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The Secret History of Chicago Movies: City That Never Sleeps

“…from the Honky Tonks to the penthouses…the creeps, the hoods, the killers come out to war with the city!”

– Original tagline for City That Never Sleeps

Longtime readers of this blog know that prior to the rise of Hollywood, Chicago was the unlikely center of American film production in the early silent era. Unfortunately, in the decade following the U.S. Justice Department’s 1915 dissolution of Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company, when powerful Chicago studios like Essanay and Selig Polyscope closed up shop and moved to California for good, my fair city went from being the nation’s movie capital to a veritable cinematic ghost town. Then, the arrival of “talkies” helped the major Hollywood studios to consolidate their power and location shooting (i.e., shooting outside of southern California) became virtually unheard of in the early sound era.

It wouldn’t be until after the Second World War that a gritty new documentary-style aesthetic would become popular in American cinema, spurred on by the success of the massively influential New York-shot film noir The Naked City in 1948. Soon afterwards, Hollywood crews came to the Windy City for evocative crime films like Call Northside 777, which is often cited (with some justification) as the best “Chicago movie” of all time. I recently however stumbled upon a more obscure, lower budget Chicago noir from a few years later that, for me, easily takes that title from under Northside‘s nose – the 1953 Republic Pictures production of City That Never Sleeps directed by one John H. Auer.

I had heard of the title for years but was unaware of its significance until a piece in Film Comment by Dave Kehr last year offered a reappraisal of Auer as a forgotten auteur and cited City as his “masterpiece.” After tracking the film down on a dubiously legal DVD (the transfer I saw had a television station logo pop up occasionally in the bottom right hand corner), I can only concur with Kehr’s assessment. Aficionados of Chicago movies and/or film noir cannot afford to miss this small, quirky B-movie gem, whose tight budget and extensive use of real locations (which, judging by reviews from the time, may have seemed a liability) only serve to add an impressive feeling of authenticity as well as a certain oddball charm when viewed today; City That Never Sleeps is a genuinely strange combination of documentary realism, stylized noir visuals and a subtle, inspired tinge of the supernatural (it is strongly implied that one character is a guardian angel not unlike Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life). Somehow it all works.

The story concerns one long night on the beat of veteran Chicago cop John Kelly (Gig Young), who is suffering from burn-out when the film begins. Kelly is basically a good-hearted guy who occasionally works the other side of the law by doing favors for corrupt attorney Penrod Biddel (Edward Arnold). Kelly is also unsatisfied with his marriage and is involved in a tryst with a stripper known as “Angel Face” (Mala Powers). Like Kelly, Angel Face is a former idealist (she moved to Chicago with the dream of becoming a professional ballerina) who has since become beaten down and made cynical by the ravages of time. Steve Fisher’s script, ably assisted by Auer’s taut direction, details Kelly’s attempts to make some easy money off of Biddel by illegally escorting a crook across state lines. Kelly figures this will enable him to quit his job and run off to California with Angel Face in the morning. But, this being a true film noir, things don’t quite work out that way.

Like the horror film, noir is one of the rare genres (or historical movements, depending on your point of view) that is arguably more effective on a smaller budget and without the presence of major stars. The most memorable low budget noirs from Hollywood’s studio system era often relied on surprising, personal and quirky touches to elevate them above the other standard issue programmers of the day; City has all of these qualities in spades. Like Edgar Ulmer’s Detour or Jack Bernhard’s Decoy, City conveys an atmosphere of sordidness, sleaziness and rank desperation precisely because of its limited budget and resources, qualities that Hollywood’s major studios couldn’t have replicated if they tried. After Kelly endures a tragedy late in the film he angrily laments that he feels like he’s “in a cement mixer being slowly chopped and pounded to death.” Noir protagonists don’t get much more bitter than this.

For Chicagoans, the film has much added interest as it provides a look into the Windy City of a bygone era. John Kelly spends most of his free time hanging out at Angel Face’s place of employment, the “Silver Frolics,” a legendary Chicago strip club that plays itself in the film. Many of the movie’s most memorable exterior scenes take place in front of the Silver Frolics’ mammoth neon facade and in the surrounding north Loop environs. We also get several views of the Wrigley Building as well as evocative shots of back alleys nearby. As the plot progresses and Kelly’s situation grows more and more desperate, these nighttime exteriors are shot with increasingly high contrast lighting and canted angles that make downtown Chicago look like the Vienna of Carol Reed’s The Third Man.

As Kelly chases the chief antagonist, killer Hayes Stewart (William Talman), through this urban jungle, the action reaches a memorable crescendo on the ‘L’ tracks. Both characters end up on the platform of the Merchandise Mart stop where Stewart momentarily loses Kelly when he climbs onto the tracks and, in an impressive stunt, disappears between two trains traveling in opposite directions. Although the Merchandise Mart is close to the movie’s other downtown locations, the decision to shoot there may have been pragmatic – that particular stop had been renovated only the year before. According to chicago-l.org, “the most significant alteration during this period was the installation of a 70 foot moveable platform at the south end of the northbound platform in 1952. The purpose was to extend the platform to allow longer trains to berth.” The expanded platform would have more easily accommodated the film’s crew and equipment and greatly facilitated shooting.

One of City‘s most intriguing aspects is a minor character named Gregg Warren (Wally Cassell), who has the unusual job of performing as a window display “mechanical man” to draw attention to the strip club where Angel Face works. Warren’s job consists of covering his face in silver paint and moving about in a robotic fashion; he is so convincing at playing this role that passersby frequently debate if he is a real man or a robot. Like Kelly, Warren is also in love with Angel Face and the love triangle between the three of them leads to a surprising climax that is as poignant as it is clever. I won’t give it away except to say that, like the irresistible death scene of “Mr. Memory” in Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, it is precisely the bizarre nature of the Mechanical Man’s job that threatens to cost him his life.

Dave Kehr sees the Mechanical Man’s station as a metaphor for Auer’s own entrapment. In his Film Comment piece, Kehr asks, “Was this how Auer came to perceive his own position, as a filmmaker of ambition confined within a commercial system? If it was, he found his way out much as his protagonists did: by accepting his situation – and turning it into the stuff of his art.” Amen.

Works Cited

1. “Chicago ”L”.org: Stations – Merchandise Mart.” Chicago ”L”.org – Your Chicago Rapid Transit Internet Resource! Web. 28 Oct. 2011.

