ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD: FROM LUBITSCH TO STURGES inspired me to open up my Criterion Eclipse DVD collection of musicals directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
Having first watched and enjoyed THE LOVE PARADE (1929), which was the earliest of the Lubitsch movies with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, I next moved on to ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932). Like THE LOVE PARADE, I last saw this film in the late '70s at the Vagabond Theater in Los Angeles.
ONE HOUR WITH YOU is a highly enjoyable confection with a marvelous cast. In addition to Chevalier and MacDonald, the movie stars Roland Young, Charlie Ruggles, and Genevieve Tobin, seen by me recently in SNOWED UNDER (1936). The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson is in great hands with this set of actors.
Chevalier and MacDonald play Andre and Colette, whose happy marriage is slightly disturbed by the arrival of Colette's old friend Mitzi (Tobin). Mitzi is bored with her husband (Young), and she aggressively pursues Andre, no matter that he's married to her good friend.
A misunderstanding with Colette leaves Andre vulnerable to spending a night out with Mitzi, to the relief of Mitzi's husband, who needs an excuse to sue her for divorce. But Andre loves his wife and needs to convince Colette nothing happened with Mitzi -- and it's just possible that's the truth!
ONE HOUR WITH YOU begins by extolling the joys of wedded bliss ("What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do"), then moves on to dealing with marital temptations before circling back to reaffirm the lead couple's happiness. The spectre of infidelity is mostly -- not entirely -- played for laughs, so between that and the obvious true devotion of Andre and Colette, the movie manages to maintain its lighter-than-air tone throughout.
The film has many marvelous moments, such as the gentle confrontation between Mitzi's husband and Andre. The playing of the final scene is particularly brilliant, as Colette claims to have had a fling with Andre's friend Adolph (Ruggles), to the delight and amusement of her husband.
Along the way the characters address the audience, sing amusing little rhyming ditties, and provide 78 minutes of frothy fun. While I'd forgotten most of the movie since that first viewing back in the '70s, the minute Chevalier began singing "Oh, That Mitzi!" I felt a sense of delighted recognition. It's a number which is hard to forget.
ONE HOUR WITH YOU, which remakes Lubitsch's silent film THE MARRIAGE CIRCLE (1924), was nominated for Best Picture. It's interesting to note that George Cukor is billed as the assistant director; he started out as the director and was demoted when Lubitsch took control of the project. The movie was filmed by Victor Milner.
The supporting cast includes George Barbier, Josephine Dunn, Charles Coleman, Richard Carle, and Barbara Leonard. I missed spotting Bess Flowers as a party guest, but according to IMDb, she's there!
The DVD can be rented from Netflix or ClassicFlix.
ONE HOUR WITH YOU has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.