Sunday, September 10, 2017

One New York Night (1935)

One New York Night is a 1935 mystery-comedy directed by Jack Conway and starring Franchot Tone, Una Merkel, Conrad Nagel, Harvey Stephens, Steffi Duna, and Henry Kolker. The film's tagline was "Fun - Romance - Mystery - It's all of these rolled into one merrily exciting entertainment!"

We are introduced to several characters in the lobby of the Hotel Diplomat and a man named Mr. Carlisle appears to be involved with everyone. A couple approaches Mr. Carlisle demanding that he right the wrong he has done them. It appears that Carlisle has backed out of a stock deal and hurt the finances of a former partner. A well-dressed man named Kent works for Carlisle and agrees to meet him in room 309 later that evening. A gorgeous countess is also there to meet with Carlisle, but is desperate that her fiancée not find out. A man wanders around the lobby with his invisible dog looking for his invisible plane. Two men watch the comings and goings of the Hotel Diplomat until they notice the "tip off" that indicates a deal is on. All the while, Phoebe (Una Merkel) witnesses everything while running a very busy hotel switchboard.

Amidst this Grand Hotel-esque bustle, Foxhall Ridgeway (Franchot Tone) arrives. Old Foxy is a Wyoming rancher there for a "room with lots of windows and a shower." When asked his business, Foxhall answers "women." Foxhall is frustrated when Phoebe bumps into him and then blames him for it. Soon though, the rancher and the switchboard operator become fast friends. Foxy tells Phoebe that he came to the hotel in a "very friendly spirit" and that he was there in New York to "corral a girl." In addition to the countess whom he briefly spies in the lobby, Foxy has three good wifely prospects written down in a notepad and asks Phoebe to get them on the phone. Excited, Foxy remarks, "I've been in New York twenty minutes, here I am going right into action. Pretty good, I say!"

Prospect 1 is married. Prospect 2 is expecting a baby. Prospect 3 has disconnected her phone.

Phoebe can nearly hide her contentment. Foxy is oblivious to her attraction to him, because to him, blondes are just "alright," not "dynamic" like brunettes. With a slow cowboy drawl and large eyes that express his incredulity at the chaos of the big city, Franchot plays Foxy perfectly. It's a role that, had it been made in the late 30's, could've ended up a Jimmy Stewart vehicle. But I'm so glad it's Franchot's. He blends the naïve cowboy persona with that of a man who, when faced with a murder in an adjoining room, takes charge of the situation. And that's exactly what happens. Mr. Carlisle's body is discovered and then mysteriously vanishes. When he tries to alert others, Foxhall is either ignored or threatened with silence. His only sidekick in the investigation is Phoebe, who abandons her seat at the switchboard to help Foxy track down the murderer.

Although he is quick in action, old Foxy still can't believe he's gotten mixed up in this mess. In that slow, warm drawl, Foxy protests, "I didn't come to New York to look for bodies and bracelets! I came here to find a girl. And I haven't even had my supper yet." Of course, viewers can see that Foxy is unknowingly telling this to the perfect girl for him, Phoebe. Eager to return to his ranch, he proudly boasts, "Say if all my cows were lined up nose to tail, they'd reach all the way from Columbus Circle to Albany."

Both Franchot and Una's characters are tremendously endearing and you find yourself rooting for them to find the killer and for Foxy to realize that Phoebe is the girl for him. The film is short (just 71 minutes) and there's a chance you'll figure out the murderer before Foxhall, but it is a truly enjoyable little whodunit—more for the fun teaming of Una and Franchot than anything.

One New York Night is not yet available on DVD, but it does play on TCM from time to time and has occasionally popped up on Youtube.

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