2. Kehr, Dave. “Further Research: Inside Man.” Film Comment 47.4 (2011): 22+. Print.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

63 responses to “The Secret History of Chicago Movies: City That Never Sleeps

  • drew

    Great piece. You should write a book about the history of Chicago cinema. I love what you said about noir and horror being better with low budgets. As with Detour and many horror films from the 70’s and early 80’s, the grainy look of the film somehow makes it more realistic.

    • michaelgloversmith

      As a matter of fact, Drew, I AM writing a book on the history of cinema in Chicago (silent era only though).

      I think you would really like City That Never Sleeps, btw. The only known 35mm print in existence belongs to Martin Scorsese, who regularly lends it out to film noir festivals. I haven’t read about this anywhere but I’m pretty sure that the look of the automaton in Hugo is based on the “mechanical man” in City. (Check the dude with silver paint on his face in the bottom still in my post.)

  • Susan Doll

    Re: The Mechanical Man and HUGO– I can definitely see that.

    I love CALL NORTHSIDE 777, but I am not familiar with this one despite being a big Gig Young fan. I wonder if it showed at the recent noir festival in San Fran?

  • david

    Great piece,as a matter of fact,the city I’m living (Changchun) in is also one of the three biggest filming base after the foundation of PRC,but unlike you,I know so little about it.If your book is published,let me know the name,I will try to get a copy if it is not TOO expensive,lol.

    • michaelgloversmith

      David, I lived in Chicago for 17 years before I started to learn of the city’s remarkable film history. Charlie Chaplin once lived and made a movie here (1915’s HIS NEW JOB), very close to where I live. I was amazed to find that Chicago was kind of like Hollywood before Hollywood. Don’t worry; I’ll let you know all about the book right here on this blog.

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  • Erick V.

    This is set to be released on DVD & Blu-Ray this April (2013) by Olive Films.

  • JAMES

    Charlie Chaplin hated Chicago and never returned. He was here in winter and the subzero artic weather was more than he could bear. I don’t see how film production could ever take off here with our bad weather.

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  • Voyo Gabrilo

    It’s interesting that you connect the “Mechanical Man” with Auer because aside from the “Mechanical Man’s” purpose of what he sees at the end, and being involved in the love triangle, I don’t really see a purpose to him being in the movie. But with all of his depressing lines, questioning his authenticity and purpose in life, that sounds precisely what a director who was not famous, but still made to work in Hollywood would think.
    You also talk about the fact that since this is a low-budget production, it “relied on surprising, personal and quirky touches to elevate them above the other standard issue programmers of the day.” I think the character of Joe and the supernatural hits quirky on the head. While I’m not a film noir buff, I would be willing to bet that not many, if any at all, film noir movies had the supernatural so enmeshed in their story. And, to me, all film noir movies – regardless of budget – contain some humor throughout that lightens the movie from being only about crime to being a more fun look at the whole “dark” endeavor. This element of the film, Joe and the supernatural, is the element that lights the film. All of his scenes make you smile when you think that he is some other-worldly presence watching over Kelly. But while this is a Chicago film after all, Joe’s character is not merely from another world; he is from the city itself, even is the city itself. This is what shooting on-location does to a film: It gives it real identity, and creates a character to embody the city so the viewers can feel like they are in the city.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I greatly appreciate that you responded to to my review so extensively. But I’m not the one who came up with the Mechanical-Man-as-a-metaphor-for-Auer theory. That would be the great Dave Kehr. Your comment about Joe being the one light area in a world of darkness is money. 20/20.

  • Salwa Merchant

    The city that never sleeps is the title supposed to be some kind of metaphor. The story was about a cop John Kelly, who is also named after his father John Kelly Senior, decides that he is going to quit his job as a police officer. John is married but doesn’t look happy about it so he has an affair with a club stripper names Angel Face. They both decide to run off to California to begin a new life. Throughout the film we take a journey with John Kelly Junior who says that today is his last day on the job. He writes a letter to his boss Sgt. Joe. When John went to work his partner did not come in because he was sick however his spirit was present and John had went to work. It was interesting to see how John Kelly had changed personalities throughout the film and what I mean is that he wanted to leave his job at the beginning and as the movie progressed towards the end we noticed how he had not left the job and he went back to his wife and didn’t go away to California with Angel Face.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Of course the title is a metaphor! It’s a long dark night of the soul for John Kelly – who literally never sleeps during the film but still wakes as a new man when dawn breaks at the end of the film. You could’ve done a bit more to respond to my review (instead of just summarizing the plot). 18/20

  • Ryan Robinson

    Mr Smith’s review of the city that sleeps is very interesting, especially concerning the film’s protagonist, John Kelly. Mr Smith states in review, Kelly is a very bitter cop, as seen through the film, from cheating on his wife to taking bribes from a corrupt politician. However, Mr Smith also states that John Kelly is also a “good-hearted” man and that can be seen through the scene where he helps deliver a baby. After the baby is born, he holds it, and is even smiling. When one of the other cops comes to put the baby in the ambulance, Kelly tells them to be gentle. Also, after John’s father is killed by the film’s antagonist, not only is he angry, but he also sheds a few tears as well. These scenes show the audience even though, Kelly is a bitter, cynical, man, he is still able to feel sorrow, as well as joy, compassion, and kindness.

  • Giovanna Mule

    In the movie City that Never Sleeps protagonist, John Kelly is very interesting cop. All in one night he goes from hating his job, wanting to quit, move to California with his mistress Angel Face being a corrupt cop and hating his wife to staying on the force, staying in town leaving his mistress and loving his wife again. Also that night he caught a bad guy. Even though they show John as such a bad guy they also show him as a good like when he delivered a baby on the street and then told the other police man to be gentle with the baby. And when his father died it showed him tearing up a little bit. Also when he left his mistress and went back to his wife also showed a more positive side to him. I liked when you talked about in your review that Chicagoan’s have much more of an interest in this film since it based in Chicago. A lot of the scenes in the movie show a lot of history about our city of Chicago. I have never seen this movie before, but I liked it a lot and believe more people especially Chicagoan’s should see this movie. It is great inspiring movie about a cop who turns his life around for the better and lives happily ever after in Chicago.

