Remember the Night (1940)

Remember the Night (1940), directed by Mitchell Leisen.

A comedy setup that turns romantic and sentimental. Another title for the "Christmas movie" collection, and a pretty good one. To me, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck suggest Double Indemnity (1944), but they made four films together.

Stanwyck is on trial for shoplifting jewelry. It's not the first time and she seems philosophical. Her showman attorney pulls out all the stops in a histrionic attempt to get her off. MacMurray is a wisecracking prosecutor who, improbably, bails her out because he doesn't want her sitting in jail while the trial is continued over Christmas break.

Of course, he then can't get rid of her. Since they are both from Indiana he gives her a lift so she can visit her mother for the holidays. We have a comic episode with WPA roadwork, a farmer with a shotgun and a not very scrupulous justice of the peace. It turns weepy when we get to her home town. Says her mother: "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

So he takes her on to his own people, an eccentric, loving clan who take her in and give her an old-fashioned Christmas, including a barn dance. She's changing, considering whether she has a chance to reform her life, maybe fall in love. But she still has to face the music back in the city. Even if he were willing to throw the case against her, would that be the right thing to do?

In one movie we get the city vs country rivalry from both directions. At first it is the city folks coping with hostile bumpkins, but then we see that both of our leads are country folk who like the simple pleasure of life. The country house has no electricity, which was still true of about 10% of the rural locations in 1940. (Much like me and high speed internet today).

Writer Preston Sturges slips in a suggestive interchange when the new lovers are returning to the city via Niagara Falls:


He: You know where could go on our honeymoon? Niagara Falls.

She: We're in Niagara Falls now.

[Kiss. Fade to waterfall].

Fred 'Snowflake' Toones is the comically stereotyped black manservant in the city. He actually says "yowza". He made a couple hundred films and was a railway porter about fifty times.

Edith Head costumes.

[Later: available on Blu-ray].