LIGHTS OF NEW YORK REVIEWED
“Lights of New York” was the first all-talking movie. Yes, The Jazz Singer came out the year before, but it was just the first feature with sound in it. The Jolson movie was only 50% in sound and Don Juan would later feature synchronized music. Lights of New York offered up a tale of a bunch of yokels suckered by bootleggers into buying a Manhattan barbershop/speakeasy. A friend from their hometown has become quite a piece in the big city, but she riles up the affections of a local gangster. What results is a semi-romantic comedy gang war over booze and bimbos.
What makes this film so historic is that its smash box-office success triggered the death of Silent Cinema. While the Depression was raging, the studios saw that their silent offerings were getting ignored by people lining up to see Lights of New York again and again. It also didn’t hurt that the film was barely an hour long. Looking back on the feature with modern eyes, I don’t see how it could’ve lasted much longer. It’s a simple tale that was novel in its ability to speak frankly about real issues taking place during Prohibition.
While this is quite the presentation for a Warner Archive DVD, something makes me think that Criterion or another outlet should’ve released this one. It feels too important for a quick release.
- Vitaphone shorts from 1928
- 1.37:1 standard definition transfer