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A young kid from Upstate New York named Eddie (Landis) is conned into fronting for a speakeasy on Broadway. Throughout the con there is an inevitable chorus-girl with a heart of gold (Costello), a cop-killing gangster boss (Oakman) and his downtrodden ex-girlfriend (Brockwell). Written by
LIGHTS OF NEW YORK was the first "all-taking" feature film, coming in at a brisk 57 minutes and directed by Bryan Foy (of the famous vaudeville family).
The story has two dopey barbers (Cullen Landis, Eugene Palette) yearning for a chance at "big city life" and getting involved with gangsters and bootleg booze. One of the guys gets framed for the murder of a cop but is saved at the last minute by a gun moll (Gladys Brockwell).
Much of the story takes place in a night club called The Night Hawk, which is run by a crook named Hawk (Wheeler Oakman) who has his eye on a pretty chorine (Helene Costello) who is the girl friend of Landis. Costello gets to do a brief dance, and we hear Harry Downing (made up to resemble Ted Lewis) sing "At Dawning) in his best Al Jolson style.
The acting ranges from good (Palette and Brockwell) to awful (Oakman). A couple of the actors muff their lines but then keep right on with the scene. As noted elsewhere this was intended to be a short 2-reeler and was made on a shoestring budget. Yet the sound quality is surprisingly good, the voices all register clearly, and there is a neat cinematic touch in the silhouette death.
The film was a box-office smash even though it was shown as a silent film where theaters were not wired for the new sound technology. No one expected this little film to gross an amazing $1.3 million. It briefly made stars of Costello and Landis and certainly launched Palette on his long career as a star character actor.
Co-stars include Mary Carr as the mother, Robert Elliott as the detective, Eddie Kane as the street cop, and Tom Dugan as a thug.
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