City That Never Sleeps


1h 30m 1953
City That Never Sleeps

Brief Synopsis

Chicago cop Johnny Kelly, dissatisfied with his job and marriage, would like to run away with his stripper girlfriend Angel Face, but keeps getting cold feet. During one crowded night, Angel Face decides she's had enough vacillation, and crooked lawyer Biddel has an illegal mission for Johnny that could put him in a financial position to act. But other, conflicting schemes are also in progress...

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jun 12, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago, Illinois, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

One night, as the nagging voice of his mother-in-law taunts him, Johnny Kelly contemplates leaving his rewardless career as a second generation Chicago cop and his loving wife, whom he resents for earning more than he does. After writing a letter of resignation, Johnny proceeds to the Silver Frolic nightclub to see Sally "Angel Face" Connors, a young, but hardened, honkytonk dancer whom he strings along with dreams of a new life in California. Infatuated with Johnny and his escape plans, Sally has given notice at the nightclub, and remains unmoved by the adoration of a fellow performer, Gregg Warren, who endures his humiliating job as a mechanical man in the nightclub's front window by daydreaming about life with Sally in exotic places. During Johnny's shift that night, a mysterious and philosophical sebidrgeant, wanting to be called simply "Joe," waits for him in the patrol car. As they respond to the emergencies of the evening, Joe points out the importance of policemen to the people of the city, but Johnny intimates that he joined the force to please his father and plans to quit, then gives Joe his resignation notice to turn in. Needing money for his California venture, Johnny has secretly made a deal with corrupt criminal lawyer Penrod Biddel, and asks Joe to wait in the car while he visits him. Inside, Biddel says he wants Johnny to "arrest" his henchman, Hayes Stewart, and take him to Indiana, where he is wanted for manslaughter. Biddel explains that the ambitious Hayes is trying to steal incriminating documents to blackmail him. Johnny is willing to perform the deed anytime after that evening, when he is no longer in uniform, but Biddel insists that it must be done immediately and warns Johnny that his younger brother Stubby has been hanging around Hayes and learning the ways of criminals. Later in the patrol car, Joe and Johnny respond to a break-in report at Biddel's office building, but find nothing amiss. Hayes, having evaded Joe and Johnny, makes a phone call, saying that he remains empty-handed, but later confronts Biddel, claiming to have documents from Biddel's bedroom safe, which he acquired through an accomplice. He blackmails Biddel for a large sum of money to be delivered within two hours to his hotel room. Meanwhile, Johnny's wife Kathy senses his restlessness and confides in Johnny's father, John, Sr., a twenty-seven-year veteran of the force, that she plans to quit her job, as her higher salary seems to hurt Johnny's pride. At the nightclub, meanwhile, Gregg asks Sally to join him in a comedy act, but Sally is distracted by the appearance of Biddel, who wants to reach Johnny. Biddel then meets Hayes, and learns that Hayes's "accomplice" is Biddel's wife Lydia. He pulls a gun, but is himself shot and left for dead. Learning about Johnny's "errand" through Lydia, Hayes decides to go to the Silver Frolic. When Johnny and Joe respond to a call about gunshots in the hotel, Biddel names Hayes as the shooter and directs Johnny to the nightclub. After Johnny radios the information to the police dispatcher, John, Sr. proceeds to the club, where Lydia, who is unhappy that Biddel was harmed, points out Hayes. As John, Sr. makes the arrest, Hayes mistakes him for his son, then shoots him. After escaping, Hayes shoots Lydia in front of the horrified Stubby, who was waiting for him outside the nightclub, and Gregg, who is performing in the nightclub window. Johnny arrives in time to hear his father's dying words, then, struggling with emotion, questions Gregg about Hayes's whereabouts. Gregg, however, is reluctant to talk until Sally explains that Johnny's father has died. Gregg admits that, as witness to the crime, he expects Hayes will return for him, and offers to serve as decoy, while Johnny stakes out the building. For the first time, Gregg has Sally's attention and she begs him not to risk his life. When he enters the window to begin his mechanical man routine, she tells him through the curtain that she wants to become his partner. As Gregg predicted, Hayes is watching and trying to determine whether Gregg is a live witness or just a robot. After two passersby exclaim that the mechanical man is crying, Hayes shoots, but Gregg dodges the bullet. Before escaping, Hayes knocks out Stubby, but Johnny finds his brother and sends him to safety. Joe radios for help, and more policemen arrive to set up roadblocks. Johnny chases Hayes through alleys and city streets, but at a railway yard, Hayes climbs the El, and while fighting off Johnny, falls on a wire and is electrocuted. Later, at the station, Johnny's police badge, discarded during the chase, is returned to him and he puts it on. The mysterious Joe has gone and Johnny's resignation letter lies on the patrol car seat. As the day dawns and his shift ends, Johnny returns home to Kathy.

