Rob Farr wrote:Watching NH on TCM this afternoon, it's pretty clear that the short is simply the first two reels of the feature, crudely terminated at the twenty minute point when Charley's boss wins the jackpot. And the punchline is...there is none. It is hard to believe that the fun had at the expense of the Bank Night promotions was the real reason that Bank Night was shelved. If that were the case, Neighborhood House never would have been released. Apparently, after the point where NH ends, the rest of Bank Night became a heist/gangster comedy. Even though the full feature received good reviews from the trades, my guess is that Roach simply felt reels 3-6 weren't up to snuff. In his mind, Charley couldn't carry a feature and that was that.
In Richard Ward's book on the Roach Studio, he points out that Chase's contract by the mid '30s did not allow for Roach-produced feature films in which he starred, so the very fact that Roach had let Chase go ahead and film a feature (which MGM could not have been too happy about) seems like Roach was throwing a bone to Charley at the moment when shorts were being phased out at the studio. In light of that, I'm not convinced that Roach would have completely scrapped it simply because he felt it was poor, especially if previews indicated otherwise. The conventional story for many years was that "Bank Night" bombed during previews, and while the surviving two-reeler "Neighborhood House" is no classic, it's no flop either, and reviews of the feature film reveal that previews actually went pretty well. As Rob noted, it is odd that the short was released anyway, since the Bank Night people objected to the contest's depiction in the film, which remains intact in "Neighborhood House". However, if memory serves, the feature also got in slight trouble with the production code as far as the gangster sequence that would end up being excised from the film.
It's hard to give "Neighborhood House" (or "Bank Night") a fair shake in light of it being hastily re-cut as a two-reeler, but I am still sceptical about the fate of "Bank Night" being blamed on poor quality...it may not have turned out to be a Chase masterpiece (and the chances of discovering the feature-length "Bank Night" in a vault somewhere are pretty much nil, unless it's right under a canister labelled "Hats Off"), but the cutting down of "Bank Night" was most likely due to a combination of all the above problems - and honestly, by the mid '30s, it's quite conceivable that Roach would sooner stop the release of a feature due to problems with exhibitors (those in on the Bank Night program) and issues pertaining to the production code rather than his personal assessment of the quality of a film that did rather well in previews.