YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 28: City That Never Sleeps (1953)

You don’t hear much about City That Never Sleeps (1953), and that’s a real shame. It’s got a lot of good stuff, from great use of shadows to voiceover narration (okay, it’s the city talking, but whatever).

It’s also chock full of dark, cynical, and duplicitous characters, including a magician who has turned to a life of crime, and a former actor who can only find work dressing up as a “mechanical man” and performing in a department store window — from which he observes much of the film’s dastardly deeds.

And it’s got Marie Windsor. Enough said?


These sunny smiles belie the film’s darkness.

Gig Young stars as Johnny Kelly, a disillusioned cop who plans to quit his job, leave his wife, and take off with his mistress (Mala Powers), who works as a nightclub dancer. The action takes place on a single night in Chicago, and weaves together a spate of intertwining stories of greed, larceny, and desperation.


Johnny’s wife is played by Paula Raymond, who you may recognize from her featured roles in Devil’s Doorway (1950) and The Tall Target (1951), as well as a string of TV series. Her career was derailed in 1962, when she was nearly killed in a car crash, but she was able to return to acting after extensive facial surgery. She later landed a job on the NBC soaper Days of Our Lives, but she was written off the show when she fell on the set and broke her ankle. Over the next two decades, she would break both hips and her shoulder in two other accidents. She started working on her memoirs in 1999 (I Was Born Right, Where Did I Go Wrong or The Misadventures of a Dumb Dame) but, sadly, she died in 2003 before it was finished.

Bad luck seemed to follow Paula Raymond like a shadow.

The film’s screenplay comes courtesy of one Steve Fisher, a name that may not ring any bells, but it should. He was also responsible for the words of several other noirs, including Lady in the Lake (1947), Dead Reckoning (1947), and I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (1948). He also wrote the novel, I Wake Up Screaming, which was made into a movie by the same name in 1941 and remade as Vicki in 1953. Not only that, but he was nominated for an Oscar for original story for the Cary Grant war picture Destination Toyko (1943). Now you know.


Join me for my next YouTube recommendation on Day 29 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 28, 2020.

2 Responses to “YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 28: City That Never Sleeps (1953)”

  1. The voiceover narrator is Chill Wills!

    I wonder why Chicago wasn’t the location for more film noirs – it was a big city with mean streets. Maybe it was too concrete, too real. Los Angeles had the advantage of being a city of dreams.

    • I did not know that about Chill Willis, Jamie! Thank you for this! I totally agree that more noirs should have been set in Chicago (especially since I’m a native!). I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the locations and hearing the names of real streets there.

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