Videos

Movie Clip

City That Never Sleeps (1953) - You Got Any Kids? Summoned to a Chicago street emergency, with his mysterious new partner “Sarge” (Chill Wills), disillusioned cop Johnny (Gig Young) does some casual heroism, then we discover that thief Stewart (William Talman) has his kid-brother (Ron Hagerthy) as an apprentice, in City That Never Sleeps, 1953.
City That Never Sleeps (1953) - Take The Service Elevator Continuing the omniscient narration, by the “voice of the city,” (Chicago), we meet William Talman as thief Stewart, Ron Hagerthy his sidekick, Edward Arnold as lawyer Biddell, Marie Windsor his wife, Gig Young again as Johnny, whom we didn’t know was a cop, and Paula Raymond as the wife we know he’s thinking of leaving, early in City That Never Sleeps, 1953.
City That Never Sleeps (1953) - I Am The City Opening projecting the extraordinary tone which will permeate the piece, narration by Chill Wills who will appear as a character, introducing the automated Wally Cassell, cynical and bitter Gig Young and Mala Powers, and sparky Bunny Kacher as Agnes, John H. Auer directing from Steve Fisher’s original screenplay, in City That Never Sleeps, 1953.
City That Never Sleeps (1953) - You're Becoming Too Ambitious Complex trickery as magician-turned-thief Stewart (William Talman), who appeared to have been tricked while trying to rob his employer-attorney Biddell (Edward Arnold), visits and reveals the same note left for him inside the latter’s safe, in the semi-fantasy Noir City That Never Sleeps, 1953.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jun 12, 1953
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Republic Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago, Illinois, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

City that Never Sleeps


"I am the city, hub and heart of America, melting pot of every race, creed, color and religion in humanity. From my famous stockyards to my towering factories, from my tenement district to swank Lake Shore Drive, I am the voice, the heartbeat of this giant, sprawling, sordid and beautiful, poor and magnificent citadel of civilization. And this is the story of just one night in this great city."

Chill Wills' opening narration in City that Never Sleeps

A fascinating hybrid of semi-documentary and fantasy, this 1953 film noir from Republic Pictures was long forgotten until a recent restoration of the studio's most interesting films brought it back to light. No less an expert, Eddie Mueller of The Film Noir Foundation has named it as one the top 25 noir films. TCM is showing the restored version of City that Never Sleeps, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the beauty of the film's high-contrast cinematography by John L. Russell, who would later serve as cinematographer for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). The restoration brings back the impressive sense of atmosphere Russell and director John H. Auer created for the film, which is set entirely at night.

City that Never Sleeps opens with narration by the "Voice of Chicago," introducing the city and the people who will be the film's focus. What they have in common is the fact that each started out with a dream he or she lost. Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) wanted more out of life than a job as a cop and a loveless marriage. Sally Connors (Mala Powers) wanted to be a ballet dancer, but she now performs in a cheap nightclub. And Hayes Stewart (William Talman) trained to be a magician only to turn his skills to crime. Young has decided that this is his last night on the police force and as a married man before he runs off with girlfriend Powers. To get the money to get away, he agrees to get Talman out of town for powerful attorney Penrod Biddel (Edward Arnold), who's been using the crook to do his dirty work. The assignment leads to a night of violence and film noir's traditional double and triple crosses, climaxing in a deadly chase along the tracks of the "El".

