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New York Nights (1929)

New York Nights (1929) United Artists. Produced by Joseph M. Schenck. Supervised by John W. Considine Jr. Directed by Lewis Milestone. Adaptation by Jules Furthman. Photography by Ray June. Editor, Hal Kern. Recording engineer, Oscar Lagerstrom. Cast: Norma Talmadge, Gilbert Roland, John Wray, Lilyan Tashman, Mary Doran, Roscoe Karns. 9 reels, sound. A viewing copy of reels 1 and 3 and master of reels 1 and 3-7 is located at the Library of Congress (35 mm.), and a copy of 3 double reels is located at the George Eastman House (35 mm.). This film has been shown on television and was on youTube last time i looked.

This photo was used in publicity materials for the film. Thanks to Cleo in Luxembourg for this photo.
(click on the thumbnail for a larger view)
Norma with feathered fan Norma on sheet music cover This is the front of the sheet music for the song "composed" by Gilbert Roland in the film. He and Norma even sing some of it. Thanks to Derek Boothroyd for this photo.
(click on the thumbnail for a larger view)
Clippings on New York Nights A couple of clippings on the film and a colorlobby card (thanks to Derek Boothroyd for this) Color lobby card for New York Nights

Still photos from Dr. Macro's movie scans

See also Jeff Cohen's comments on the film in his Vitaphone Varieties blog

Review from Variety
Review from Photoplay
Viewing comments

Review from Variety, February 5, 1930

New York Nights (All Dialog)

United Artists production and release. Starring Norma Talmadge. Directed by Lewis Milestone. Adapted by Jules Furthman from Hugh Stanislaus Stang's play, "Tin Pan Alley." Writer of dialog not credited. At Paramount, N.Y. week Jan. 31. Running time, 81 min.

Jill Deverne

Norma Talmadge
Fred Deverne Gilbert Roland
Joe Prividi John Wray
Peggy Lilyan Tashman
Ruthie Day Mary Doran
Johnny Dolan Roscoe Karns

If Norma Talmadge has retained her drawing power of other days, this picture will need it. It's a stiff test for her. "New York Nights" chances depend almost entirely on the star as a boxoffice product, just as the action, the story and the film in its entirety rests on Miss Talmadge's shoulders. It should do mildly in the major stands and ok underneath that strata.

It is another underworld and backstage film. The two most used topics combined. Result is a double rehash of much that has happened and been exhibited. A few nice twists, but the picture drags. A Form 32 underworld leader, played excellently when not overplayed by John Wray, contributes most of the steam.

Good performances are popping up with regularity. No lackadaisical trouping any more, as too much competition and names, and names are names only as long as they deserve to be. "New York Nights" has its share of performances. Besides the star's and Wray's Gilbert Roland and Lilyan Tashman do well.

Miss Talmadge is a musical comedy actress with home loving ideas and a young composer-husband who drinks. When not getting stewed, he's promising to go on the wagon. In the middle is the powerful and crooked Joe Prividi, who gets slight attention from the soused composer's wife. Until the young stew breaks his last vow. The wife takes an apartment and the trimmings from Prividi, although there's nothing wrong in the relationship. Anyway, the kid straightens out and as the wife still loves him she walks out on Prividi. Pretty exciting finish, including a shooting in Grand Central station and the capture of Prividi on the train as it pulls out of the 125th street station. Writer of the dialog not credited. And it's good.

Miss Talmadge looks as well as she acts and talks. A better picture will give her an even break. Recording favorable.


Miniature Review from Variety, same date, p. 19.

"New York Nights" (U.A.) Norma Talmadge in her first the main point. Good performance by the star in a fair picture. Underworld and backstage combination yarn along familiar lines.

Review from Photoplay, November 1929.

[Omitted: photo of Talmadge brushing teeth, while Gilbert Roland, brushing hair, looks on]

New York Nights--United Artists-- All Talkie

Talmadge fans won't be disappointed in Norma's voice in her first talkie. None of her charm is gone when she speaks, but the story, which concerns a cheap comedienne and her drunkard song-writer husband, is full of hokum. Gilbert Roland, by the way, manages to speak without an accent, but the big performance is given by John Wray, as the gangster. Advised for Talmadge admirers.

Viewing comments

New York Nights is hardly the important film that Talmadge might have needed to establish her in talkies, but it's certainly a competent and reasonably entertaining film. Contrary to modern reports, Talmadge does not speak with a Brooklyn accent, though this would have been no problem in this film's setting. She has a pleasant voice, and even sings a couple of lines, but admittedly, her best moments are silent. Her opening scene of waking up and feeling the pillow next to her and realizing her husband isn't there, or showing her gangster admirer that he should take off his hat in the presence of a lady are minor bits of business that would have been tossed off in a silent, but stand out here. The most important feature of this film is to show that there is no inherent reason that Talmadge should not have had a successful talkie career.
Print viewed: video dub from television broadcast

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Last revised, June 4, 2016