In yesterday’s post, I gave a brief production history of the 1928 Lon Chaney film “While the City Sleeps,” and a summary of the rather complex plot, rendered even more convoluted because substantial portions of the print are missing, either due to content, damaged nitrate or some other reason. Based on The Times clips, the movie had a one-week run in Los Angeles after opening Sept. 21, 1928, and two brief showings (less than a week) in November, and was never mentioned in the paper again except for Chaney’s obituary.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Reviewers liked the machine gun sequence.
The romance between Anita Page and Lon Chaney, not so much.
Many movie critics of the day didn’t care much for “While the City Sleeps.” Most of them thought that the story got off to a slow start and liked the action sequences (especially the machine gun) but said that they didn’t care for the love story involving the rather frivolous Myrtle Sullivan (17-year-old Anita Page) and the tough New York cop (45-year-old Lon Chaney). Most of the reviews said that the plot relied on too many cliches from other crime movies (even in 1928, there were movie cliches, apparently).
Motion Picture News of Oct. 27, 1928, described “While the City Sleeps” as a good film for all houses, and recommended that exhibitors play up Chaney’s popularity, the comely Anita Page and its theme of police against the underworld.
One of the more detailed critiques comes from The Film Spectator of Nov. 3, 1928:
To be continued.