The picture is one of the last film noirs to adopt a documentary tone in the tradition of Boomerang (1947) and The Naked City (1948). Like them, it features an omniscient narration that sets the film up as a slice of life, and location photograph- although in City that Never Sleeps the location footage is confined to second-unit work, sometimes repetitious (a shot of the street from a car's windshield is repeated) but ultimately skillfully edited into footage shot at the Republic Studios. What makes the picture stand out, though, is the addition of a fantasy character, the "Voice of Chicago" (Chill Wills). When Young starts his shift, he's informed that his usual partner is sick. Suddenly Wills pops up as Sergeant Joe, whom Young's never heard of before. Through the evening, Wills seems more intent on questioning Young's motives, particularly when he finds out he's leaving the force, than on doing any real police work. It's not hard to tell he's a fantasy figure, since the soundtrack goes all mystical when he shows up.

The film has some pretty impressive noir credits. The original screenplay is by Steve Fisher, an experienced writer whose noir novel I Wake Up Screaming became a rare dramatic vehicle for Betty Grable in 1941. He would go on to write the screenplays for such noir classics as Lady in the Lake (1946) and Dead Reckoning (1947). His script for City that Never Sleeps features the usual amount of corruption (Arnold's lawyer may seem respectable, but he's crooked as they come), and Fisher works a nice change on the typical women's roles. The film has the usual good girl-bad girl dichotomy in the two wives included, Young's sweet, neglected Mrs. (Paula Raymond) and Arnold's evil trophy bride (Marie Windsor). But there's more depth to Powers' exotic dancer. At first, she seems another film noir floozy carrying on with a married man. Before long, however, it's clear that she's not happy being the other woman and is actually torn between her affair with Young and the true love offered by failed actor Gregg Warren (Wally Cassell) playing a mechanical man in the nightclub's show window.

There's also a lot of nourish sizzle from the casting of Windsor, who would play the ultimate two-timing wife in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956), and Talman. The film was made four years before Talman would achieve fame as District Attorney Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason. At the time of City that Never Sleeps, he was best known for playing villains, most notably the psychopath in Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker, which had come out earlier in 1953. In his first scene in this film, he's shown fondling a rabbit, a holdover from his days as a magician and a distinct contrast to the brutality he'll display later in the picture.

Because he spent most of his career in low-budget films, Auer is still something of an unknown quantity to contemporary film buffs. Unable to find work in Hollywood at first, he directed a series of popular Mexican films. Their success brought him back to the U.S., but he never graduated from B movies, spending a significant part of his career at Republic. He was a rarity at the studio in that he produced his own films and never worked on any of their bread-and-butter pictures, the Westerns. He worked in just about every other genre, however. Despite City that Never Sleeps' low budget, Auer does some impressive work creating atmosphere. In a scene in which Young and Wills help deliver a baby in the street, there are some great crowd shots that capture a sense of the seedy underside of the big city. And the final chase is cut for maximum suspense.

City that Never Sleeps received only mixed reviews at the time of its premiere, with the best notices going to Talman and Warren. It took until 2018 for the film to earn any more serious consideration. By that time, Paramount Pictures had acquired the Republic library and set out to restore 30 of their films. Many of the new prints debuted as part of a special series at the Museum of Modern Art. City that Never Sleeps opened the series, which also included Frank Borzage's I've Always Loved You (1946) and Lewis Milestone's The Red Pony (1949). At the screening, director and film preservationist Martin Scorsese gave City that Never Sleeps special praise for its energy and creativity. With luck, the restorations could spark a reevaluation of Auer's career, as he's also represented by another film noir, The Flame (1947), and his jungle melodrama Angel of the Amazon (1948).

