Monday, January 10, 2011

This is the Night (1932) Frank Tuttle

The night you watch this film, it will be the night for laughing.  Perhaps known more for being Cary Grant’s full feature film debut, it’s a delightful movie with witty dialogue and clever farce.  Adultery and suspicion of same are the themes that make up the plot, and they are lightly bandied about.

Grant is memorable but plays a supporting role to the other four main characters, the first of whom is Lili Damita. The French actress’ career was brief but she is superb in this role. Besides being beautiful, she puts in an effective performance, mastering two characters, and does comedy very well.

Charles Ruggles and Roland Young are incredibly funny and masters of comic timing.  Thelma Todd is visually stunning and owns the running gag, “Madam has lost her dress!” When the gag is being set up in the beginning of the film, it’s accompanied by a melody that’s frequently repeated, and a crowd chanting. It’s a bit of comic opera. Listen for that melody throughout the film, and also for the lovely “This is the Night”, composed by Sam Coslow and Ralph Rainger.

Irving Bacon is the last piece of this hectic puzzle and plays ‘Sparks,’ the chauffeur of Roland Young. He always happens to be present whenever Thelma Todd loses a piece of clothing. (Bacon’s roles were always small but he was a prolific character actor with hundred of movies to his credit.)

There are so many humorous scenes in this movie that it’s difficult to choose highlights. But nonetheless, watch for the few minutes when luggage is being loaded onto a train, and also for the drinking scene with Young and Ruggles. “This problem’s going to be very absorbing.” What are you going to absorb it with?” “Scotch, I think.”

Cinematography is very well done (Victor Milner) and noted director, Jean Negulesco, worked uncredited on the film as a technical director. 
There are several interesting back stories to mention. Lili Damita would later become better known as the first wife of Errol Flynn. And Thelma Todd died in 1935 at age 29 under mysterious circumstances, either accidental death or murder. The incident was never solved and rumors still abound about mob ties and her violent live-in boyfriend, director Roland West.

But murder, mayhem, and notoriety aside, this is an entertaining 80 minutes that will be well worth your time.

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