Friday, December 22, 2006

Tonight's Movie: Remember the Night (1940)

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.

Highly recommended.

November 2009 Update: REMEMBER THE NIGHT is now available on DVD from TCM.

2015 Update: REMEMBER THE NIGHT also had a release on Blu-ray but copies seem to be limited.

December 2015 Update: I had a wonderful experience seeing a 75th Anniversary screening hosted by the Academy.


Blogger jau said...

We watched this too. It was wonderful and for all the reasons you mention.

Someday I hope we get to share our movie libraries!!

7:22 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I thought I knew all the old Christmas movies out there but this one got by me. Never heard of it. Thanks for the tip.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

TCM said it was the first time they'd aired it. (I taped it to watch last night.) I'd never heard of it before this year myself.

Glad you enjoyed it too Anne!

Merry Christmas!

8:51 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I checked the online price and was shocked! Originally sold for 14.98 now used its $59.99 and collectible is
99.95! I don't buy online and I don't have cable so my only hope is used from Wherehouse or checking Suncoast. I have been surprised on many occasions at what I can find at Suncoast.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hopefully now that the movie has received some new exposure via TCM, it will be released at some point on a reasonable price!

Good luck! Best wishes, Laura

12:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

P.S. I checked eBay just to see if maybe they had any copies available that could be purchased via check...the one copy listed was at a "Buy it Now" price of $135!! Obviously some people are hoping to cash in while the movie is scarce. Hopefully that situation won't last long! Laura

12:19 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

Yes, I had also checked EBay and saw that price too. My goodness!!!

6:15 PM  
Blogger jau said...

Those prices are slightly insane. It's a good movie but . . . hundreds of dollars??!!!

10:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I wonder if anyone ever actually *pays* those kinds of prices?!

Laura :)

10:45 PM  
Blogger jau said...

I sure hope not. I mean, a collection of all of Barbara or Fred, maybe, but one? Sheesh. Here's a question: I'm not sure there's anyone, for me, but is there anyone for whose films you would be willing to spend $100? Hmmm.....

2:06 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I just checked the Los County Library website and they do not have it, but ... lo and behold the Long Beach Public Library does have one copy at its main branch but it is checked out. I have to rejoin Long Beach and go down and put a hold on it. I just may get to see this after all :)

Would I pay $100 for a movie? I can't think of any movie I would be willing to pay that much for! I'm even holding off on some of those Rogers and Hammerstein movies that just came out. Hoping that eventually the price will be lower.

10:27 AM  

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