Norma Shearer in Lady of the Night (1925)



(director: Monta Bell; screenwriters: Alice D.G. Miller/based on a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns; cinematographer: Andre Barlatier; editor: Ralph Dawson; music: Jon C. Mirsalis; cast: Norma Shearer (Molly Helmer/Florence Banning), Malcolm McGregor (David Page), George K. Arthur (“Chunky” Dunn), Dale Fuller (Miss Carr), Fred Esmelton (Judge Banning); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis B. Mayer; MGM; 1925-silent)

“Stars the 22-year-old Norma Shearer in a dual role.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Monta Bell’s (“Torrent”/”The Snob”) pleasing romantic melodrama stars the 22-year-old Norma Shearer in a dual role, that shows women with a new freedom in relationships. The up-and-coming actress who would win an Oscar in 1930 for “The Divorcee” plays rich girl Florence Banning, whose father is the well-connected Judge Banning (Fred Esmelton) and who graduates from finishing school, and poor girl Molly Helmer, whose father is a convict and she grows up as an orphan in a reform school. They both depart school on the same day. Joan Crawford, who looks a lot like Shearer, plays her double in scenes they were together in but with her back turned to the camera. These two fine actresses would play together as equals in the smash hit of 1939 “The Women,” a bitchy comedy drama that had an all-girl cast. The “lady of the Night” is based on a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns and is written by Alice D.G. Miller.

After reform school Molly returns to the slum she grew up in and goes out with her old pal Chunky Dunn (George K. Arthur), whom she doesn’t love but gets along well with him. At the local dance hall a patron tries to get fresh with Molly and when Chunky can’t protect her, David Page (Malcolm McGregor) comes to the rescue knocking out the intruder. He’s an aspiring inventor whose workshop is down the block from the dance hall. David shows a romantic interest in the vamp looking Molly. He invents an automatic safe-opening device and on Chunky’s suggestion intends to sell it to burglars until Molly advises him to sell it instead to a bank. David sells it to a bank where Judge Banning sits on the board of directors and thereby meets his lovely daughter Florence, who looks like Molly except dresses and acts old-fashioned. The two fall in love with each other and when Molly realizes it, gracefully steps aside so David can marry Florence. Molly, though not in love with Chunky, goes West with him and marries him–saying at least she’ll have some laughs.