Story: June (Virginia Valli) thought she had a loving and faithful husband, so she was shocked when she caught him in the middle of an indiscretion. She walked into a hotel room, only to discover her husband John (Jameson Thomas) in the middle of an extramarital affair with Dorothy (Dixie Lee). Unwilling to forgive such a betrayal, she heads to Reno to file for divorce, only to run into a roadblock. The law states she has to endure a six week waiting period before she can finalize the divorce, but she decides to make the best of the situation and have some fun in Reno. Meanwhile, John realizes he has made a mistake to end all mistakes, so he also travels to Reno. As she pursues a divorce and a fresh start, John hopes to win her back, but will the couple survive the night life in Reno?
Entertainment Value: I had a lot of fun with Night Life in Reno, much more than the general critical reaction led me to expect. This is a pre-code movie and it lives up to the reputation of the era, with a wild, sometimes scandalous narrative. The idea of infidelity, divorce, swinging, and a scorned woman deciding to live a little were all likely controversial elements at the time, but here they’re explored and more, so there’s a lot of pre-code vibes in this one. The scene where Dorothy and John wind up invited to the same double date is humorous and so are numerous other scenes, in general I found Night Life in Reno to be a brisk, fun picture. A lot of reviews claim this is dull, but I think it moves at a quick pace and clocks in at around an hour, so this is never drawn out and to me, the movie is usually on the move, heading from one set piece to the next. While there is a lot of comedy here, there’s also drama and some dark times, all packed into that short runtime. I might be an outlier in this opinion, but I had fun here and I recommend this to any fan of pre-code cinema.
This movie has a good ensemble of talent, in a collection of performances that might not spark award consideration, but are fun to watch. I always like seeing how drunks are portrayed and this movie lets us see several interpretations, which I appreciated. The star power here is Virginia Valli however, who has the lead and with good reason, as she has terrific screen presence. Valli has charisma, acting chops, and that special aura of a true movie star, so it is no surprise she carries this movie at times and to me, her presence alone is enough reason to check out this picture. I love her dialogue delivery and ability to bounce off her costars, Valli is a treat to watch here, without question. The cast also includes Jameson Thomas, Dixie Lee, Arthur Housman, and Dorothy Christy.
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