  • Sahar Lakhani

    In the beginning of this movie, we are shown, and told a glimpse of John Kelly’s life. He wants to quit his job, and leave his wife for a stripper who went by the name Angel Face, and he has determined that he will run away with her to California in the morning. I enjoyed the scene of John and Hayes at the L station towards the end of the film because it was intense, and had a ton of action with long shots to show the surroundings of the area. The film in general does a nice job at showing Chicago and its architecture. Moving on, I found Gregg Warren’s character interesting and unique in the film because like you said he was so tremendous at doing his job that people weren’t able to tell if he was a human or “mechanical man.” We were able to see John change and develop as a character throughout the film. For instance, when he expressed feelings for the new mother, as he helped her with her delivery. As the night goes on, the movie gets more intense, but by the time sunrises everything seems to go back to the way things were before that night. John decides to stay with his wife, which I found surprising since his main goal was to leave with Sally instead. I overall enjoyed the film, as well as this entry, which did a great job summarizing the movie.

  • Alexis Soto Cardenas

    City That Never Sleeps was definitely a great film. I agree that it was a hidden gem because I couldn’t see how people didn’t like this movie. Personally I would rank Call Northside 777 above this one because I like the story better about the journalism and whatnot, but the scenery of Chicago is greater in this film. It seems like a lot of the films we have watched filmed at the Merchandise Mart stop, is it because of the renovations or was it just a popular stop? I think this a terrific movie and the metaphor of Auer and the Mechanical Man is interesting to say the least. I would have to have watched this more than once and would have to have done research on Auer to connect the two. I must say that Hayes Stewart has probably been the best antagonist of the 3 film noirs that you have showed us in class. He was a ruthless killer and his death was dramatic. A perfect ending to the film.

  • Luke Chirayil

    Professor Smith, you basically summed up this movie in its entirety pretty well. It was a very well made movie made on a low budget and all of the acting done by actors and actresses that weren’t even well known in the film industry really brought out some raw talent. How you mentioned that this film is your favorite Chicago movie compared to Northside 777, it like it much more too, but I was never a fan of old black and white movies only because I didn’t grow up watching them. But this is a movie I actually didn’t mind at all, I was able to enjoy and appreciate movies from this time much more. A quality that stood out from this film, is its humor like Voyo stated. As these movies were being filmed during its making, it all has its own and new talent on the table of being funny its own unique way or incorporating an idea that really would stand out with great significance for all viewers to admire and be able to see the broader picture. Nothing in this film seemed out of place because it was made so well, but also that it was a new style of film being introduced to the industry that it really can’t be judged. There was no set ground rules or foundation for a movie to go into production, and the same is still true today, tweaking raw talent and foreseeing a way of producing a film from the sense of what captures the audience’s attention is one of the main goals. This movie though can for sure portray a large chunk of Chicago’s city life and the variety of characters and personalities that populated its streets.

  • Darcy

    I love how in your review how you mentioned, “After Kelly endures a tragedy late in the film he angrily laments that he feels like he’s “in a cement mixer being slowly chopped and pounded to death.” Noir protagonists don’t get much more bitter than this.”
    Film is primarily thought of as a visual art form, or at least that’s what the majority of screenwriting books out there tell us, but by saying that, it allows us to think of the dialogue as secondary. CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS, and this line in particular, are an example that some of the best films are actually the ones with both exceptional dialogue and visuals. There are a few examples in the film that show how these two things go together perfectly, like what piano accompaniment was to visuals in the silent film era, but my favorite, and the most effective, is the scene when Greg gets shot. Angel Face tells Greg that she wants to “do the comedy routine”, and Greg cries, then the people who are looking at Greg through the window shout, “He is a real man”, and then Greg gets shot. The timing of the scene, from the rapid fire dialogue, to the angles, is so impeccable that if it was done any other way, it wouldn’t be as nearly as effective.
    Another thing I would like to note about the line “in a cement mixer being slowly chopped and pounded to death”, is that there’s a connection between that line, and a line Greg says a bit later, which is, “I’m a mechanical man, I don’t see, I don’t hear, I don’t feel […] that’s the way a man feels when he’s made of sawdust.” There’s a correlation between cement and sawdust, as sawdust is combined with cement to make concrete (sometimes), so I don’t think this choice of words was random, and Auer wrote these very deliberately. When Johnny said his line, it was after he endured a tragedy, and Greg delivered his line right before he was about to endure his tragedy, like a foreshadowing technique. Johnny also was tearing up after his father died, and Johnny was tearing up before he got shot, which could be a commentary about how both characters started off as bitter, and then developed more emotions and feelings throughout the film and became more than just a cement mixer and sawdust.

  • Matthew Teichert

    I absolutely loved this film for the great cinematography and the gripping plot. I loved that we got to see a crooked and beat down cop turn into this character that really cares about what happens to people in his city. I thought the baby delivery scene definitely humanized Kelly, and showed the audience that he is not a heartless man. without this scene Kelly would appear to be a man that has no compassion for other people due to the way he acts when he is on duty as an officer. I liked how the mechanical man who is suppose to have no feelings due to him playing a robot in the window, leads the end of the story to catch Hayes. If the mechanical man had not showed his feelings and cried at the end Hayes would have surely left and escaped his the fate he deserved as a criminal.

  • Young Kim

    In my opinion, I think that this was definitely the best Chicago-based noir out of the 3 we watched. John Auer did an amazing job using Chicago as his greatest asset in making this film. The low budget really brought out the gritty nature of the city and the film is way better because of it. The many different settings really gave this film a feeling that is similar to a thriller. It has multiple locations and it sort of feels like Auer was unconsciously giving us a tour of Chicago in the 1950’s. I also agree that Gregg Warren was the most intriguing and interesting character. He has dreams and ambitions but he is stuck at a job which makes him into a mindless robot. He fades away into the character and this ultimately made the world of this film better because it gave depth to multiple side characters. Last but not least, this film was gorgeously shot. I was not expecting a film that was so easy on the eyes when you mentioned that it was a low budget film. The lighting in every scene was perfect and it really bumped this film up with it.

  • Dan Wardzala

    I agree with Auer seeing himself as the Mechanical man. Sometimes people have the capability of being a big fish in a small pond, but they seem to conform to everyone elses standards. Directing is a place especially where you need to be unique or create your own style. If you become just another minnow in the pond, when can you get your big break? How will people see you as anything more than just another director? By finally being able to cry in the end, Gregg (mechanical man) frees himslef from the shackles of normal expectations and becomes something more than just a drone in line. Just like Auer did with this film. Great film to see and can’t wait for more like it!

