Review: So Much Queerness in 'Night After Night'

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 29, 2021

Review: So Much Queerness in 'Night After Night'

There is so much queerness to enjoy in the pre-Code crime-drama-farce, "Night After Night," released in 1932, that the fact that it was Mae West's screen debut is just the perfect cherry on this gangster/love story/comic concoction.

Joe Anton (a charming George Raft in his first leading role) is a speakeasy owner with a shady past, trying to better himself by hiring Mabel Jellyman (Alison Skipworth) to give him lessons in speech and manners. Joe falls for a troubled socialite (Constance Cummings) who lost all her money in the crash of '29. Joe also happens to be currently dating Iris (Wynne Gibson), whose reaction to his new crush turns homicidal. Enter Joe's old flame, Maudie Triplett (West), to truly complicate things and add a lot of zazz to the narrative. And I haven't even mentioned the mobster portion of the plot...

Directed with verve and expedience by Archie Mayo ("The Petrified Forest"), this 1932 delight is smartly written by Vincent Lawrence (the 1934 "Cleopatra") and an uncredited Joseph L. Mankiewicz ("All About Eve," the 1963 "Cleopatra"), adapted from a Cosmopolitan story by Louis Bromfield. West contributed much of her own dialogue, which would explain why her lines are the funniest and the most iconic ("Goodness had nothing to do with it.")

The only flaw I could find with "Night After Night" was the abrupt ending. The rest is naughty (sometimes gay) fun!

Raft's interplay with his right-hand man, Leo (a hilarious Roscoe Karns), oozes gayness, with Karns often acting like a jealous boyfriend. "Nobody ever kisses me," he complains, looking sadly and lovingly at Raft.

And West has her own share of queer moments, especially when she ends up in bed with Skipworth and shamelessly flirts with her before and afterwards. The dialogue leads us to believe that something more than sleep happened in that bed.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is impressive, especially considering the film's age. The Audio Commentary by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson proves informative and entertaining.

Mae West made only 12 films in her lifetime. This gem introduced her to moviegoers, in a grand manner fitting a larger-than-life star, and began a requited love affair between a legend and her adoring public that would continue until her death.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson

  • Theatrical Trailer

    "Night After Night" is available on Blu-ray June 29, 2021.

    Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide ( and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.