Night Waitress (1936)

Helen Roberts (Margot Grahame) is a San Francisco waitress working at a dockside restaurant. She’s also an ex-con on probation.

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(Image via Rare Film)

Determined to make a better life for herself, Helen just wants to work and stay out of trouble. When she meets persistent schooner captain Martin Rhodes (Gordon Jones),  however, his charms may lead her into trouble.

Night Waitress was directed by Lew Landers. The screenplay was written by Marcus Goodrich from a story by Golda Draper.

Night Waitress is a fairly standard low-budget crime story that makes for decent viewing but, if made a few years earlier as a pre-code, could have been a lot more fun.

Still, there’s at least a little fun to be had here. The film has a fast pace, which is suited to the run-time of just less than an hour.

The restaurant at which Helen works, Torre’s Fish Palace, is run by “Papa Torre” (Billy Gilbert) — a man who tries his best to keep the waitresses out of trouble, by warning them against such dangers as wearing too much make-up or perfume!

For all of the preaching he does to his waitresses, Torre seems to care far less about the morals of his customer base, which is full of sleazy men. Helen is fed up with them, and when we first meet him, Martin is one of the most determinedly sleazy sleazeballs.

It’s hard to completely hate Martin, though, because Margot Grahame and Gordon Jones have pretty nice chemistry. I found Martin off-putting in many scenes but in the film’s lightest moments, he and Helen make a fine pair! Someone go back in time and put these two actors in a rom-com!

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(Image via Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet)

Individually, both give fine performances. At times, Grahame seems a bit polished for a supposed ex-con, but at the same time, this was kind of refreshing to see. The film doesn’t look down on the character for her past or social class.

Among the supporting cast, keep an eye out for none other than Anthony Quinn in a small, uncredited, early role as a gangster! This was one of five films released in his first on-screen year.

Night Waitress isn’t a bad little crime B-movie. It’s a decent watch, if you’re into discovering the forgotten titles of the genre and have an hour to kill.

 

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