Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE GOOD COP, BAD COP BLOGATHON: City That Never Sleeps (1953)

Eva of Coffee, Classics and Craziness is hosting The Good Cop, Bad Cop blogathon on March 28th to 31st. Click HERE to see who follows the straight and narrow, and who goes for the payoff.

"Night brings our troubles to light, rather than banishes them."
- Seneca the elder

Paula Ramond, Gig Young

Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) has had a full night. He's reeling from a fight with his wife, he's had a fight with his girl, and he's decided to resign from the police force. Perhaps Officer Johnny Kelly's true problem is not love nor ambition. It is that he works the night shift and can never escape the knowledge that Chicago is the City That Never Sleeps.

Chill Wills, Gig Young

Our story opens with a twilight view of the cityscape while the spirit of the city tells us all about it. Chill Wills is the narrator who introduces us to the tapestry of city life and the specific characters involved in tonight's story. The spirit of the city is embodied by Wills as a police sergeant assigned to partner with Johnny Kelly on this night. He is safeguarding Johnny's resignation letter, and perhaps more.

Mala Powers

Johnny is dissatisfied with his job. He didn't want to be a cop, but his dad "Pops" Kelly (Oscar Hulett) is a respected sergeant who wanted Johnny to follow in his footsteps. Johnny is feeling emasculated because his wife Kathy (Paula Raymond) has a career and a large salary. Johnny is feeling pressure from his girl, dancer Sally Connors aka Angel Face (Mala Powers) who wants to give up the nightly grind and start over with Johnny "under the great big crazy sky".

Wally Cassell, Mala Powers

Sally is a girl with options. Either Johnny does what she wants or she'll hook up with actor Gregg Warren (Wally Cassell) currently working as a mechanical man in the storefront window of the club where they are employed. Mala is stunningly effective as the hostile and prickly Sally, who has an epiphany in this night of nights, and makes us believe it.

Gig Young, Edward Arnold

Johnny Kelly has to decide whether he wants to be a right cop or a wrong guy. He thinks he has made that decision when he accepts an offer from crooked attorney and kingmaker Penrod Biddel (Edward Arnold). Johnny will do some favours for Biddell and money and success is his in return. Funny thing about Johnny is that for a guy who hates the job, he doesn't want to start the new agreement until he is out of uniform the next day.

William Talman, Ron Hagerthy

Thief Hayes Stewart (William Talman) is one who took Biddel up on his offer but now wants to supersede his boss. Reminding Stewart that Biddel is boss is the first of Johnny Kelly's details. Johnny will apprehend Stewart as he attempts to rob the safe in Biddel's office. Johnny will then drive Stewart over the state line where a manslaughter charge awaits. Biddel plans to let Stewart cool his heels in jail for a few months before benevolently getting him released. Johnny is convinced to handle the job when he learns that his kid brother Stubby (Ron Hagerthy) has been palling around with Stewart. 

Thomas Jones, Gig Young, Chill Wills, uncredited actors

All-in-all it appears to be a typical night on the beat for Officer Kelly; delivering a baby, breaking up a crap game, learning to adapt to life on the take, listening to lectures from his new partner.

Marie Windsor, Edward Arnold, William Talman

Out of Johnny's control is the plan of Hayes Stewart and Biddel's wife Lydia (Marie Windsor) to blackmail the lawyer and run away with the money. Shall we call it the human factor, the unexpected or Fate? Whatever we call it, nothing goes as planned. The crooks underestimate the bigger crook. Violence is the result of plans gone awry. It all leads back to the club where Angel Face learns who really has her heart and where Pops Kelly and Lydia Biddel meet their destiny under the watchful eyes of the mechanical man.

William Talman, Gig Young

It is a bigger night in his life than even Johnny Kelly realized. Horrors await in the dark, and revelations. Johnny will be tested. Will he be found wanting?

The screenplay for City That Never Sleeps is by Steve Fisher, the author of the novel I Wake Up Screaming and the moody films-noir screenplays for Lady in the Lake, Dead Reckoning, and Roadblock, etc. There are many interesting citizens in this cityscape, and interesting actors to portray them all.

Gig Young

The glue that holds the narrative together is Gig Young as Johnny Kelly. Young imbues his roles, whether comic or dramatic, with a world-weary sarcasm that is as appealing as it can be disturbing. In Johnny Kelly we have a dreamer; a basically decent guy at a crossroads.

Wally Cassell

Wally Cassell is the standout as Gregg, the tin man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is in a unique position with his mask that hides the man. He spends his time on display urging people to guess whether he is real or not. Of all these characters who should be out in the sunshine, it is Gregg who deserves most.

William Talman

William Talman adds another to his roll call of villains following Dave Purvis in Armored Car Robbery and Emmett Myers in The Hitchhiker, with Hayes Stewart, a petty thief who didn't know when he was well off, and who goes off the rails.

Trivia wrap-up:

Otto Hulett, Thomas Poston

Check it out. Here's young dramatic actor Thomas Poston as Pops Kelly's partner. In a few years, Tom would start racking up Emmy nominations for his comedy work, winning for The Steve Allen Show, and nominated three times for Newhart.

Cinematographer John L. Russell also gave us the outstanding black and white looks of Moonrise for Frank Bozage, Park Row for Samuel Fuller and Psycho for Alfred Hitchcock. Oscar-nominated for Psycho, Russell would be the cinematographer for 98 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

John H. Auer directed six movies for Herbert J. Yates and Republic Studios, and none of them were westerns!

Many thanks to Kristina of Speakeasy for introducing me to this film.


  1. I haven't seen it in a while so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but this is one strange movie. It didn't quite click with me, probably because of the supernatural angle (as far as I remember). I should just rewatch.

    1. Truly, I found this one offered me a lot more upon a second viewing. The supernatural aspect wasn't followed through as I think it should have been, but Johnny's very human struggle was more poignant.

  2. Discovered this film a few years ago and became a fan. Great review! Always liked Gig Young. And Wally Cassell's character was so well done.

    1. Thanks. It is one of those movies that got under my skin. Kept thinking about it after the first time I watched it.

  3. All this and William Talman, too? Got to see it. Thanks!

  4. This looks like an excellent, atmospheric noir - I'll keep an eye out for it at my library. :)

    Thanks for participating in the blogathon!

    1. Thanks for hosting. This was a fun project for me. I hope the library adds this to its list.



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