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

While the City Sleeps

The previous two posts gave a brief production history and plot summary of the 1928 Lon Chaney film “While the City Sleeps” and a sample of the reviews.

Today, we’ll look at some of the more unusual aspects of this print, which was provided by a longtime reader. (I have no idea as to the source of the print used to make the DVD.)

From the Vaults: While the City Sleeps
Part I | Part II |

The big question is how much of the film is missing. The short answer is: quite a bit.

Motion Picture News reported on Dec. 8, 1928, that “While the City Sleeps” had a synchronized score and sound effects and was 7,231 feet long.  I’ve had a bit of trouble determining the precise speed of silent projectors to calculate the running time of the film. The standard for sound projectors was 90 feet per minute, with slower speeds for silents. So depending on projection speed, that makes the running time of “While the City Sleeps” 90 minutes at 80 feet per minute and 85 minutes at 85 feet per minute.  This print times out to a fraction over 66 minutes, which means 19 to 24 minutes of the film is missing. No wonder that it’s plot is hard to follow.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

While the City Sleeps

An extreme example of the damage in portions of the print.

Whatever the source of this print, it has significant damage, as shown above. It’s impossible to tell if some sequences were deleted because of the racy content or the damaged nitrate.

While the City Sleeps


While the City Sleeps
Audiences were never supposed to see this artwork.

Whoever digitized the film retained the MGM logos at the ends of the reels. I’m impressed by the quality of the artwork that was only meant to be seen by projectionists and others who handled the prints.


While the City Sleeps

This label appears at the end of Reel 5, presumably indicating that this version was intended to go with the music and sound effects track, which is now lost. Consolidated Certified Prints was a print production house with offices in Los Angeles and New York.


Consolidated Certified Prints emphasized its safety in this ad in Exhibitors Trade Review, April 11, 1925.



An ad for Consolidated Certified Prints in Exhibitors Trade Review, May 16, 1925.






To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1928, Film, From the Vaults, Hollywood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Eve says:

    Shameless name-dropping: Anita Page was a friend of mine, and she told me that she was rather intimidated by Lon Chaney, “but when I looked at photos of him years later, I thought, ‘he was actually quite good-looking!'”


  2. aryedirect says:

    FYI: Consolidated Film Industries is still very much in business as a Hollywood film laboratory and post-production house. What is really interesting is that Republic Studios owned CFI in the fifties. The eagle logo seen above was also Republic’s logo in the era when it owned CFI.


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