  • Jim Downing

    Easily the most artistic film we’ve watched thus far, CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS was an excellent, engaging film. One thing that makes the film in my opinion, is the use of real Chicago locations. Not only do these locations add a deep sense of realism, they also give the film personality. The director and cinematographer did an excellent job with giving the film a classic DARK noir vibe, not to mention the more abstract and interesting shots seen throughout the film (such as the POV car shots, the shot from under the ‘el’ tracks, and many more). These shots definitely make the film more engaging and fun to watch. Another interesting aspect, as you point out professor, is Gregg Warren’s job as a “mechanical man”. Such a bizarre job position gives the movie a sense of character, and definitely sets it apart from other noir films. One other aspect that sets it apart is the character of Joe. Seemingly a guardian angel, Joe gives the main character, John Kelly, somewhat of a moral direction. An intersting scene is the moment when Joe communicates with a police cheif, notifying him that Kelly was on the el tracks, saving him from being shot down. This is the only time Joe interacts with someone other than Kelly. A last aspect of this film to mention is how it ends on a fairly bright note, with Kelly returning to his wife and everyone’s lives straightening out (besides Hayes’, of course). It’s safe to say though Kelly beared some tragedy, at the end he doesn’t feel so much like he’s “in a cement mixer being slowly chopped and pounded to death” anymore. Out of the movies we’ve watched this semester, CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS easily is my favorite. It’s got style, pizzazz, and character (as well as artistic value)!

  • Anthony Peter

    I think it’s interesting that you brought up that film noirs seem best when shot on lower budgets. I thought “Call Northside 777” and “City that Never Sleeps” must have been shot on pretty high budgets. They both had some pretty stellar locations that appear expensive! Penrod’s pad and the Silver Frollick’s seem super pricy. Shooting at that prison in “Call Northside 777” looked pretty grand. Speaking of which, thinking back on the Silver Frollicks, the outside of that building was so extravagant, that it almost seemed like a studio shot from my memory. I can’t remember anything else from that scene. It felt like that place was the only lit place in the city. I suppose it is just the impression it had.

    I think it’s also funny how you mention that each of these noir films have their quirks. What stuck out to me in “Call Northside 777” was the mother of Wiecek. Mama Wiecek was such a treat to watch. There aren’t enough characters like her in the world. I’d say the Irish cop in “Union Station” was the quirk of that movie. He was super whimsical and made the movie almost silly at some points. Lastly, “The City That Never Sleeps” had Greg and the guardian angel. I thought both of those characters were so bizarre. These characters in each of these movies have redefined how I see the genre of film noir. I no longer see these movie as hardcore, smokey films that all have the same vibe, which I contrived from watching various commercials recreating that look consisting of venetian blinds, trench coats, in law offices. In reality, those are all tiny common traits.

  • Kleo

    I agree that the use of real Chicago locations aided the film’s authenticity. The scene that stuck with me the most is when Kelly was chasing Hayes through the city. They are running up and down stairs and ladders. The high contrast lighting and angles you mentioned are apparent in this scene. You can see their shadows against the buildings and it was very thoughtfully shot.

    I can see how this movie could have been less effective if the protagonists were famous actors. I had not really thought about that before. If they were well known from other movies, this movie would not have felt as authentic and documentary-like. I would also have been subconsciously expecting them to behave in certain ways.

    I like the connection between Auer and the Mechanical Man. He wants more, but it’s not so easy to obtain. So he does what he needs to do and tries to make the best out of it.

  • Josh

    I agree that film “noir “ is more effective in low budget films because big budget films utilize props in place of locations , which takes away from the authentic feel .

    The strip club in the movie was an actual strip club , and this contributed to the sleezy feel of the movie . Has it been a fake strip club , the sordid feeling the movie was trying to convey would be lost .

    The scene with the shootout between John Kelly and Hayes Stewart take place on the L tracks . We see Stewart trip and is very careful not to touch tracks . I think the fact that it took place on the actual L tracks conveyed the danger properly . Having been on the L I was able to relate to Hayes feel of touching the track . I thought it was funny that he did manage to avoid touching the tracks , rather he fell through them .

  • Joseph Jackson

    A couple years after “Call Northside 777” America had seemingly moved on from postwar cynicism and went into a brand new, more provocative age of cinema. We were entering the “swell years” and with that came something that changed how people viewed cinema, a new genre of movies that would change things through out the 50s and even the early 60s. That genre was known as “Absolute Shit.” I may have mentioned this before but in my mind, the 1950s were absolutely dreadful times for cinema, at least in North America. The Hayes Code was in full effect, neutering cinema and the rise of television practically stole comedies, dramas and more from the big screen for a while. The only thing that continued to be released in cinemas regularly were terrible teen idol movies, cheesy horror movies with guys in gorilla suit, poorly dubbed or bad to begin with imports and cheap sci-fi. Some of these have gone to be come classics but a majority of them are absolutely cheap schlock that really showed how desperate cinema was in those days. Keep in mind, these were the days Ed Wood blossomed and gave rise to “So bad it’s good” cinema.

    By the 1950s the film noir was basically dead as a lot of the cynicism that came by the end of World War II died off and America was in an enormous economic boom. Which makes it all the more baffling a film like “City That Never Sleeps” managed to get made, and thank god for it. The film keeps the original grit of the film noir alive whilst adding a new level of sleeze and scandal that helped to keep the dying genre somewhat alive.

    Johnny Kelly is a Chicago cop, tired of his job, his marriage and his mother in law. He feels jealousy towards the fact that his wife makes more money than him, annoyance towards the fact he was basically forced into the job and lust towards exotic dancer Sally Conners who works at a club with a supposed “mechanical man”. Lucky for him, a powerful attorney offers Johnny a healthy amount of money to perform a job in taking magician turned thief, Hayes Stewart across the border to Indiana and out of the attorney’s hair. Kelly agrees and what results is twist after twist, scandal after scandal and thrill after thrill.

    Like I said, this movie has a surprising amount of sleeze for the otherwise ultra-conservative 1950s (even breaking the 5 second kiss code!). We have a burlesque house, we have police and government corruption, we got cleavage, we even got cringey innuendo. On top of that, with 20th Century Fox producing “Call Northside 777” you got high and clean production values despite being shot on location. Not here, Chicago looks absolutely dirty and filthy in this movie. Trash on the street, gambling everywhere, smashed buildings, homeless people, it’s both the Chicago I love but also the Chicago that I could go without. There is a really great sense of tension throughout it, like at every corner there is some criminal waiting to strike. The last third is one of the most exhilarating final parts of a film I’ve ever experienced, with the film naturally throwing something new at us at every corner. On top of that, the characters are all wonderfully colorful with Hayes Stewart being an at first classy gentleman thief type before devolving into a cold-hearted killer. We have Wally Cassell’s heartfelt performance as Gregg the mechanical man, ironic for a man who in the film is playing a robot. Also Johnny Kelly is the right amount of scumbag but also the right amount of good guy that you honestly do want him to be a better person. I think the fact that his actor is not too handsome and not too over the top cruel helps keep things balanced.