Producer-Director: John H. Auer
Screenplay: Steve Fisher
Cinematography: John L. Russell
Score: R. Dale Butts
Cast: Gig Young (Johnny Kelly), Mala Powers (Sally 'Angel Face' Connors), William Talman (Hayes Stewart), Edward Arnold (Penrod Biddel), Chill Wills (Sgt. Joe, the 'Voice of Chicago,' Marie Windsor (Lydia Biddel), Paula Raymond (Kathy Kelly), Wally Cassell (Gregg Warren), Ron Hagerthy (Stubby Kelly), Tom Poston (Detective), Roy Barcroft (Mechanical Man Attraction Hawker), Walter Woolf King (Hotel Manager)

By Frank Miller
City That Never Sleeps

City that Never Sleeps

"I am the city, hub and heart of America, melting pot of every race, creed, color and religion in humanity. From my famous stockyards to my towering factories, from my tenement district to swank Lake Shore Drive, I am the voice, the heartbeat of this giant, sprawling, sordid and beautiful, poor and magnificent citadel of civilization. And this is the story of just one night in this great city." Chill Wills' opening narration in City that Never Sleeps A fascinating hybrid of semi-documentary and fantasy, this 1953 film noir from Republic Pictures was long forgotten until a recent restoration of the studio's most interesting films brought it back to light. No less an expert, Eddie Mueller of The Film Noir Foundation has named it as one the top 25 noir films. TCM is showing the restored version of City that Never Sleeps, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the beauty of the film's high-contrast cinematography by John L. Russell, who would later serve as cinematographer for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). The restoration brings back the impressive sense of atmosphere Russell and director John H. Auer created for the film, which is set entirely at night. City that Never Sleeps opens with narration by the "Voice of Chicago," introducing the city and the people who will be the film's focus. What they have in common is the fact that each started out with a dream he or she lost. Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) wanted more out of life than a job as a cop and a loveless marriage. Sally Connors (Mala Powers) wanted to be a ballet dancer, but she now performs in a cheap nightclub. And Hayes Stewart (William Talman) trained to be a magician only to turn his skills to crime. Young has decided that this is his last night on the police force and as a married man before he runs off with girlfriend Powers. To get the money to get away, he agrees to get Talman out of town for powerful attorney Penrod Biddel (Edward Arnold), who's been using the crook to do his dirty work. The assignment leads to a night of violence and film noir's traditional double and triple crosses, climaxing in a deadly chase along the tracks of the "El". The picture is one of the last film noirs to adopt a documentary tone in the tradition of Boomerang (1947) and The Naked City (1948). Like them, it features an omniscient narration that sets the film up as a slice of life, and location photograph- although in City that Never Sleeps the location footage is confined to second-unit work, sometimes repetitious (a shot of the street from a car's windshield is repeated) but ultimately skillfully edited into footage shot at the Republic Studios. What makes the picture stand out, though, is the addition of a fantasy character, the "Voice of Chicago" (Chill Wills). When Young starts his shift, he's informed that his usual partner is sick. Suddenly Wills pops up as Sergeant Joe, whom Young's never heard of before. Through the evening, Wills seems more intent on questioning Young's motives, particularly when he finds out he's leaving the force, than on doing any real police work. It's not hard to tell he's a fantasy figure, since the soundtrack goes all mystical when he shows up. The film has some pretty impressive noir credits. The original screenplay is by Steve Fisher, an experienced writer whose noir novel I Wake Up Screaming became a rare dramatic vehicle for Betty Grable in 1941. He would go on to write the screenplays for such noir classics as Lady in the Lake (1946) and Dead Reckoning (1947). His script for City that Never Sleeps features the usual amount of corruption (Arnold's lawyer may seem respectable, but he's crooked as they come), and Fisher works a nice change on the typical women's roles. The film has the usual good girl-bad girl dichotomy in the two wives included, Young's sweet, neglected Mrs. (Paula Raymond) and Arnold's evil trophy bride (Marie Windsor). But there's more depth to Powers' exotic dancer. At first, she seems another film noir floozy carrying on with a married man. Before long, however, it's clear that she's not happy being the other woman and is actually torn between her affair with Young and the true love offered by failed actor Gregg Warren (Wally Cassell) playing a mechanical man in the nightclub's show window. There's also a lot of nourish sizzle from the casting of Windsor, who would play the ultimate two-timing wife in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956), and Talman. The film was made four years before Talman would achieve fame as District Attorney Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason. At the time of City that Never Sleeps, he was best known for playing villains, most notably the psychopath in Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker, which had come out earlier in 1953. In his first scene in this film, he's shown fondling a rabbit, a holdover from his days as a magician and a distinct contrast to the brutality he'll display later in the picture. Because he spent most of his career in low-budget films, Auer is still something of an unknown quantity to contemporary film buffs. Unable to find work in Hollywood at first, he directed a series of popular Mexican films. Their success brought him back to the U.S., but he never graduated from B movies, spending a significant part of his career at Republic. He was a rarity at the studio in that he produced his own films and never worked on any of their bread-and-butter pictures, the Westerns. He worked in just about every other genre, however. Despite City that Never Sleeps' low budget, Auer does some impressive work creating atmosphere. In a scene in which Young and Wills help deliver a baby in the street, there are some great crowd shots that capture a sense of the seedy underside of the big city. And the final chase is cut for maximum suspense. City that Never Sleeps received only mixed reviews at the time of its premiere, with the best notices going to Talman and Warren. It took until 2018 for the film to earn any more serious consideration. By that time, Paramount Pictures had acquired the Republic library and set out to restore 30 of their films. Many of the new prints debuted as part of a special series at the Museum of Modern Art. City that Never Sleeps opened the series, which also included Frank Borzage's I've Always Loved You (1946) and Lewis Milestone's The Red Pony (1949). At the screening, director and film preservationist Martin Scorsese gave City that Never Sleeps special praise for its energy and creativity. With luck, the restorations could spark a reevaluation of Auer's career, as he's also represented by another film noir, The Flame (1947), and his jungle melodrama Angel of the Amazon (1948). Producer-Director: John H. Auer Screenplay: Steve Fisher Cinematography: John L. Russell Score: R. Dale Butts Cast: Gig Young (Johnny Kelly), Mala Powers (Sally 'Angel Face' Connors), William Talman (Hayes Stewart), Edward Arnold (Penrod Biddel), Chill Wills (Sgt. Joe, the 'Voice of Chicago,' Marie Windsor (Lydia Biddel), Paula Raymond (Kathy Kelly), Wally Cassell (Gregg Warren), Ron Hagerthy (Stubby Kelly), Tom Poston (Detective), Roy Barcroft (Mechanical Man Attraction Hawker), Walter Woolf King (Hotel Manager) By Frank Miller

