Monday, December 15, 2014

NIGHT SPOT (1938)

This seemingly routine B-movie, a comic crime story, has a big plus in the chemistry of its leading men. Marge (Joan Woodbury) works at an insurance company but has come to the Royale nightclub to audition for a singing job. She's mistaken for a shady dame who had an appointment with the boss, Marty Davis, and is shown into his office. Seated and hidden from view, she witnesses a crook named Buzz break in and shoot Davis. Davis survives but Buzz is found dead shortly after. Thinking that Marge is not as innocent as she claims, and suspecting that Davis is running a jewel theft ring, the police chief assigns two members of the police department band, Cooper (Allan Lane) and Riley (Gordon Jones), to infiltrate the Royale's house band. The situation: many of the elites who come to the club have wound up getting their valuables stolen. It turns out that the tables in the club are bugged, and Davis listens in on conversations to learn when the jewels will be unguarded. In the meantime, Davis, afraid that his enemies will get to Marge, his alibi in the murder of Buzz, has his bumbling Greek henchman Gashouse (Harry Parke aka Parkyakarkus) guard her. Further, both Cooper and Riley start to fall for Marge.

For a one-hour movie, a lot of things happen here, so the pace is relatively frantic, which is fine as the tone is light. Parkyakarkus, father of Albert Brooks, is first billed and he's basically a dialect comic who keeps messing up the language, as in, "I resemble that remark." In the beginning, his comic relief is a pain in the ass since I found the plot and other actors fairly interesting, but in the last half, his role diminishes greatly. Lee Patrick plays Marge's roommate, and Jack Carson and Cecil Kellaway have small roles. B-starlet Woodbury is serviceable, but Jones and Lane (pictured above) work very well together, and make the film worth seeing. They have an easy camaraderie and never fall into straight man/funny man roles—they can both be both. A breezy little gem; it's a shame that Lane (who had a long career as Ricky Lane in B-westerns) and Jones (who went on to play the Green Hornet in a 1940 serial) weren't paired up for more of these. [TCM]

No comments: