Night Life of the Gods

Last updated
Night Life of the Gods
Directed by Lowell Sherman
Produced by
Written byBarry Trivers
Based onThe Night Life of the Gods
by Thorne Smith
Cinematography John J. Mescall [1]
Distributed byUniversal
Release date
  • March 11, 1935 (1935-03-11)
Running time
73–75 or 80 minutes

Night Life of the Gods (also known as Thorne Smith's Night Life of the Gods) is a 1935 American fantasy film released by Universal Pictures. Based on a 1931 novel by Thorne Smith, the film was directed by Lowell Sherman and starred Alan Mowbray as a scientist who devises a ray that can turn people to stone and bring statues to life. [2]


For many years believed to be a lost film, a 35mm print surfaced in the 1980s in a donation to the UCLA Film and Television Archive. [1]


Eccentric scientist Hunter Hawk (Alan Mowbray) nearly blows himself up during an experiment. When he comes to, he finds that he is successful at last: he has created a ring that can turn living creatures into statues as well as bring statues to life. After testing the device on his dog, he makes statues of his disagreeable family; only his favorite niece, Daphne (Peggy Shannon), is spared. Hawk and Daphne celebrate the petrification of their relatives with a bottle of wine after which Daphne goes off to meet her boyfriend Cyril (Douglas Fowley). Hawk takes a drunken stroll through the cornfield where he encounters the gardener, Old Man Turner (Ferdinand Gottschalk), who turns out to be a leprechaun. Turner takes Hawk home to meet his daughter, Meg (Florine McKinney), and the two hit it off. They embark on a spree, turning other disagreeable people into statues left and right. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hawk brings statues of Greek gods to life. Hawk and Meg take the gods on a whirlwind tour of the modern world embodied by Manhattan resulting in more mayhem, the disillusionment of the gods, and Hawk's eventual weariness with what he has wrought. Since he and Meg wish to be together, and concluding that he is certain to be locked up as a madman, he turns the ring on Meg and himself. Hawk then awakens in an ambulance and discovers that the entire evening was the result of head injuries sustained in the explosion at the beginning of the story.



In March 1934 Carl Laemmle, Jr. purchased the rights to Thorne Smith's popular 1931 humorous fantasy The Night Life of the Gods. [3] [lower-alpha 1] While the plot remained essentially the same, the sexual humor was vitiated by Code considerations. The ending, too, was changed by adding the "it was only a dream" device. [1]

At first, Lowell Sherman himself was considered for the lead role, but he suffered from laryngitis [5] and lost his voice. Also considered for the role of Hunter Hawk was Edward Everett Horton, but Mowbray was signed in July. [1] A well-known character actor throughout his career, this was one of Mowbray's few leading roles. [6] Among the actors portraying gods, "Crash" Corrigan appears as Apollo (credited as Raymond Benard). Pat DiCicco made his only known screen appearance as Perseus (credited as Pat De Cicco); DiCicco was better known as a powerful Hollywood agent and for his brief, troubled marriage to Thelma Todd.

Filming took place between August 13 and October 15, 1934.

Lowell Sherman became ill while shooting Night Life of the Gods and it would be his last finished work; he died of double-pneumonia in December 1934, just days into directing Becky Sharp . [1] [lower-alpha 2]


The film was released nationally March 11, 1935. In general it received mixed reviews, some critics finding it funny in parts but drawing an unfavorable comparison to the popular novel. New York Times critic Andre Sennwald found it only "moderately entertaining", but noted that the production was at a disadvantage because of the "current cinema morality". [9] Other critics observed that fans of farcical comedy would be entertained, such as Photoplay's brief review that commented, "If you are the type who has tried to take a cow home in an elevator ... this is your picture." [10]


  1. Smith was the leading author in the genre and had recently come to Hollywood as a script writer for M-G-M. [4] He died in June 1934 before this film went into production.
  2. Becky Sharp went into production December 11, beginning with color testing and rehearsals; [7] Sherman was taken to the hospital December 25 and died three days later. [8] Rouben Mamoulian took over directing duties on Sharp and began shooting from scratch, [7] making Night Life Sherman's final released work.

Related Research Articles

Thorne Smith an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction

James Thorne Smith, Jr. was an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction under the byline Thorne Smith. He is best known today for the two Topper novels, comic fantasy fiction involving sex, much drinking and ghosts. With racy illustrations, these sold millions of copies in the 1930s and were equally popular in paperbacks of the 1950s.

<i>Becky Sharp</i> (film) 1935 film by Rouben Mamoulian, Lowell Sherman

Becky Sharp is a 1935 American historical drama film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Miriam Hopkins who was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Other supporting cast were William Faversham, Frances Dee, Cedric Hardwicke, Billie Burke, Alison Skipworth, Nigel Bruce, and Alan Mowbray.

Alan Mowbray actor

Alan Mowbray MM was an English stage and film actor who found success in Hollywood.

<i>Housesitter</i> 1992 film by Frank Oz

Housesitter is a 1992 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Oz, written by Mark Stein, and starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. The premise involves a woman with con-artist tendencies who worms her way into the life of a reserved architect by claiming to be his wife.

Douglas Fowley actor (1911-1998)

Douglas Fowley was an American movie and television actor in more than 240 films and dozens of television programs, He is probably best remembered for his role as the frustrated movie director Roscoe Dexter in Singin' in the Rain (1952), and for his regular supporting role as Doc Holliday in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. He is the father of rock and roll musician and record producer Kim Fowley.

