Archive for ‘Romance’

September 8th, 2011

History Is Made At Night (1937)

History Is Made At Night History Is Made At Night History Is Made At Night
Don’t be frightened. . .we have nothing to fear anymore. Everything now seems so little, so unimportant.

*N.B. I have the worst copy of this film in the world, hence the horrifying screen caps.

Aaaaaaaand I’m back!  Sorry for the radio silence.  I would make my excuses, but they would be just that:  excuses.  Plus, this is my blog, so I don’t have to.  Ha!  In any event, I was inspired to write about this film for two reasons:  1.)  Jean Arthur’s character is named Irene, and we were just visited by a lovely lady who was similarly christened (thanks, Mother Nature!).  2.)  Awhile back, Dana Delany tweeted about it.  At the time, I was so knocked out because I’ve never heard anyone mention this film before.  Ever. Which is a shame, because it is really a wonderful, forgotten little gem.  Obviously Dana is a woman of good taste!

Frank Borzage’s History Is Made At Night is interesting in many contexts, not the least of which is that of Jean Arthur’s career trajectory.  It was released the same year as Easy Living (1937), that imitable classic of 30s screwball comedy which we have already discussed.  Yet for Arthur, it represents an entirely different challenge, one that she rises to admirably and which enriches her resume beyond the comedic archetype that modern cinephiles so narrowly remember her by.

Arthur’s Irene Vail is the abused wife of millionaire ocean liner magnate Bruce Vail (Colin Clive).  Violently possessive, Vail is a man who sees perceived betrayal in Irene’s every move and treats her as if she were one of his ships; an empty vessel whose sole purpose is to be filled with the reflection of his desires.  When Irene finally decides to leave her husband, she runs away to Paris (cinematic city of dreams!), with Vail in dogged pursuit.  There, he concocts a scheme to forestall the divorce settlement by orchestrating a fake rendezvous between her and his valet.

Unfortunately for Vail, an interloper by the name of Paul Dumond (Charles Boyer) stumbles upon the scene, and in order to save the damsel in distress, stages a robbery undercover of which he spirits Irene away.  Outwitted, Vail kills the valet and plots to frame Paul, whom he rightly suspects is no thief, and wrongly assumes is his wife’s lover.   From this tragedy, the romantic spectacle at hand is born. . .

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February 28th, 2011

I Love You Again (1940)

I Love You Again I Love You Again I Love You Again
You be careful, madam, or you’ll turn my pretty head with your flattery.
I often wished I could turn your head – on a spit, over a slow fire.

Happy (VERY) Belated Valentine’s Day, dear readers! This year for Hallmark’s most important holiday, I wanted to watch something a bit off the beaten rom-com path without delving into territory too arcane. When I asked myself what elements I felt were important for an enjoyable romantic comedy experience, I came up with a pithy list of adjectives that included “sexy” and “sophisticated.” Who better personifies such a combination than that comedic dream team of William Powell and Myrna Loy? Answer: NO ONE.

So, I queued up W.S. Van Dyke’s 1940 love letter, I Love You Again, in which Powell plays a stuffy, by-the-book teetotaler named Larry Wilson. Loy is along for the ride as his suffering wife. When Larry is knocked unconscious after a decidedly screwball accident (during a pleasure cruise, one too many grape juice and gingerales has him jumping overboard to save a drunken man), he awakens with amnesia and the revelation that 10 years prior, he used to be a con man named George Carey. Apparently the only thing that Wilson and Carey have in common is their attraction to Kay Hijinks ensue.

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December 19th, 2010

Midnight (1939)

Midnight Midnight Midnight

Every Cinderella has her midnight.

First order of business: my apologies for the absence of sustainable cinematic content over the past few months. Real life, holiday life, and some other lives in between have intruded on my blogging duties. But hopefully that’s long past now, and we can get back to “business as usual.”

And on that note, there’s no business like show business, so let us commence discussion of Mitchell Leisen’s 1939 production of Midnight. Interestingly enough, this is a film that lays claim to a screenwriting credit from Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, the very same pair that brought us such gems as A Foreign Affair and Sunset Blvd. While Midnight does not even approach the brilliance of those titles, perhaps in part because it is an adaptation as opposed to an original story, there is still much to enjoy and dissect here.

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August 22nd, 2010

Dodsworth (1936)

Dodsworth Dodsworth Dodsworth
Love has got to stop someplace short of suicide

True story!  My personal copy of Dodsworth was bought from a local video store (remember them!?) that went out of business.  When I arrived at the sale, the “Classics” shelf had been picked clean.  I mean, every single film was gone, except for Dodsworth. Someone even purchased Anatole Litvak’s Mayerling (with Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux), so you know we weren’t dealing with average video clientele!

Anyway, despite my giving it a good home, the sight of Dodsworth sitting alone, sad and dejected, still haunts me  (Go on.  Say it.  “If that’s all that haunts you, you’ve lived a charmed life!”).  Mainly, because I never thought we’d reach a point where overlooking anything of William Wyler’s would be commonplace behavior.  But I suppose it has, since hardly anyone talks about this film, despite its having been a 1936 blockbuster and recipient of 6 Oscar nominations.

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