    I love the look of this film so much, all the shadows just turn this film into the literal definition of film noir, dark film. Shadows and the cover of night are everywhere in this movie and help to add tension in an already quick paced film. The interactions of the characters, especially between Hayes and the attorney just add to it, it’s almost James Bond levels of charisma.

    Bottom line, in an era filled with a lot of crap, this film helps to stand up. By keeping with what made old traditions work, while adding a little more to them than what was persistent in the day actually helps to keep the movie a little more timeless. It’s not perfect but I honestly do think the movie holds up well.

    I give it 4 1/2 I am a mechanical man and I do the best I cans out of 5

    (props if you know that reference without googling it)

  • Tyler Kiczula

    Could you imagine if Chicago had stayed as the movie capital of the United States? It’s sad that we will never know what that would’ve been like. I think you’re spot on when you say that this film is a B-Movie Gem. What better way to portray Chicago then personify the entire city. Also, nothing is more Chicago then the L tracks and the Wrigley building. This is the third class of yours I’ve taken and I have to say this film is at the top of the list. Maybe it’s because I enjoy film noir so much, or the lack of famous actors that adds that extra sense of realism. I don’t know if I agree with John Kelly being a good guy though. To me he’s pretty unlikeable. He’s crooked, he’s cheating on his wife, and he’s bitter. Maybe he is a guy who is just burned out of his life, but I just don’t feel that bad for him. I sympathize with Gregg Warren much more.

  • Brian Stern

    In comparison to “Call Northside 777” this film, “City that Never Sleeps”, I felt though it was a lower budget picture it emphasized more of the gritty feeling that make the Film Noir genre appealing. In “Call Northside 777” the main character McNeal is moral somewhat by the book person even-though he is creatively deceptive at times. In “City that Never Sleeps” the character Johnny Kelly is quite the opposite being that his life is split somewhere in-between the grey area of what could considered right and wrong. After “Call Northside 777” we were posed the question of how the city of Chicago could be seen as a character in “City that Never Sleeps” however the city was a character and had a voice that narrates the story and physical body at times in the form of Johnny’s partner Joe. Inserting the character of Joe/Voice into the film gave more life and personality to the city, having him act as a conscience to Johnny so to speak in a way influencing him away from the decision he made of running away. If you were to delve deeper into the way the city narrates and takes form I think it would have made an interesting series of films where each follows a different resident. While watching this I was reminded of a modern film noir film from 2005 called “Brick”. The plots are completing different but the overall feel is the same. I also remember reading about a theory of one of the characters who helped the main character several instances was a figment of his imagination or a hallucination. The theory was unsubstantiated but if it was true it’s possible that this film was an influence of sorts.

  • 5pecialag3ntc00per

    What I love about Noir is the grittiness of it. There is a shot in Call Northside 777, when Jimmy stewart goes into the witness woman’s apartment building on the southside of chicago that is just engaging. There are cobwebs, dust, genuine grime and muck of an urban slum and it all feels so menacing. Hollywood is so clean and slick. Even films shot today that are shot on location with digital lenses and HD picture feel so clear and crisp so that whatever grimness that is captured never feels as real as watching an old Noir Picture filmed on 35 millimeter stock. Such is The City that never Sleeps. I thought Northside 777 was good, but I gotta say this might be one of my favorite film we’ve watched in your class, apart from M, Contempt, and Celine and Julie go Boating. Chicago is the absolute best city for a Noir to take place and this film takes full advantage of that, shooting on city streets, abandoned Garages, smoky rooftops, and, of course, the Infamous El tracks. The Characters are great too. I don’t think I could say that any of them, despite what you said, are bad. They do immoral things but you understand why. The happy(ish) ending for the main character feels deserved and was something I liked. Kelly Cheated, he was crooked, but in the end, He found out what his problem was and he started to seek redemption. I think that’s actually pretty profound and fascinating to put in a story where I genuinely would have been fine with him just being an asshole. I think of all the films I’ve seen in your class I can say without a doubt that, although I may not say its definitively the best overall, it has THE BEST atmosphere.

  • James Hrajnoha

    I love the take you had on this film and the minor character Gregg who I personally felt so sorry for during the scene where Angel Face told him it wasn’t going to work out between them, as well as the ending of him attempting to sacrifice himself and her telling him she wanted to share those dreams with him, that was just beyond heartfelt, but a scene that had me in some tears was Kelly’s father dying, i could felt every emotion going through Kelly then and there and i really wished you had warned me about that! kidding though the whole film was just perfect to showcase Chicago and its beauty, even in the dead of night

  • Jacob Allen Jones

    City that never sleeps had some interesting and side quest like moments that had great symbolism but came out of the blue and doesn’t necessarily contribute to the progression of the main conflict such as; delivering a baby on the street and knocking off a illegal street gambling game. Liked that the city itself was a character and i inferred that the sub-conflicts were pieces of the personality of Chicago at night. I loved certain shots such as the caged rabbit. The film came back to the caged rabbit a couple times giving me the feeling that everyone in the movie is trapped in some form. Johnny being trapped by his job and marriage, the mechanical man trapped in his mind (“when a man is made of sawdust”) and stuck behind a glass window, angel face trapped between the love of two men. The antagonist sets himself to be trapped by the law as soon as he shoots Penrod Biddel. his face grows darker hiding the shadows after he makes his next two kill of Biddel’s wife and Johnny’s father. The only scene that got me to feel emotional about the characters is the father- son moment between johnny and his dying father. That was the most beautiful moment in the movie.

  • Nick Weimer

    SPOILERS

    I agree that City That Never Sleeps surpasses Northside (not that Northside’s not great; it is). I think it’s more impressive visually, and plotwise, and it has more interesting characters and interactions/relationships between them. There are a bunch of characters for a 90-minute movie, and a lot of them are pretty well fleshed out with generally tragic detail. The corruption of cop families and justice, and a tin man with a heart.

    I love the way the film starts with a wide/high shot of Chicago and the ghostily reverbed voice-over boldly declaring “I AM the city!”. Immediately personifying and anthropomorphizing the city, and making it clear that this is a film about Chicago.

