The Big City (lost Lon Chaney crime film; 1928)
The Big City is an American silent crime film, released on March 24th, 1928. It was one of several films directed by Tod Browning which also starred actor Lon Chaney. It is one of the many notable films destroyed in the 1965 MGM Vault Fire, along with another well known collaboration between the two, London after Midnight.
At a local nightclub, Red Watson's (Matthew L. Betz) gang is planning to rob the place while a popular singer named Tennessee sings. However, Chuck Collins (Lon Chaney), another thief, is also spotted in the club. Before Red's gang can begin their heist, two dancers wearing masks take out guns, and demand jewelry. Red finds his men tied up, and empty handed. Chuck Collins, at his cabaret hideout in Harlem, looks over the jewels along with Curly (James Murray), Blinkie (Eddie Sturgis), and his girlfriend Helen (Betty Compson). The jewels are hidden at Helen's costume shop, used as a front.
A worker at the costume shop, Sunshine (Marceline Day), is unaware of the activities going on, and nearly exposes the hidden jewels to detectives looking for Chuck. They later find out Chuck was the one to steal the jewels, and plan on confronting him at the Black Bottom cabaret. Red also visits the hideout, and demands Chuck gives him the jewels, when the police break in, arresting every one there, including Sunshine. Chuck and Curly manage to escape, and Chuck hides out with Helen. Sunshine, who is released only ten days later, finds out her father died, and finds Chuck later, who comforts her. Helen walks in on this, and becomes suspicious of the two.
Curly comes in while Chuck and Helen are sleeping, and forces himself on to Sunshine, who has previously shown interest in him. Chuck walks in on this, and knocks Curly out, who is soon attended to by Sunshine. Chuck noticeably begins questioning the robbery, and after finding religion, tells Sunshine about what had happen. Sunshine convinces Chuck to return everything stolen, which sparks and argument between him and Curly. As they argue, Red appears, and takes them himself. The two follow after Red while still arguing, before getting arrested while the jewels are recovered by "Police". Red watches this happen, and notices the two officers take off their uniforms, revealing themselves to be with Chuck. Chuck turns the Jewels into the police, and informs them he no longer will be living a life of crime. Curly proposes to Sunshine, and while Chuck is upset, is happy for them, and even proceeds to tell Helen his intention to marry her.
The movie, which consisted of eight reels of film, was lost in the infamous MGM Vault Fire of 1965. The film was shown at least late into 1929. It is unknown when the last showing of the film was before it was lost in the vault fire, though an unverified source claims it was shown in Australia in the 1950s.
A short trailer of the film has survived, though it does not contain any actual scenes of the film.
There has been a Note about the UCLA possesing the film on videotape Acoording to the LOC Silent database but that still remains unproven.