For Reel

One Night at Susie’s (1930)
June 11, 2016, 7:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Francis Dillon
2.5 Stars
One Night at Susie'sBillie Dove enjoyed a meteoric rise in the late 1920s before her career came to an end shortly after a highly publicized affair with Howard Hughes. Although One Night at Susie’s allows audiences to see her in one of her last films, the woman the picture takes its name from is actually played by Helen Ware, memorably bringing to life a tough, no-nonsense boarding house owner. In an early scene, she has a group of gangsters at her service, demanding that they put their arms in her possession. Why she has such power over these men remains a mystery, but the dynamic is a compelling one. Interestingly enough, Susie is gobsmacked to find out that her foster son (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) wishes to marry a chorus girl (Dove), suggesting an immorality that sinks below even her usual crowd! Those interested in women’s pictures of the pre-Code era will delight in both Ware’s performance and the remarkable scene in which Fairbanks Jr. discovers that Dove has murdered a producer who attempted to rape her. Much of what follows are the familiar, creaky proceedings of a 1930 melodrama, although director of photography Ernest Haller contributes some striking images. In one advanced special effects scene, Haller employs a clever use of rear projection to make it look like the camera tracks from an elevator shaft and onto the destination floor.

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