I felt a real thrill of discovery this evening watching REMEMBER THE NIGHT. As a film fan, it's exciting to watch a movie for the very first time and realize that it's something extra-special. Directed by Mitchell Leisen from a wonderfully original script by the great Preston Sturges, REMEMBER THE NIGHT tells the story of a shoplifter who ends up spending Christmas at the home of the district attorney who is prosecuting her case. Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray portray the shoplifter and the D.A., four years before they costarred in the classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY.
The story is improbable, yet it unfolds completely believably. I especially liked that Sturges didn't take any cheap shots in his script -- for instance, a lesser writer might have kept the shoplifter's background a secret from the D.A.'s mother, but everything is out in the open. As my husband commented, "That's good writing." The ending is optimistic but isn't unrealistically easy, either.
I've never been a Stanwyck fan, but I found her moving in this film; she is subdued and feminine, despite playing a shoplifter, without the brusque manner I find unappealing in some of her other performances. As for MacMurray, he was a revelation. I've seen him in a number of films over the years -- most recently in THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS, reviewed here last July -- and found him enjoyable but not especially memorable. In this film he was a wonderful, romantic leading man, a true knight in shining armor. The movie gave me a whole new perspective on MacMurray.
The excellent supporting cast includes Beulah Bondi and Elizabeth Patterson -- two great character actresses -- and Sterling Holloway, better known to some as the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh.
REMEMBER THE NIGHT is available on video. It is also part of the Turner Classic Movies library. The movie is in black and white and runs 94 minutes.
Old Time Radio Experience recently posted an interesting piece on this film, which includes links to radio productions of the story.
Leonard Maltin writes in his CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE that the film is "Beautifully made...builds masterfully as it creates a very special mood." It does indeed.
November 2009 Update: REMEMBER THE NIGHT is now available on DVD from TCM.