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Remember the Night


Remember the Night (1940)

     Although Remember the Night is a fairly heartwarming Xmastime story, it does not necessarily have a happy ending. This first pairing of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, who would make possibly the most famous film noir in history, Double Indemnity, is a story of compassion and romance but with some rather bleak moments along the way.

     Stanwyck plays Lee Leander, a thief with record who just prior to Xmas is on trial with MacMurray’s DA John Sargent against her. John moves for a continuance, however, because he knows the jury will acquit her based on the time of year. Feeling poorly about sending the young woman to an Xmas meal in the clink, John pays her bail, which results in the woman being deposited on his doorstep. He agrees to get her dinner and while they dance the couple discovers they are both from Indiana, which is where John is headed to spend the holiday. He opts to carpool the woman to her home town on the way, but when they arrive a cold reception from Lee’s mother and a glimpse into her poor upbringing leads John to take her to his home instead.

     John’s mother and aunt embrace Lee until the lawyer reveals she is a thief he plans to convict in a couple of days. That’s no problem until the two start to fall in love, and Mrs. Sargent sees Lee as a threat to her son’s honest upbringing and hard work. Ultimately, Lee pleads guilty either to avoid corrupting John or to do the honest thing, and the film ends with her in jail saying John must wait to marry her if he feels the same way once she has paid her debt to society.

     Although MacMurray would be cast against type in Double Indemnity, he plays his usual good guy in Remember the Night. Stanwyck, however, plays a similar bad girl or devious type she would also personify in The Lady Eve, which along with this film was written by Preston Sturges. She also sports the same dark hair color as she does as Eve, which is my favorite of her looks. She worked well as a blonde, but I find her particularly striking with the dark locks.

     Remember the Night is a cute, romantic holiday film with good acting, but it is not particularly memorable. Better to hold out for Double Indemnity.

Source: Robert Osborne


Palm Beach Story


The Palm Beach Story (1942)

     So ends the three-part incidental series on movies about married life. Couples in No More Ladies, Love Crazy and The Palm Beach Story consider divorce but none follow through, which is the happy ending we expect in a romantic movie. The latter, however, might offer the most illogical reason for seeking separation, one the wife claims is based on, what else, logic.

     Claudette Colbert, queen of the screwball comedy, and Joel McCrea, who has a special place in my heart for Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, are shown rushing to the altar at break-neck speed while some woman who looks like Colbert is tied up in a closet and a maid repeatedly faints. That all occurs in the opening credits, and with no explanation of what happened with those side characters, the story line begins five years down the road.

     Tom and Gerry Jeffers (wait, I’m picturing a cat and mouse all of a sudden) are about to be evicted from their Park Avenue flat because Tom cannot seem to make an income as an inventor. Luckily, an old bean magnate who is considering renting the unit decides to give Gerry a bit of his giant wad of cash to cover the rent and other odds and ends. Now that the couple is financially on the level, Gerry feels it is the proper time to mention splitting up. She thinks Tom will be better able to live the life of a penniless engineer or something without having to care for her. Plus she has grand plans to settle down with some wealthy chap she has yet to designate. Gerry flees Tom’s refusal and heads toward Palm Beach where an easy divorce can be processed. She makes her way by train, despite being broke, on the good graces of an Ale and Hound Club.

     The group of hunters manages to get drunk and shoot up the club car, which is when the train conductor opts to disconnect the unit, with Gerry’s things inside. Enter: Rudy Vallee‘s John. The gentleman offers to buy the ticket-less woman “the few things” she needs and take her by boat the remainder of the trip. She soon learns he is one of the wealthiest men alive after he buys her several thousand dollars worth of clothing, handbags and jewelry. John wants to marry Gerry, and John’s sister, the Princess Centimillia (Mary Astor), want to marry Tom once he arrives in Palm Beach (also by the generosity of the bean magnate).

     As one can plainly see, this plot is already severely complex, similar to Love Crazy. It works to convey unrealistically the emotional result of one half of a relationship fighting for love’s sake and one who does not care. Gerry thinks she is doing the practical thing for both of them, and even works her boyfriend for cash to cover Tom’s bizarre airport construction plan, but the word “love” never crosses her lips to my recall. Her affection for her husband is only ever conveyed in physical intimacy, which of course is a lousy basis for a marriage. These movies perhaps act as sequels to the endless number of films that follow the typical romance between couples that end in quick, and perhaps ill-advised, jaunts down the aisle.

     In The Palm Beach Story Astor is her most funny in the role of a princess who can ramble for hours. McCrea plays a superb serious straight man for whom one’s heart breaks while watching him pretend to be Gerry’s brother and stand idly by while another man woos her. As in Love Crazy, a snappy, easy ending allows for a happy conclusion for all parties and explains to a point what the hell happened in that opening sequence.

     The Palm Beach Story is possibly most enjoyable for its wardrobe by designer Irene, who also provided Joan Crawford’s gowns in No More Ladies. Irene masterfully supplied most of the fabulous female attire during this era and was a preference of Crawford’s. Colbert’s character most memorably fashions an outfit from a blanket and men’s pajamas, but all of her ensembles herein are not to be missed.

What to Watch: Wednesday

I wanted to make a quick note about a great, seductive comedy set to air at 8 p.m. ET tonight, Oct. 27 on TCM. The Lady Eve is a great flick with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda involving a woman scam artist who falls for her mark. Stanwyck’s character goes so far as to reappear in Fonda’s life at a later point in the movie and claim to be an entirely different person.

Check out how Stanwyck so innocently seduces Fonda in this clip. The good stuff starts about 1:30 in.

I had a great time watching this one and recommend it for anyone with time tonight. Can’t catch it? It’s back on at 3:45 Nov. 14 and 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15.

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