Directed by John H Auer (also created as associate producer)
Patrolman John Kelly Jr (Gig Young), a youthful but nonetheless veteran member of the Chicago Police Department, has had enough. Feeling suffocated at home with a loving wife - whose job pays more than his - and a nagging mother-in-law, he is also fed up with the ungrateful, often foolish people he must protect. Given a new, albeit temporary, partner (Chill Wills), Kelly starts his last shift, a night-shift that will be more eventful than he could imagine - or want.
A more interesting film than it starts out being, City That Never Sleeps is the only one I know that is narrated by Chicago (the city, not the music group). That, and the circumstances of Kelly’s new partner, are a bit odd, but the rest of the movie is down to earth and, though overly dramatic at times, entertaining.
Young is the centre of the story, not in every scene but the figure that connects all the others. His character is well-written: though he complains and ridicules the residents of the city, he reveals his true feelings in his actions, subtly, as when he complains that a colleague isn’t holding an infant - whom Kelly just helped birth in a vacant lot - in the correct way, or when he arrests a con-man whose habits he knows very well. The viewer is given a real sense that Kelly has patrolled the district for a long time and is very familiar with its occupants and topography.
Also giving a good performance is Wills, as Kelly’s new partner, someone who nowadays would be called ‘laid-back’, insightful but easy-going. Edward Arnold creates a character who, while clearly criminal is some ways, is also rather sympathetic, even likeable. He had a history of filling such roles. The minor actors who play the other policemen are very natural in their parts. Tom Poston, credited here as “Thomas” Poston, has a small role as a detective.
The script is good, and interesting, giving a picture of police work in a major American city of the early 1950s. Along with the shockingly slack procedures (at least to modern sensibilities), there is much to learn incidentally. (Several policemen call someone a ‘hood’ but pronounce it with a long “oo” sound, to rhyme with food.) The writing ties everything up satisfactorily at the end.
An involving story - with a rare focus on a uniformed patrolman performing his routine duties, rather than the usual plainclothes detective - and capable performances make City That Never Sleeps an above average addition to the category of crime movies worth watching.