The fifth in Tom Gale’s series of Adapted-Just-In-Time-for-Christmas movie posters!
What is the city that never sleeps? Various cities around the world have claimed the title including Las Vegas, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, and Bangkok. But the one that most Americans know by that title is our own New York City, The Big Apple itself. Of course a city of any size can realistically lay claim to the idea that it never rolls up the pavements, but NYC is somewhat unique in its wide variety and scope of things to do around the clock. More than just a corner pharmacy stays open 24 hours in that town. New York’s insomnia has been referenced in song (Frank Sinatra) and cinema (1924 The City That Never Sleeps directed by Jame Cruze). Even as early as 1912, the phrase was popularly connected to New York enough to be referenced in a Fort Wayne News article describing the city’s grand new gas plant that would also make it the city that never grew dark.
So it’s a bit of a surprise that the 1953 film of that name, starring Gig Young and Edward Arnold, referred not to NYC but to Chicago. No other connection between The Windy City and that moniker seems to exist which may suggest that the film wasn’t the biggest box office smash of 1953. If you are interested, two films tied that year for the biggest box office grosses. They were The Robe and Peter Pan. Reviews that I found were not very complimentary, calling it at best “whimsical” and at worst, “hardly more than adequate”. So it’s not a memorable example of the noir genre of gritty realism, dirty urban settings, and despicable characters. The story follows a cop who is weary with the world through which he wanders listlessly and planning to make a break to a new life (which the audience immediately knows is an act of shallowness that will haunt him should he act on his impulses). As luck, or fate, would have it, his intended last night on the job turns out to lead him to self-realization (much like the far more noble George Bailey of It’s a Wonderful Life) and a reaffirmation of the seed of goodness that had been push down deep into his heart.
This season seems to be one time of year, no matter which of the seven major holidays are being celebrated, when redemption and forgiveness are traditionally looked to for the re-invigoration of tired hearts and souls. That every story of this season has, as its villain, an unrepentant humbug who must first learn to forgive himself so he can accept the forgiveness of others, shows the remarkable resilience of this theme in western culture and certainly in modern times. Most of these antagonists are not evil but simply those who have forgotten what is important in life. It is the nature and indeed the reason for this season to serve as a reminder of just that. It is no mistake, I think, that the Christmas season begins with Thanksgiving, for how can we truly give and forgive without first understanding how thankful we must be for what we have? Even George Bailey forgot how much he truly had because he became too wrapped up in what he had “lost”.
City That Never Sleeps may not be a great tale, but even in its mediocrity, it can serve to remind us that redemption is simply a matter of viewing life as a collection of gains rather than as a collection of losses. Meaning cannot be imposed upon us as Ebeneezer Scrooge discovered; the ghosts of Christmas did nothing but to show him what was already all around him so that he, by his own volition, could discover what was inside. The dark and gritty landscape of the big city may seem impossible to navigate, but in truth, everywhere you turn is a door behind which is a warm, well-lit room waiting to welcome and forgive. And the first door, is always your own.
Now go to sleep.
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