    “And this is another one of my denizens.” (Is it comforting or terrifying that Chicago has a seemingly omniscient presence? (It never sleeps!)) I love the door-closing dissolve into the Continental Hotel followed by the tilt/cut/tilt/zoom of the street level shot zipping up to the rabbit in the window; it’s beautiful and jokey, and is effectively used to define the location: repeating the zoom on the window-rabbit when the film returns to Hayes Stewart’s apartment. There are a lot of nice cuts and camera-movements in CTNS, but this is probably the flashiest… but, then again, there are also the terrifying first-person driving segments. Those are pretty flashy.

    When Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) is talking to the guy in the station’s garage, I wonder what the guy is thinking when ‘the Ghost’ (of Joe-who’s-out-with-an-earache/Chicago) shows up and Kelly spins around and starts talking to (what is probably (to Garage Guy)) nothing, asking the nothingness things like ‘Who are you?’ and ‘How do you know my name?’. I feel like Garage Guy would be concerned. Of course, the whole conversation might have just been in Johnny’s head, and Gar Guy might have just seen Johnny awkwardly cut-off their conversation, turn around, and stand there for a minute before leaving. Though, perhaps the garage-man is also a ‘ghost’, he certainly doesn’t seem very cop-like, with his plaid coat and pipe. Maybe the rabbit is a ghost and these ghosts are everywhere. Agents of Chicago. Feelers of the city. Figments of imaginations? Is the city of Chicago inducing psychosis in Johnny Kelly just to teach him a lesson about justice and family? Should Chicago be doing this? Has it gone too far? How will having been subjected to this imaginary ghost-person effect the future Mr. Kelly? Did Chicago influence the actions of Hayes?!

  • Kitty Richardson

    Location functions in tandem with budget constraints to make a wonderfully stylistic noir in “City That Never Sleeps”. The artful combination of low budget elements serves an airy and dreamy intangible atmosphere that still manages make you feel like something is stuck physically on you. The fact that the plot takes place within Chicago also molds the characters. John Kelly had a legacy as a police officer forced upon him and on top of a disinterest in his profession, his profession takes him face to face with the every day dark ongoings of our infamously underhanded city. The shining city glows during the day time just to make those who inhabit it during the night aware that they are not there to see the sun. An omnipresent voice narrates and in a judging tone explains the unfortunate backgrounds of each character. Angel Face aspired to be a ballerina. Warren an actor. Hayes a magician. The shadows on the deserted streets that Kelly bounces around on to and fro. Wabash, Montrose, Huron, parallel the shadows of shame that are painted in Kelly’s, Angel Face’s and Warren’s lives. Kelly’s dealings with Biddel, Angel Face’s affair with a married man, and the beach Warren is forced to travel to in his mind. We finally see a shot of a full street, with the cars, storefronts and houses fully visible when Kelly resolves his work and love life troubles and comes home at sun rise.

  • Marisa S. Cygan

    Watching City That Never Sleeps really pulls at your heartstrings, especially at the end, I wasn’t expecting that. I definitely agree that there is documentary realism and this is for sure a noir aspect in this film. I love Film noir films and for this one to be shot in Chicago just makes me love it even more! I agree that the low budget film noirs are the best ones because they have to be more creative with how they spend their money and the streets of Chicago at night in this film are just beautiful. I love that they incorporated the Silver Frolics in the film it gives it a real sense since this was really in Chicago. I loved the beautiful shots of the Wrigley building. Being able to compare it from then to now is wonderful. When Hayes emerges through that gate like thing in the Wrigley building makes me wonder if that was put in for the movie or if that’s really how that is.

  • Max Egan

    In 1953 John Auer’s film noir classic, City that Never Sleeps, was released as a B-picture. In a recent review of this film from White City Cinema one reviewer even goes as far as to call it the best “Chicago movie” of all time. This is due to the utilization of real sets being based in the city which adds to the genuine feel of this gritty film. The borderline villainous characters found throughout the film also help to bring more depth and emotion to the film. This emotion is further developed by the portraying of these characters in a much darker, more stylized way than you would find in a more mainstream picture. However, I would not go as far as to say this is the single best movie from Chicago, for me that title is a hotly debated one. But I will say that in my personal opinion, I found another Chicago film noir piece, Call Northside 777 which we saw in class, to be a more enjoyable movie to watch and reflect upon.
    This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy watching City in class, I simply preferred the film Northside to it in comparison. In Northside the characters in the film may not have been as dark, but I found them to be more enjoyable to see on screen. Granted, these characters were not saints in any sense of the word; in fact the main character of this film is frequently manipulative and dishonest in order to achieve his goals, acting like a sort of “lovable trickster” character. But the main difference between the characters in these films is that the characters in Northside are much more morally upright than those presented in City. This is because the characters in City are much more connected to the “underbelly” of the city of Chicago (i.e. they are crooked cops, murderers, and strippers). As cool as it was to see these shady characters interacting with one another the lack of morals these characters possessed made me feel a slight disconnect from the film, for it felt like these people were all too self-absorbed to be able to care for anyone but themselves. While watching Northside it was much easier for me to see the emotional connections that the characters had with one another, such as the mother of Frank who worked for eleven years scrubbing floors to get enough money to offer a reward for information that could lead to her son’s exoneration.
    The final issue that I have with City is the semi-supernatural aspect that is hinted at in the film. At a few separate points in the film is implied that Johnny’s partner for the night may be some sort of spirit, ghost, or guardian angel. The actor who plays this character also does the opening and closing voice overs for the film where he speaks as the voice of the city watching over its citizens. Because this aspect of the movie is for the most part unexplained, I was not able to connect with this portion of the movie. If anything, this odd plot twist just confused me and made me feel as if these details on the character of Johnny’s partner were added to the script in a sloppy way that detracts from the rest of the film.
    Altogether I felt like City that Never Sleeps was a well-made film. The cast was fantastic at bringing more depth to their characters, the historic filming locations used were perfect for bringing on a dark atmosphere to the film, and I really thought it was interesting to see a movie where there is no real “good guy” because all of the characters have so much of their own personal baggage. However, I did not think that this was the best “Chicago movie” of all time. I think that the film Call Northside 777 deserves that title because as an individual I found this movie much easier to process and relate to.

