This is the Night (Frank Tuttle, 1932): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the TCM Film Fest, Hollywood, CA.

An illicit relationship becomes estranged, once the husband appears on the scene, in Frank Tuttle’s This is the Night.

Aristocrat lovers, Claire Mathewson (Thelma Todd) and Gerald Gray (Roland Young) are about to set out for a night on the town in Paris, when Claire’s evening gown unknowingly gets caught and torn off – in one of many scenes – by Gerald’s clumsy chauffeur Sparks (Irving Bacon), who announces it musically with a cadence of “ma-dam, has-lost, her-dress.”

Claire’s husband, the athletic Stephen Mathewson (Cary Grant), suddenly returns home from abroad, to catch Bunny West (Charlie Ruggles) delivering two tickets to Venice, on a train with adjoining sleeping compartments, while Claire is caught in just her undergarments and a fur.

Bunny and Gerald quickly concoct a story explaining the two tickets and the absence of Gerald’s wife, in which the suspicious husband hesitantly accepts.  In order though to restore Claire’s honor, Bunny and Gerald hastily shop for a wife, and believing they are hiring a professional actress named Chou Chou, they instead employ nice girl Germaine (Lily Damita).

They all board the train together, when problems erupt as Claire becomes jealous of Chou Chou, who flirts outrageously and dominates the attentions of Bunny, Gerald and Stephen.

This is the Night is a vague remake of Malcolm St. Clair’s Good and Naughty (1926) starring Pola Negri, which had its roots as a stage play.  A light-hearted comedy with musical undertones and humorous, though stagy scenes, it’s very much an ensemble piece, with a recurring theme; an unfaithful wife continually loses her garments, and eventually her lover.

There are several day-for-night scenes of the moonlight, shot with a blue lens filter, which makes for an interesting, though dated, contrast to the black and white.  In addition to various low and oblique camera angles, is an impressive 6-shot scene, wherein three characters to the right engage in a dominant conversation, while three to the left are involved in a subtle, yet eye-catching exchange, revealing Chou Chou as a possible disruption to the trip.

This was Cary Grant’s first feature film, and he definitely stands out as a strong lead amongst the veteran actors Charlie Ruggles, Roland Young, and Thelma Todd.  Todd however is the one to watch, flimsy negligee and all, since she was a star in every sense that made a successful transition from silents to the talkies.  She was a beauty who made many comedic films with Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and many others, but died too young at 29, and is somewhat forgotten today.

This film is pre-code, full of innuendo, and worth watching.

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