Quotes

When I first came to this town I was gonna be - oh, there were a lot of things I was gonna do. Become famous. But Chicago's the big melting pot, and I got melted, but good.
- Sally 'Angel Face' Connors

Trivia

Notes

Voice-over narration, spoken by Chill Wills as "the spirit of Chicago," is heard at the beginning and end of the film. Wills later appears in the story calling himself "Joe," but his character remains mysterious throughout the picture. End credits include a written dedication to the police and police departments of America, and an acknowledgment of the assistance and cooperation of the city of Chicago and its police department in making the film.
       According to a March 1950 Los Angeles Daily News news item, Allan Dwan was originally assigned to direct City That Never Sleeps. Hollywood Reporter production charts list Tony Martinelli as film editor and Ed Crain, Sr., as soundman, although only Fred Allen, as film editor, and Dick Tyler and Howard Wilson, as soundmen, were listed onscreen. Portions of the film were shot on location in Chicago, according to Hollywood Reporter and Variety reviews. City That Never Sleeps marked the motion picture debut of actor-comedian Tom Poston, who was billed onscreen as Thomas Poston.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer August 1953

Released in United States August 8, 1953

Released in United States on Video July 6, 1988

Completed shooting January 5, 1953.

Released in United States Summer August 1953

Released in United States August 8, 1953

Released in United States on Video July 6, 1988