Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 21 December 2012

History is made at night

Lubitsch's 1940 THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER was a terrific Christmas discovery a few years ago, this year its HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT, 1937, which is often considered the most romantic movie of all, and I can quite see why. It may be a dated melodrama which begins like a screwball comedy and then veers into dramatic situations while ending up like another TITANIC (just 25 years after that ship sank) with the appearance of an iceberg and a foggy transatlantic crossing, but Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer show an amazing chemistry in this appealing romance set among ritzy socialites in both Paris and New York.
I was surprised to read that Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur never made another film together as they seem so right here. Frank Borzage specialised in romantic dramas and here he blends romantic drama, comedy and even tragedy into a perfect film. The first Borzage I saw was a television screening decades ago of THE MORTAL STORM and it was one of those films that remained with me, like the first time I saw HOLIDAY or ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS or LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN on tv. His MAN'S CASTLE in 1934 is also a perfect romance, with Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young, and I still have his THREE COMRADES from 1938 to watch, another Margaret Sullavan starrer. And I now realise I have Boyer and Irene Dunne in LOVE AFFAIR to watch, as well as Boyer with Dietrich in GARDEN OF ALLAH, as well as Marlene in DESIRE and ANGEL .... some delicious 1930s treats coming up after Christmas then ...  Back to HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT:

An expensive production by producer Walter Wanger, the cast also includes Baron Frankenstein Colin Clive (his last role, he died that year, 1937) as the demented husband Bruce Vail who will stop at nothing to get back his wife (Jean Arthur in a Carole Lombard type role) who has divorced him (we are not supposed to ask why she married him...).
A plot to catch her in a compromising position before her divorce is final goes wrong, but he kills his henchman and frames Boyer, who had posed as a jewel thief to rescue our heroine. He is of course no jewel thief but a celebrated head waiter, so cue lots of amusing comedy with Leo Carrillo his best friend, the famous chef Cesare. We get lots of mistaken identities as romantic confusions abound, until the final sequences on the stricken ship which Vail had urged to travel at speed through the fog .... there was also talk of flying on the Hindenberg ... I can now too see why my mother liked Boyer so much!  Jean Arthur whom I liked so much in Hawks' ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS is equally marvellous here. Must also have another look at her and Dietrich in Wilder's A FOREIGN AFFAIR in '48.

The print quality is variable, this surely should be restored and seen as a key 1930s film, If McCarey's MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW which I did not like at all (see 1930s label) can be, then so should this Borzage classic, which also may have inspired a scene in that other great romance CASABLANCA

No comments:

Post a Comment