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The Night Mayor (1932)

Opportunistic film seeking to capitalize on a scandal in New York mayor Jimmy Walker's office before his name was out of the newspapers. Tracy plays a mayor who has a penchant for the night... See full summary »



(story) (as Sam Marx),


Cast overview:
Doree Dawn
Fred Field
Hymie Shane
Louis Mossbaum, Tailor


Opportunistic film seeking to capitalize on a scandal in New York mayor Jimmy Walker's office before his name was out of the newspapers. Tracy plays a mayor who has a penchant for the night life, sports, the theater, and an actress, Knapp. When scandal rocks his administration, Tracy has his girl friend marry Dillaway, a writer friend, so that the press will leave him alone. Written by Anonymous

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Plot Keywords:

mayor | melodrama | See All (2) »







Release Date:

19 August 1932 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Better than 'Beau James' and just as inaccurate.
27 April 2010 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

This comedy deserves a lot of credit for its many pleasures, but it doesn't deserve credit for its clever title. At least one New York City gossip columnist had already applied the nickname 'the Night Mayor' to Jimmy Walker, New York City's nightclubbing mayor of the late Prohibition years. This movie blatantly rips off many details of Walker's meteoric career, and 'The Night Mayor' was released less than two weeks before Walker resigned as the result of a scandal.

Lee Tracy is note-perfect here as Mayor Bobby Kingston, who's clearly Walker in all but name, and who even has many of the real Walker's biographic traits. At one point here, Tracy claims to be a lyricist: the real Walker wrote the lyrics to the hit song 'Will You Love Me in December As You Do in May?'.

I was intrigued by this film's story credit for Sam Marx. He later held sway as long-time head of the scripts department at MGM (while his cousins the Marx Brothers were under contract there), but Sam Marx's writing credits are few.

One of my favourite character actors, Warren Hymer, is in fine form here. Hymer almost always played dimwitted thugs: here, he's a butler(!) who does some thugging on the side. Eugene Palllette gives one of his best performances, and has one great line: 'I eat publicity!'. The sight of Vince Barnett in plus-fours is worth the price of admission.

I disliked the leading lady here, Evelyn Knapp. She's a goodish actress but her face, voice, hairstyle and make-up in this role are unattractive. She's also anorectically thin. Knapp is cast here as a chorus girl in a Ziegfeld-style revue, but in 1932 the showgoers preferred chorines with some meat on their bones.

There's lots of bright sparkling dialogue, although Tracy mispronounces 'repartee'. I disliked one noisy scene with lots of telephones all ringing simultaneously. Tracy's brassy mayor is meant to be sympathetic, but I disliked him. He's always on hand for a mayor's ceremonial duties, but when there's actual work to be done he's off to the nearest party featuring Prohibition hooch.

Due to this film's premise, there are LOTS of stock-footage shots featuring huge thronging crowds; some of the footage is obviously quite old, as the crowds are wearing clothes from circa 1915. More pleasantly, there are also lots of expensive optical wipes, and one very impressive travelling shot through a large hotel lobby. Tracy briefly does a hoofing routine with Knapp, dancing expertly. In a key role, Don Dillaway is a non-entity.

SLIGHT SPOILERS. As mayor, Tracy is embroiled in an investigation that threatens to scupper his career, but the film simply drops this at the fade-out with no resolution. I spotted a continuity error: we see a message that Knapp's character wrote in lipstick on a wall, and later we see a handwritten letter that she also wrote: but the handwritings don't match. And I think there's another error too: I know that the mayor of New York City is empowered to perform marriages, but we see Tracy doing this in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Can New York City's mayor perform marriages in a completely different state?

Despite my quibbles, 'The Night Mayor' (yes, there's a 'The' in the title) is a delightful comedy with clever dialogue and several excellent performances. This movie's a lot more fun than 'Beau James', an ostensibly accurate biopic of Walker that isn't much more accurate than 'The Night Mayor'. My rating for this one: 8 out of 10. IMDb, please fix your spell-check so I can spell Eugene Palllette's name correctly.

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