legs further and further apart, suggesting the loose sexual morals of the nightclub culture.

Overall, I wasn't really impressed with the film. It was interesting to see the famous actors in a film that none of them are really known for, and maybe the storyline could have worked if the film had been longer. Basically, the entire story takes place in a nightclub in which many people from different walks of life interact: showgirls, gangsters, socialites. They all have their own stories, but in a film that's only about an hour long, none of the characters have enough time to develop, so their stories get pushed aside in order to move the action along.

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