Cast & Crew
When bootleggers Jackson and Dickson, who have been hiding out in a small upstate New York town, learn that they finally can return to New York, they try to convince Eddie Morgan and his friend, a local barber named Gene, to come with them. With a promise from Jackson and Dickson that they will help the young men establish a barbershop in the city, Eddie asks his mother, who owns the town's Morgan Hotel, to loan them $5,000 of her savings. Eddie and Gene set up the barbershop in New York but soon learn that it is merely a front for a speakeasy. Frustrated and yearning for a return to the quiet life, Gene and Eddie vow to go home as soon as they earn enough to pay back Mrs. Morgan. Eddie is in love with Kitty Lewis, his hometown sweetheart, who preceded him to New York. Now she is a performer at The Night Hawk, a nightclub owned by Hawk Miller, the notorious bootlegger who controls the speakeasy behind the barbershop. Although Hawk's longtime mistress, Molly Thompson, warns him not to pursue Kitty, he coldly dismisses her, saying that their relationship is over. After a police officer is killed in a bootlegging raid of a supply of Old Century liquor, Hawk tells his henchmen, Sam and Collins, that they must find someone to take the blame to keep the police from closing him down. They suggest that Hawk frame Eddie, thereby "killing two birds with one stone." When Eddie comes to the club to visit Kitty, Hawk summons him to his office and asks him to hide his supply of Old Century, saying that it is only temporary, in case the police raid his club. When Detective Crosby comes to the club to question Hawk and implies that he is behind the policeman's murder, Hawk says that the only person he knows who has a supply of Old Century is Eddie. A short time later, Hawk goes to the barbershop and is killed by an unknown assailant. Fearing that they will be blamed, Eddie and Gene put Hawk's body in a barber chair and rub his face with shaving cream just as Crosby arrives at the shop. After Eddie leaves, a nervous Gene pretends to shave Hawk, but the body slides from the chair, revealing its identity to Crosby. Although Gene swears that the absent Eddie is innocent, Crosby deduces that Eddie has gone to Kitty's apartment and follows him there. Crosby is about to arrest Eddie and Kitty, when Molly arrives and reveals that she killed Hawk because he no longer wanted her. As there was a reward for the killer of the policeman, dead or alive, Crosby tells Molly that things will not go badly for her. Now freed from their obligation to Hawk, Kitty and Eddie take the next train home.
When children leave home, they forget.- Mrs. Morgan
I want you guys to make him disappear.- Hawk Miller
Oh. You mean...- Sam
Take him for a ride.- Hawk Miller
The first feature film with all synchronous dialogue.
Microphones were strategically placed on sets. One noticeable microphone was in the telephone on Hawk's desk.
After the opening credits, the following title card appears: "This is a story of Main Street and Broadway-a story that might have been torn out of last night's newspaper." The next title card reads: "Main Street-fifty-five minutes from Broadway-but a thousand miles away." Portions of the songs "Where Do We Go from Here" and "Some of These Days" were performed in the nightclub scenes. Lights of New York May have been the only feature-film appearance of vaudeville song-and-dance man Harry Downing, who portrayed the "Master of Ceremonies" at The Night Hawk nightclub. Downing sang a song that was possibly entitled "At Dawnin'" in the film, but its exact title and composer have not been determined.
As advertisements for the film stated, Lights of New York was the first "100 per cent...all-talking" feature-length film. Reviews praised the use of sound. The New York Times reviewer singled out the musical numbers as the high point of the film, but, like other reviewers, found much of the dialogue stilted. A scene in the film in which "Hawk Miller" tells two of his thugs to "take him for a ride" has often been included in documentaries about the history of film.