Night World (1932)

Story of the goings-on at a Prohibition-era nightclub.

Nice work by all in unheralded little film

27 May 2007 | by dcole-2 (Glendale, CA) – See all my reviews

Yes, it’s a cheap versions of GRAND HOTEL, but I think it works just fine. I’m going to disagree with some previous reviewers: I think Karloff is marvelous as the club owner, bringing a fierceness and bravado to it that others would lack. The rest of the cast is also good: Ayres, Marsh and Muse all register strongly. Hedda Hopper is indeed amazing as the bad mother. And George Raft stands out in his small part. A little of it is creaky and dated, but overall, I thought the camera-work was fluid and fine, the story moved fast and the characters were well-written. Nice little Busby Berkeley number near the top, too. Well worth checking out.


Universal ventures into the precode world

Author: calvinnme from United States
20 January 2009

Universal in the early 30’s is mainly remembered as the home of the horror film, but in fact they ventured into other kinds of films as well. This fast little precode seems like it might have come from Warner Bros., but instead it is the product of Universal. Boris Karloff plays “Happy” the owner of a night club and husband to an unfaithful wife, not that he doesn’t have a roving eye himself. George Raft shows up briefly in the film as a tough guy who has an eye for chorus girl Mae Clark. Finally there is Lew Ayres as the son of a prominent family whose mother has just recently shot his father dead and been acquitted. This is not the mom of a heart of gold that you see in so many depression era films, and the young man spends night after night in Happy’s club trying to forget his troubles. Add in a snappy Busby Berkeley number and Happy’s run-in with the suppliers of his bootleg whiskey and you have a very fast moving little precode. The film is visually interesting too, with an introduction similar to 1929’s “Broadway”, also by Universal, minus the silver-skinned giant calling the city to awaken and join him in his debauchery. Highly recommended, that is, if you can ever find a copy.hqdefault-2

Racy and Risqué !!!!…….

Author: kidboots from Australia
4 January 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

….just what a true pre-coder should be like!!! The opening shots instantly introduce you to the world of vice – “pick-ups” discreetly putting on their stockings while men lie, intoxicated, on the bed, bootleg hooch flowing freely and gangland shootings – just another night in the city.

This was the last of 5 movies Mae Clarke made for Universal, who used her to great advantage as the weary prostitute in “Waterloo Bridge” and the monster menaced bride in “Frankenstein” (there is even an “in joke” in “Night World” about “Frankenstein”). She had such a fresh and natural charm that hasn’t dated and it has always puzzled me why she didn’t go further than leads in Bs and even smaller films.


“Night World” is like a minor league “Grand Hotel” (it seemed every studio had one) – events taking place over 24 hours in a night club – “Happys”. For a short film (only 58 minutes) this movie packs in a lot of plot. Boris Karloff, despite having an extremely long career, seemed to be given more diverse roles at the start of his career. He plays “Happy” MacDonald, the proprietor of “Happy’s Club” which as the movie progresses is anything but. He isn’t very “happy” himself – he is tough on his staff but is being made a fool of by his faithless wife (very sultry Dorothy Reiver) and Klauss (Russell Hopton), his right hand man.


Michael Rand (Lew Ayres) is a dissipated young millionaire who wanders drunkenly into the night club. His parents were involved in a sensational murder and he is slowly drinking himself to death to try to forget. His mother (Hedda Hopper) has been acquitted of the murder of his father, but Edith Blair (Dorothy Peterson) sees Michael at the club and gives him a motherly heart to heart talk about the way his mother really treated his father. Lew Ayres moment comes in a showdown with his mother, when he realises just how vicious her feelings are toward him and his father. On hand to administer sympathy and advice (“I’m trying to live long enough so I can see good liquor some day” she replies when Michael offers her a drink) is Mae Clarke (with a lovely fluffy perm) as Ruth Taylor, a young up and coming chorus girl (“You’re in front of her – by about 10 years” says ungallant Ed Powell (George Raft) to another older chorus girl on why he prefers Ruth). Ed is too tough for Ruth and she proves her loyalty to Michael when a fight erupts. When the next day dawns, several people are dead and Ruth and Michael are on their way to a hopeful future.


Like Clarke, Lew Ayres, also under contract at Universal, made the most of whatever part he was given but the studio couldn’t give him the boost that guaranteed him permanent stardom – it was up to MGM and it’s Doctor Kildare series to do that. There was no doubt that George Raft would be a star – his part was only that of a thug but his impact was immediate and memorable. Another actor you remembered was Clarence Muse as the philosophizing doorman.

Some funny quotes – “I’m from Syracuse – Was your mother there at the time” – that was from a (to me) particularly racy scene played out in the Gentleman’s toilet between a drunken patron and an obviously (it was from the early thirties) gay man who seemed determined to be picked up. “Will you do me a favour – No, why should I drop dead”!! – sweet talk on the dance floor. Busby Berkeley was the choreographer on the very cheeky “Who’s Your Little Who-Zit” – his overhead shots of chorus cuties shows why he was out on his own.


Odd little film for buffs

Author: ROCKY-19 from Arizona
5 October 2006

Poor Mae Clark was in loads of films yet is most known for getting a grapefruit in the kisser from James Cagney in ‘Public Enemy.’ So it’s nice to see her in a part with a few more brains. She is just part of an odd mixed-salad of a cast. Some, like Boris Karloff as an awkwardly gangly night-club owner, and Bert Roach as a silly drunk, seem to be in strange waters. Others, like Lew Ayers and George Raft, get roles typical of their young careers. Though she has only one scene in this very short film, Hedda Hopper steals the show as the world’s worst mother.


The only character to really warm to is The Doorman, Tim Washington (Clarence Muse). He is clearly in a horrible situation which those around pity at best and ignore at worst. So many African-American roles in the white films of the ’30s are painful to watch, but Muse brings something special to this thankless part.

Cinematographer Merritt Gerstad shows an inventive eye both in the opening montage and in scenes that would otherwise be nothing to look at. And of course, we get brief Busby Berkeley numbers, which would never really work in a night club, but allowances must be made for Hollywood.



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