  • Jennifer Domkowski

    Chicago is such a great city for this genre of film, especially at night because of its alley ways, big buildings, seedy neighborhoods, etc. The city has a dangerous side and a reputation for violence and illegal activity/police corruption. Its not surprising that in the City That Never Sleeps they had the main character as Kelly, the police officer who is in constant struggle with his darker side. I think escaping the city with angel face was to him, maybe not only him trying to leave behind his work (which is surrounded by violence and pessimism) and his wife who is caught up in her work, he is also trying to leave behind a part of himself. I agree that angel face is another person like Kelly who feels desperately trapped and doomed in the city such as how upset she was at first when Kelly wasn’t so sure he was going to leave with her the next day.I also agree that low budget films work much better in the noir genre because filming in a city like Chicago, showing the city as it is without the need to create some big expensive set makes the film much more realistic. Also, I agree that not having major movie stars as the main characters in the film let the characters be seen with no expectation or some alternative personality then what this specific film wanted them to be represented as. It also allowed the city its self to stand out.

  • Tyler Smith

    The City That Never Sleeps was definitely better than Call Northside 777. City was made later and by proxy was produced better in my opinion. The use of real scenery, just like Northside, gives certain scenes more personality than if it was made on a set. The scene where the security guard calls the police because he saw someone using the elevator was interesting and funny because a tension builds when the character was trying to open the file cabinet, and finds a letter along the lines of “GFY” while simultaneously Joe and Kelly are skeptical and interact with the security guard in a condescending and teasing manner. The use of scenery in the film like Northside give the whole film a gritty feel, but unlike Northside, City’s story line was better because it followed a police officer, whose role has much more elasticity in terms of the direction the plot could’ve went unlike that of the journalist from Northside. I find it very interesting that some of the scenes in this movie just like Northside, were prototypical of movies I watch today.

  • Cody Bemis

    With “The City That Never Sleeps” you have a film that truly encapsulates everything that is gritty and almost dark about the city of Chicago’s scenery. Throughout the film, we see great shots of the city from the real life night club, Silver Frolics to the synonymous L’ track at the end of the film. Along with the almost “It’s A Wonderfull Life” feel of the film with the character Sgt. Joe who acts as John’s guide throughout his long restless night.The cinematography in “The City That Never Sleeps” is also impressive. Especially in the scene where we see Hayes waiting to see if the man in the window of Silver Frolics is actually a machine or just a man. At first, we see a point of view shot from hayes looking through the small crack in the wood. Then he fires a shot and we see the camera fly in front of the people standing in front of the window as the bullet pierces the glass. The messages that this film embodies is spot on as well and can still be relatable even today. All of these characters from John, Angel Face, and Warren who all came to Chicago with big dreams and aspirations, only to have their dreams swallowed up by the city’s darkness. “The City That Never Sleeps” truly uses everything that Chicago has to offer to make it a great film.

  • zack pont

    “The City That Never Sleeps”, a film steeped in gritty noir documentary like realism that captivates its audience through creative use of camera work, lighting, and most importantly its specific use of locations. Much like the first film we watched together as a class, “Call Northside 777”, this film uses the city of Chicago to its advantage in a way that, at the time, the major hollywood system simply could not do. As Michael Smith perfectly states in his blog, “‘City’ conveys an atmosphere of sordidness, sleaziness and rank desperation precisely because of its limited budget and resources, qualities that Hollywood’s major studios couldn’t have replicated if they tried.” This couldn’t be any truer, and that only helped the films believability. Kelly was a tired man, one who feigned his care for just about everything in his life at the beginning of the film. Whats more is that Kelly was surrounded by people with mutual lackluster and a beaten in sense of self worth, (perhaps excluding his wife) Even his father was ready to throw in the towel albeit for different reasons. The city followed suit, appearing cold and empty in most scenes. The weather even seemed unforgiving, cold, and hostile. Shadowy streetlights dimly illuminating the vacant streets. the only sign of life coming from within the sleazy “Silver Frolics”. A place so unaware of reality, even after a murder takes place within the club, the patrons appear completely unfazed. Even as gunmen and police rush in and out, the party never stops. Noir belongs in Chicago, it is built for it. The crescendo of ‘L’ track chase, the dutch angle shots peering down alleys, the gritty streets, the sleazy nightclub, it all pulls you in. This place is real. Chicago feels alive and dead all at once, it can almost be overwhelming, and that is something Hollywood just cant do.

  • dylanberliant

    Often times, when a films budget is low, and done with care, it feels more realistic than a film with a high budget. I think that City That Never Sleeps is a great example of a low budget film done right. Because of the use of location shooting (mainly the strip-club), the movie felt extremely grounded in real life. Since the director didn’t have a lot of money to spend on props, the use of locations is extremely detrimental to the feel of this film. The strip-club felt alive because of its scale, and prominence in the city. The overall architecture and look of the building itself contributes greatly to the theme of a sleazy and dirty city. As you mentioned in your atrticle, Gregg (the mechanical man) is one of the most interesting characters in the film. I agree with this – I felt that his moral conflict of “human vs machine” as well as the love triangle between him, Kelly, and Angel Face causes the film to feel dark and noir-ish. Since the genre of film noir borrows from elements of German Expressionsim, this film contains a lot of weird camera tricks. One example of this is when Hayes gets caught by Kelly. As Hayes runs towards the camera, he almost seems to run into the camera before it cuts to the other side of the room. I thought this choice of filming illustrates how Hayes felt trapped and closterphobic in that situation. Overall, I really enjoyed the dark and sleazy tone of this movie. While the story was somewhat simplistic, the atmosphere and characters themselves were anything but. The B-movie feel of this film only added to my enjoyment of it, and I feel that as you said, this movie is truly a hidden gem of the film noir genre.

  • Jonathan Ivan

    City That Never Sleeps was an excellent movie for it being a low budget movie. I enjoyed this movie a lot more than Call Northside 777 because you didn’t know what was going to happen. The location shooting of the film, and the acting was on point considering it being a low budget movie. When you mentioned Gregg (the mechanical man) as him being one of the most interesting characters i have to agree with you because the only reason that Gregg stayed at the club as the mechanical man was because of Angel Face, he was in love with her and he was willing to be a robot (as a career) just to be able to see her everyday. And the love triangle between Gregg, Angel Face and Kelly was something that kept the audience thinking about throughout the movie. Was Kelly going to actually leave his wife to be with Angel Face, or was Greggs’ Dreams going to become a reality. The scene where the cops are waiting for Hayes to come out and shoot Gregg was what i believe a pretty cool scene because the camera angles showed the streets from the cops perspective as if their heads are sideways looking around the corners. Thinking throughout the movie i could see that the mechanical man and John Kelly Sr. were in fact John Kelly Jr’s future. John was chasing a dream of moving to California and starting over which is basically describing what Gregg was trying to do. Or he can stay to be a cop and be just like his father. So i believe that the main reason for his father in the movie and Gregg was to show us John Kelly’s future without us even knowing. Overall i really enjoyed this you can say B-action/suspenseful movie.

