King for a Night (1933) Poster

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Mr. Versatile!!!
kidboots4 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe the reason Chester Morris didn't stand out like Clark Gable was that he was just so good and versatile he fitted into any role he was given whether it be hero ("The Big House") or villain ("Alibi"). He was the cinema's first anti hero - definitely something new to audiences of the early 30s but the charm he gave to amoral Chick Williams in "Alibi" showed female audiences at the time why the heroine was ready to walk through fire for him. In "King for a Night" he was reunited with his co star from "Playing Around" - cute Alice White. Alas Alice's career had done a turn around - she was not a big star anymore but was probably having more fun in roles she was born to play - sassy, wisecracking blondes always on the lookout for a good time!!

Chester Morris really made this role his own, a quite abrasive guy at first, Morris's warmth made you see past his brashness. Street scrapper Bud (Morris) is approached by two men (one of them George E. Stone) to turn professional boxer but he has promised his minister father (Grant Mitchell excelled at playing understanding fathers) he would quit for good. He tries his hand at a conventional job but his hot temper gets him fired (Clarence Wilson plays the disgruntled boss) and a chance meeting with a champion fighter sees him forgetting his promise to his dad and going to New York to seek fame and fortune in the ring. His abrasiveness doesn't do him any favours, he loses his manager and is back behind a soda fountain once more but he does meet cute chorine Evelyn (Alice White).

With Helen Twelvetrees billed 2nd in the cast everyone coming to the cinema knew what to expect - a high class sudsy weeper with noble Helen, lips quivering and eyes always ready to fill with tears. This movie did deliver but it was not Helen who gained your sympathy. Helen plays Bud's sister Lillian, both of them share a close bond as they are the black sheep of the family and when Lillian comes to New York for some excitement things start picking up for Bud. She starts a hot and heavy romance with Bud's new manager Walter (John Miljan) hoping to help Bud's career but when Lillian's old flame from home (Frank Albertson) comes to town, Walter feels Lillian has been playing him for a chump and threatens to expose her to Bud.

The last third of the film turns grim as Lillian kills Walter and decent and honorable Bud takes the blame. There was a heart wrenching end scene between Bud and his father, who has left his sick bed to visit. Bud's comments of "Isn't my dad a great guy" will have you reaching for tissues. Maybe because it was pre-code there was no happy ending or an attempt to make things turn out happily ever after.

It is really interesting that the two reviews here have given widely different ratings. I have given the movie 10 out of 10 - not because I'm over the top but because I really couldn't fault it.

Highly Recommended.
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This one takes some time to get going...
AlsExGal14 November 2010
...but ultimately it is worth waiting for it to build up steam. The first half hour you'll literally be asking yourself - Is this story ever going anywhere? - but indeed it does.

It's about the ne'er do well son, Bud (Chester Morris), of a respected minister, the Reverend John Williams (Grant Mitchell). Everyone seems so worried about Bud that they don't notice that daughter Lillian (Helen Twelvetrees) has a wild streak herself, mainly because she has a steady beau of which the family approves.

After knocking a professional fighter out with one punch during a crap game one day, it is proposed to Bud that he go professional. He wins one local fight, and this makes him think the whole thing is a piece of cake. When he hits the road he finds out different, and pretty soon Bud is back to earning his living as a soda jerk while lying to the folks back home about his success. Lillian follows Bud to New York, takes a job in a chorus, and takes up with a rich man who agrees to fix it so that Bud can fight his way to a championship, just as long as she agrees to be his mistress. At the same time Bud has gotten involved with a brassy chorus girl himself (Evelyn, played by Alice White). Bud wants to marry Evelyn, unaware that she is being kept by a married man who wants things to stay the way they are. How does all of this work out? I'll let you watch and find out.

I know this plot seems to tread lots of familiar precode ground, but the conclusion is truly unique, and the final scene is touching and even positive in a way you would not expect. Chester Morris is very good here as the smart guy who turns out to be not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and is at the center of this film, but not to be overlooked is the excellent job that Grant Mitchell does as Bud's father. He's very understanding of Bud, and it turns out part of his sympathy is a because of a secret about his past that he's kept from his children all of these years, one that he reveals at the end.

