Favorite Scene Theatre: Night Shift (1982)
Since I’m in an 80’s kind of comedy mode, I thought it apropos to revisit an iconic scene from NIGHT SHIFT, directed by Ron Howard and written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell from the fabled movie year of 1982. I saw this at the now defunct Madison Square Four Cinema on a double feature of FUNERAL HOME (a Canadian tax shelter flick if there ever was) and something else I’ve forgotten that I feared would be worse. I tried to convince Jay to see NIGHT SHIFT next door as I’d heard good things despite the chintzy “wacky” poster. He didn’t want to go and got mad that I did. A few minutes later, Jay entered and sat a few seats away, pouting. Soon we were all laughing. As we walked out of the theater, he said, “You were right.” We both loved NIGHT SHIFT.
I was hooked immediately by the neon New York vibe of the Burt Bacharach theme song by Quarterflash. It’s the last of the 1970’s cinematic Manhattan, replete with 42nd Street tenement taint. And though Henry Winkler had not become a movie star after HEROES and THE ONE AND ONLY, he found a perfect role in a hit film as Chuck Lumley, the milquetoast morgue clerk whose night life is turned upside down by fellow employee Billy “Blaze” Blazejowski, his party polar opposite, as they become semi-reluctant gentle pimps. Winkler is far from the Fonz and his arc from flower to lion is sweet and satisfying as is his relationship with Shelly Long, more than holding her own and very sexy. There are also funny character bits from Vincent Schiavelli, Joe Spinell and Bobby Di Ciccio (“That Barny Rubble. What an actor.”). Howard likes a good ensemble.
As I’ve stated before, there’s only a few times where one witnesses A Star Is Born onscreen and I would include Michael Keaton’s entrance here as one of those, albeit in a minor key. There’s no doubt he’s the real comedic lifeforce in NIGHT SHIFT and he deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Blazejowski is a unique character whose almost every line is quotable. Along with Bill Murray, Keaton ushered in the age of the post-modern smart-ass and I can still recall the pleasure of this moment and the general goodwill vibes of what is probably my favorite Ron Howard film. Is this a great scene or what?