Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Old Movie Madness: Remember the Night (1940)
Oh, Barbara, Barbara, Barbara...she can do no wrong in my eyes. Yes, after the disappointment of my last old movie viewing I decided to treat myself to something I knew I'd love - a 1940 movie starring the luminous and talented Barbara Stanwyck.
Our Babs stars as Lee Leander, a professional shoplifter who has just been arrested for the third time, John Sargeant (Fred MacMurray) is hired to prosecute her and, thinking that the jury will let her off because it is almost Christmas, he postpones the trial. He then suffers a pang of guilt and posts bail for her so that she can spend Christmas out of prison.
Having nowhere else to go Lee winds up on John's doorstep and, as her family are from the same state, he offers to drop her at home on the way to his mothers. All sorts of silliness ensues, involving minor car crashes, milking cows and a fire in a waste paper bin, which serves to cement John's view of the little lady as a petty career criminal. He starts to change his mind after meeting her mother however, and decides to take her home with him so that she can share a warm family Christmas before sentencing.
The pair fall, rather predictably, in love and John's mother warns Lee that their relationship can only damage her sons legal career. Lee agrees and, when John offers her a chance to escape she refuses, deciding to take her punishment. What does the future hold for them?
The film is saved from schmaltz by afine turn from Miss Stanwyck, she really excels in the bad girl doing good roles (Stella Dallas for example) and brings consierable gravity to what would otherwise be a rather frothy romcom. It is also a joy to look at, Lee's wardrobe is stunning, including a range of incredible architectural hats which really pin the film into its 1940 date.
Take a look at these outfits:
There are also some lovely comedy moments, one in particular where Lee is putting on an old fashioned country style evening dress with a 19inch corset and padded bust. Mrs Sargeant comments that in her day Lee's 25 inch waist would have been considered large. Can you imagine?
I really enjoyed this movie, but given the female lead, I was always going to. It also spawned the Lady Eve, which writer Preston Sturges created for Stanwyck based on her performance here.