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John H. Auer
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
NIGHT WORK (Paramount, 1939), directed by George Archainbaud, a sequel to BOY TROUBLE (1939), is the second and final installment focusing on "The Fitch Family." More boy trouble occurs in the Fitch household this time out. Their adopted son, "Butch" Smiley (Donald O'Connor), an orphan, finds himself unable to remain with Homer C. and Sybil Fitch (Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland) when the boy's visiting grandfather, Smokestack (Clem Bevans), an old steeple-jacker, believes the couple not suitable in raising his teenage grandson. He is even more convinced when Homer's former high school rival, Bruiser J. Brown (William Frawley) arrives, looking for a place to stay, and takes advantage of poor Homer by flipping him with a handshake and addressing him as "Wishy-Washy." While trying to make an impression that he isn't a coward and does stand up to his rights, Homer pays a tough engineer (William Haade) to show him some disrespect so he can take a sock at him. But in spite of this impressionable act, Smokestack has already made up his mind in taking Butch back with him to California.
John Hartley and Joyce Matthews reprise their roles from BOY TROUBLE as the romantic love interest as Windy Wilson and Patricia Fitch. Old geezer Clem Bevans, a likable character actor and familiar face of hundreds of motion pictures, normally appearing in minor roles, gets his rare opportunity where he's nearly in every scene in the story. His frequent demand is usually for the youngsters to "show respect for their elders," or else! William Frawley's obnoxious character also adds interest to NIGHT WORK, especially since Frawley is legendary as TV's Fred Mertz in I LOVE LUCY (1951-57).
A smooth blend of comedy and drama set mostly in the apartment building where lives the Fitch family, NIGHT WORK has its share of climatic suspense, not the type of suspense in regards to espionage, but a sequence reminiscent to Harold Lloyd's thrill comedies of the 1920s-30s, which finds little Joey (Billy Lee), another member of the Fitch household, to find himself in danger. Since he was promised a ride on Smokestack's dazzle seat, but has never had the opportunity, he takes it upon himself to go on his own. The dazzle seat breaks, leaving Joey to hang on for his life from the high level of the apartment building, attracting the passing crowd below and having Homer to go risk his life and save the boy. This thrill sequence alone makes NIGHT WORK worth viewing. Once again Mary Boland's name heads the cast, but it is Charlie Ruggles who makes the movie while trying to prove himself.
Unlike BOY TROUBLE, NIGHT WORK, which runs at 60 minutes, had frequent television revivals prior to 1978, depending on location where it was shown, but currently is out of circulation. As much as the title might be a misnomer, since there is no character working through the night, the movie itself does pass as one of Hollywood's finer "program pictures" of the day.(**1/2)
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