From the Vaults — ‘While the City Sleeps,’ Part IV

While the City Sleeps

 

In the three previous posts on the 1928 Lon Chaney film “While the City Sleeps,” we took a brief look at the production history and the plot, the critical reaction (mostly mixed) and the curious condition of the print, which is missing fairly substantial portions of the film and has nitrate damage.

In this post, we will examine the film’s use of Los Angeles City Hall, which was dedicated April 26, 1928, a little more than a month before shooting began on “While the City Sleeps.”  I hesitate to say that this is the first use of City Hall in a motion picture (one never knows what crazy movie people were doing in the crazy ‘20s), but it must be one of the earliest.

This is going to be a breakdown of the film sequence. Then we’ll go back and look for locations.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

While the City Sleeps

The film opens with establishing shots of New York.

 

 

While the City Sleeps

 

While the City Sleeps

 

While the City Sleeps

At the 52-minute mark in this print of “While the City Sleeps,” Lon Chaney, as New York Police Det. Dan Coghlan, is pursuing crime ring leader Mile-Away Skeeter Carlson (Wheeler Oakman). Coghlan enters a building, goes up the stairs and…

While the City Sleeps
climbs a ladder to the roof.

 

While the City Sleeps

 

Coghlan enters on the roof of a building on the Main Street side of City Hall. Notice the Scribners sign. We’ll come back to that later.

Coghlan goes under the clothesline seen in the foreground and the film cuts to this scene.

 

While the City Sleeps

 

image
Notice the Scribners sign again.

End of first sequence.

 

While the City Sleeps

 

There’s a gun battle between police and the gang, who are trapped in an attic. Then at the 58-minute mark, Mile-Away knocks a hole through a brick wall and climbs out. Obviously, this is a set.

 

While the City Sleeps

He gets on the roof of the building.

 

While the City Sleeps

And takes cover.

 

While the City Sleeps

Coghlan enters, in a different camera setup, and City Hall is again in the background.

 

While the City Sleeps

Mile-Away shoots at Coghlan.

 

While the City Sleeps

Coghlan shoots back and runs.

 

While the City Sleeps

Mile-Away fires again.

 

While the City Sleeps

Coghlan edges up until he has a clear shot at Mile-Away while taking cover behind a chimney.

 

While the City Sleeps

Coghlan shoots.

 

While the City Sleeps

Mile-Away shoots. There’s more shooting.

 

While the City Sleeps

Finally, Mile-Away looks around.

 

While the City Sleeps

He makes a break….

 

While the City Sleeps

And Coghlan shoots him.

 

While the City Sleeps

Coghlan rolls over Mile-Away’s body with his foot. Notice the Harper & Reynolds sign. We’ll come back to that later.

 

End of sequence.

To be continued.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1928, City Hall, Film, From the Vaults, Hollywood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to From the Vaults — ‘While the City Sleeps,’ Part IV

  1. Cal and Lulu says:

    Our guess: the last several shots were taken in L.A. Perhaps the NY city hall and Scribeners were a painted backdrop?

  2. aryedirect says:

    Keep on going, please. This is fascinating stuff.

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