  • Alex Pont

    City That Never Sleeps is a film that utilized its low budget surprisingly well, especially for a film released in 1953. The film works in many ways, but also falters. The glorious cinematography captures Chicago at night and preemptively lends itself to later become the look and feel for Gotham City. This film does a stronger job at portraying Chicago as a seedy town with hardly any redeeming qualities over Call Northside 777, but where this film falters is where Northside succeeded, an engaging lead. Jimmy Stewart as PJ McNeal was a charismatic do-gooder who simply wanted to find out the truth of a crime from a decade previous. He spent day and night digging through evidence and interviewing potential witnesses, going through the underbelly of the city that many avoided. Johnny Kelly on the other hand is a bored, miserable cop who wants to run away to start a new life with his mistress, yet I am never convinced he truly wants to nor am I to believe being a cop or a husband in a quite suburb of Chicago is so awful or redundant for this man to just up and leave on a thinly constructed plan. Scenes felt stitched together rather than organically connected, particularly the third act. City certainly had more nail biting scenes over Northside such as Hayes Stewart hiding in the dark attempting to determine if, in fact, the robot in the window of the club is a real man. if so, Hayes must shoot him, but not before the cops leave the area, whom are searching for him after he murdered three people inside the club.

    While this film is certainly a step forward in the right direction for the noir genre, I must disagree with you Mr. Smith that this film “easily takes the title from under Northside’s nose” as the greatest Chicago film of all time. I place that sort of recognition on the infamous musical film The Blues Brothers, a film that utilizes the entirety of the Chicago land area to explore the music of Rhythm and Blues. It was a love letter to what is easily the greatest city for blues music while also a bizarre comedy of two brothers who simply want to get their old band back together despite endless police and even Nazi interference. Obviously, the two films are of a vastly different genres, but both banked on using Chicago to tell a story.

    Your review for City That Never Sleeps is passionate, in-depth, and engaging. Had I not seen this film previously, I would certain view it per your recommendation, but while I was certainly entertained by City That Never Sleeps, I can’t say it’s a film worth viewing for a second time.

  • Alejandro Magdaleno

    City That Never Sleeps was an excellent film in my opinion. This film really surprised me because it was so good and the budget was so low. In my opinion this film was better and grabbed my attention more than the film Call Northside 777. It grabbed my attention because the shots in the film captured great parts of Chicago at night. It was dark gloomy shots at night of the city. This film did a great job capturing different shots all over Chicago as the cop, Johnny Kelly, was all over the city. Something that was really interesting to me that I also saw in Call Northside 777 was that when the people were in the car going somewhere, looking out the windows of the car, we could see real actual shots of the city of Chicago in such earl times. I was surprised that the structure of the film was so well done and was not blurry. We were able to see everything so clear throughout the film. This film had action but also was a love story. It had action because there was a good guy and a bad guy, towards the end of the film we could see that the film was intense as Johnny Kelly was chasing the man who killed his boss, who was his dad. The thing that really had me going was trying to guess whether or not Kelly leave his wife and leave with angel face or whether the mechanical man would make his dream come to reality. I just feel like this film was a thriller but also a love story between the mechanical man, angel face and Johnny Kelly. What I found weird was that in the article it said about how the mechanical man was in front of the strip club to grab the audience attention and so that people would notice the strip club which to me was strange. I have never seen strip clubs have mechanical mans outside the window. This film was low budget and was different from other films that it really stud out to me, great film.

  • Jaclynn Dunleavy

    I thought City That Never Sleeps was very well done for a low budget film. But I enjoyed Call Northside 777 just because of the different location shooting. Compared to City That Never Sleeps it seemed that the film was shot in the same location. In City That Never Sleeps the audience really didn’t see much of Chicago. I thought when the producers were filming John Kelly in his cop car I thought they could have shown the surrounding areas, for example.
    I thought all of the actors and actress were amazing in both films.
    My favorite and the most interesting character in the both of the films was the Silver man in City That Never Sleeps. Even though it seemed he played a character that seems not important but at the end of the movie the views noticed that he does play an important part. He’s the man that attracts the people to the nightclub, and the people that stop in front of the night club are amazed, wondering if he’s real or fake. Sadly at the end of the movie he was shot because he was a witness of a shooting. But the shooter didn’t know he was real until he saw the silver man shed a tear.

  • Michael J.

    Films with a smaller budget have to manage their resources better that a film with a larger budget. This budget forces the film to rely heavily on surroundings and unique shooting locations, something other films do not have to do. What the film “The City That Never Sleeps” really does well is take the viewer to different parts of the city. Places that could not easily be replicated, like back alleys and just the beautiful Chicago architecture. It makes the drama and crime more believable. That Chicago has a underbelly that could turn good men and women into criminals, and people without morals. That is why this is a great film noir. It gains character and belivability.
    I personally enjoyed watching this movie. Sure the characters could have been developed more and add more meaning to the story but at the end of the day, the movie did its job. It entertained its audience while using the popular genre of the time. Capitalising on what was around them they did the best they could, with the budget they had, to shoot a film. I thought the characters relationships, the love triangle, murder witness, cop criminal duality was all entertaining.

  • Rajiv Mishra

    The City That Never Sleeps is an impressive noir with dynamic use of location shooting that adds spice and character to the film. In comparison, Call Northside 777 involved a few location shots that simply acted as indications of current location of the scene. However, the location shooting in “The City That Never Sleeps “is much more gritty, dark, and cold, encapsulating the aura and tension of the film’s plot. What’s more is that the low budget of the film means that the director has to carefully pick the location, as well as the overall lighting for each shot. The stark contrast of the dark scenes of the streets compared to the lights and tone of the strip club aids in the mood and tempo of the scene, which makes it feel as if the shot is meant to depict the language of the film, rather than just to attract the audience and showcase the strip club itself. Thus, the director creatively picked through each detail of a location shot to further enhance the plot and aid the characters in the given scenes. All in all, I definitely enjoyed this film only because of the how interesting and thrilling the storyline was. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which Hayes Stewart hides in the shadows after murdering three people inside the strip club. While hiding, Hayes notices a man standing by the window, it’s actually a robot in the window of the strip club but he thinks it’s an actual person. Hayes decides whether or not to shoot but the police are searching the area for him!

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