I'd recommend this one for fans of the precodes in general and Chester Morris in particular.
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It's a difficult sell when the lead character in a film is a jerk.
MartinHafer12 January 2020
While it is not impossible, making a good film where the leading character is a jerk is a very tall order. In a few cases, such as a biography about Hitler, it's a must as well as films like "The Godfather", but generally folks want to like and connect with the leads in a film...especially in films from the same era as "King for a Night". Unfortunately, Bud Williams (Chester Morris) is a jerk....a braggart who just loves to punch people...both inside and outside the ring.

Bud is the black sheep of the family, as his father is a respectable minister. Much of the film Bud is torn between trying (not very hard) to be respectable and trying to live his own life as a boxer. At the same time, his sister is kind of wicked....following in some of Bud's ways (though she wasn't slap-happy and violent like Bud). So, when she ends up murdering someone, Bud decides to take credit for it because his family already is embarrassed by him. Does this make a lot of sense...well, not really.

The bottom line is that when the murder occurred, which was supposed to be the big climax, I found I didn't care. Bud didn't do it but he was a jerk...and I found myself even laughing at the finale because it seemed so unreal and silly. Overall, a misfire...and the script was just not up to snuff.
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Chester Morris Takes A Dive
boblipton8 January 2020
Chester Morris is a small town boy with a temper and a right hook. His father, clergyman Grant Mitchell, loves him, but worries, of course, particularly when Morris heads off to New York to become, in his own mind, World Middleweight Boxing Champion. Morris starts a cocksure courtship of chorine Alice White. Soon his kid sister, Helen Twelvetrees shows up and joins the chorus line. Club owner and fight promoter John Miljan takes a shine to her, and woos her roughly. On the day of Morris' championship fight, Miss Twelvetrees shoots Miljan. Morris shows up seconds later, and takes the blame for the murder.

It's a well constructed and well performed pre-code movie, with a lot of depth in the script, with the loving relationship between Morris, his sister, and their father, Mitchell at the heart of it. Mitchell gets the big scene at the end, and offers a quiet, telling performance. He best known for his performances in more than a hundred movies in the 1930s and 1940s as pompous, authoritarian blowhards, but this performer had a real range. He made a couple of appearances in the silent era, but his movie career began in earnest in 1930, when he was already in his mid-fifties. Before then he had been in more than 30 Broadway productions dating back to 1902, in a wide variety of works, ranging from Shakespeare to Fitch and George M. Cohan. His last movie appearance was in 1948, and he died nine years later, a month shy of eighty-one.
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When kids go wrong, sometimes it's beyond the parent's control.
mark.waltz13 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Brother and sister Chester Morris and Helen Twelvetrees get in over their heads in this crackling melodrama that utilizes pretty much every piece of sinful material that it could get its hand on. Morris ends up a prizefighter, Twelvetrees a showgirl. Along the way, they find themselves involved with some rather shady characters, the type that their noble papa (Grant Mitchell) warned them about. It's a double dose of the prodigal son parable, with a prodigal daughter as well. Nat Pendleton and Warren Hymer among the mugs involved in Morris's circle, with platinum blonde dumbbell Alice White getting him into more hot water. But ultimately, it's his own sister who brings him down the most, showing a family loyalty that crosses the line of believability.

As far as the slug-fest this gives to the unenforced code, this movie is like a hammer tossed into a glass making factory. Morris and Twelvetrees do fine in their parts that are well written enough and detailed down to every fault and flaw. It just gets too corny in the details of the story, twisting the knife into both characters that doesn't seem to have a logical, satisfying conclusion in store. A mixture of comedy and music aids in keeping it flowing, particularly a scene in a malt shop where Morris takes on cantankerous owner Clarence Wilson. It's standard '30s crime drama where all the elements seem neatly tied together until someone came along and put the ribbon in a knot. In spite of all that, the ending is one of those sock in the jaw types that might leave your heart in a knot as well.
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Old time melodrama
Shotsy25 March 1999
Dated melodrama with a good cast. The situations and dialogue are what hurt this film. The ending is memorable though. Still worth a peek if you can find it.
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