<i>The Little Colonel</i> (1935 film) 1935 film by David Butler

The Little Colonel is a 1935 American comedy drama film directed by David Butler. The screenplay by William M. Conselman was adapted from the children's novel of the same name by Annie Fellows Johnston, originally published in 1895. It focuses on the reconciliation of an estranged father and daughter in the years following the American Civil War. The film stars Shirley Temple, Lionel Barrymore, Evelyn Venable, John Lodge, Bill Robinson, and Hattie McDaniel.

Frank Reicher German actor

Frank Reicher was a German-born American actor, director and producer. He is best known for playing Captain Englehorn in the 1933 film King Kong.

<i>Reckless</i> (1935 film) 1935 American musical film directed by Victor Fleming

Reckless is a 1935 American musical film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Franchot Tone and May Robson. David O. Selznick wrote the story, using the pseudonym "Oliver Jeffries", basing it loosely on the scandal of the 1931 marriage between torch singer Libby Holman and tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds, and his death by a gunshot wound to the head.

Lowell Sherman American actor and film director

Lowell J. Sherman was an American actor and film director. In an unusual practice for the time, he served as both actor and director on several films in the early 1930s. He later turned exclusively to directing. Having scored huge successes directing the films She Done Him Wrong and Morning Glory, he was at the height of his career when he died after a brief illness.

Wheeler Oakman American actor

Wheeler Vivian Oakman was an American film actor.

Billie Seward American actress

Billie Seward was a 1930s motion picture actress from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Maidel Turner Film, stage actress

Maidel Turner was an American movie actress featured in almost 60 films between 1913 and 1951, beginning as the leading lady of The Angel of the Slums (1913) and becoming a comical character actress as she aged. Prominent sound films in which she appeared include The Raven (1935), Palm Springs (1936), and State of the Union (1948).

Public Hero ﹟1 is a 1935 American crime film starring Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, Chester Morris and Joseph Calleia. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production was directed by J. Walter Ruben.

<i>The Wedding Night</i> 1935 American romantic film by King Vidor

The Wedding Night is a 1935 American romantic drama film directed by King Vidor and starring Gary Cooper and Anna Sten. Written by Edith Fitzgerald and based on a story by Edwin H. Knopf, the film is about a financially strapped novelist who returns to his country home in Connecticut looking for inspiration for his next novel and becomes involved with a beautiful young Polish woman and her family. The film was produced by Samuel Goldwyn and filmed at Samuel Goldwyn Studios from early November to early December 1934. It was released in the United States on March 8, 1935.

William L. Thorne was an American film actor.

<i>The Casino Murder Case</i> (film) 1935 film by Edwin L. Marin

The Casino Murder Case is a 1935 American mystery film starring Paul Lukas and Alison Skipworth. It was directed by Edwin L. Marin from a screenplay by Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by S. S. Van Dine. It was the ninth film in the Philo Vance film series.

Charles Coleman (actor) American film and television actor

Charles Pearce Coleman was an Australian-born American character actor of the silent and sound film eras.

<i>The Pursuit of Happiness</i> (1934 film) 1934 American comedy film directed by Alexander Hall

The Pursuit of Happiness is a 1934 American historical comedy film directed by Alexander Hall and written by Stephen Morehouse Avery, J.P. McEvoy and Virginia Van Upp. The film stars Francis Lederer, Joan Bennett, Charlie Ruggles, Mary Boland, Walter Kingsford, Minor Watson and Adrian Morris. The film was released on September 28, 1934, by Paramount Pictures.

Men Without Names is a 1935 American crime film directed by Ralph Murphy and written by Kubec Glasmon and Howard J. Green. The film stars Fred MacMurray, Madge Evans, David Holt, Lynne Overman, Elizabeth Patterson, J. C. Nugent, Grant Mitchell and John Wray. The film was released on June 29, 1935, by Paramount Pictures.

Transient Lady is a 1935 American drama film directed by Edward Buzzell, written by Edward Buzzell, Arthur Caesar and Harvey F. Thew, and starring Gene Raymond, Henry Hull, Frances Drake, June Clayworth, Clark Williams and Edward Ellis. It was released on March 4, 1935, by Universal Pictures.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Weaver, Tom; Brunas, Michael; Brunas, John (1990). Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931–1946 (2nd ed.). McFarland. pp. 115–120. ISBN   978-0-7864-9150-6.
  2. "Night Life of the Gods". Catalog of Feature of Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  3. "Universal Buys Fantasy Novel". The Film Daily . LXV (73): 7. March 29, 1934. Retrieved 2015-03-15 via Internet Archive.
  4. Eder, Bruce. "Thorne Smith". New York Times. Biography. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  5. "Lowell Sherman, Actor, Director, Dies in Hollywood". Motion Picture Herald. 118 (1): 44. January 5, 1935. Retrieved 2015-03-15 via Internet Archive.
  6. Mank, Gregory W. (2007). Hollywood's Hellfire Club. Feral House. p. 153. ISBN   978-1-932595-24-6.
  7. 1 2 "Becky Sharp". Catalog of Feature of Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-09-16.
  8. "Lowell Sherman, 46, Dead of Pneumonia". Motion Picture Daily. 36 (152). December 29, 1934. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-09-16 via Internet Archive.
  9. Sennwald, Andre (February 23, 1935). "Night Life of the Gods". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-15.
  10. "Night Life of the Gods". Photoplay. XLVII (4): 94. March 1935. Retrieved 2015-03-15 via Internet Archive.