#CleanMovieMonth2020 Guest Article: “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Remember The Night (1940) ” by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell

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The below article was published on Thoughts from The Music(al) Man by Neil “The Musical Man” Powell on July 18 as his third entry in #CleanMovieMonth2020. See the original post here.

For today’s post, I’m pulling double-duty here, as I take part in the Queen Of Sass: Barbara Stanwyck blogathon hosted by Pale Writer, while also helping the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society celebrate Clean Movie Month 2020!  And with that let’s get into today’s movie, Remember The Night starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

Right before the Christmas holidays, Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) steals some jewelry, but is quickly caught.  Assistant district attorney John “Jack” Sargent (Fred MacMurray) is chosen to prosecute.  However, in between the theatrics of Lee’s lawyer, Francis X. O’Leary (Willie Robertson), and the holiday spirit of the jury, which seems likely to get her acquitted, John decides to get the trial postponed.  However, when he hears Lee complaining about being in jail over the holidays, his conscience gets the better of him and he gets the bail bondsman to let her out.  However, the bondsman has the wrong idea, as he brings her over to John’s apartment, and then leaves.  John and Lee quickly sort things out, and he offers her a dinner out.  While at the nightclub, he learns that she is also from Indiana, from a town relatively close to where he is returning for the holidays, so he offers to give her a ride there.  However, once she arrives home, Lee finds her mother just as mean and unforgiving as she remembered, and Jack offers to bring her back to his home.  There, they are greeted by John’s mother (Beulah Bondi), his aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson) and their helper Willie (Sterling Holloway).  They are thrilled to have Lee with them, and offer her a place to stay.  Privately, John tells his mother about Lee, but she still does her best to help her feel like part of the family.  However, Emma smells a romance brewing, and does her best to encourage it, much to Mrs. Sargent’s dismay.  The night before John and Lee have to start their return trip, Mrs. Sargent takes Lee aside and tries to tell her how hard John worked to get where he was, work which may be undone if they continue their relationship.  Lee understands, and really sees John changing as he tries to encourage her not to return (although she firmly insists on coming back).  But, what will be the end result of her trial?

Remember The Night is remembered (ok, pun intended) for being the last movie that writer Preston Sturges wrote but didn’t direct.  The film’s director, Mitchell Liesen (who had previously directed the Sturges film Easy Living), famously pulled a number of scenes and dialogue that Sturges wrote, infuriating the writer. As a result, Preston Sturges made a big push to direct his next film himself, to great acclaim! Of course, in spite of all his troubles and complaints about the director, Preston Sturges still liked the end result with this movie. During filming, he also got to know Barbara Stanwyck, and promised to write a screwball comedy for her (which wasn’t in her usual wheelhouse at that time). Of course, a year later that promise was fulfilled when he wrote (and directed) one of her best-known comedies, The Lady Eve (personally, I haven’t seen it yet, but as a screwball comedy, and recently restored for Blu-ray, you can bet it’s one I hope to see soon)!

And, speaking of Barbara Stanwyck, since she is one of the reasons why we’re here for this post, let’s talk about her! Obviously, this is the first film that teamed up both her and Fred MacMurray (and so far, the only one of the four that I’ve seen, although I hope one of these days to see Double Indemnity). Offscreen, I have to admire all that I’ve read about her with regard to this movie. The movie was finished ahead of time and within the budget, and most of that was attributed to her and her professionalism on set. I have to admire her for that, especially reading about how she had a bad back, not helped by the corset she had to wear for the barn dance. Yet, she still hung around, ready for whenever they needed her. Never mind wearing winter clothing for the scene involving her and the cow when it was filmed in really warm weather! I just can’t begin to admire her enough for that!

And onscreen, she does such a great job! I know I love watching her as her lawyer gets carried away with her defense. At first, she seems fine with it, until Fred MacMurray’s assistant D.A. gets the trial postponed, and then she lets her lawyer have it, claiming is defense was such an old gag, she wasn’t surprised it didn’t work! And of course, she plays a woman who’s been around, as she doesn’t seem surprised when the bail bondsman brings her around to the apartment, fully expecting that she was there for an affair! But, at the same time, she makes you feel for her, especially when you meet her mother, and you have no problems then understanding why she struggled to stay on the straight and narrow! She may not have been the focus or the hero from what Preston Sturges originally wrote, but the film’s director wisely made her more important, as you do feel for her, and like seeing her in a more loving environment! Seriously, I just love her performance here!

Of course, the movie itself is also fun to watch every now and then (but especially at Christmastime)! For the most part, it’s definitely Code friendly. Admittedly, the hinted-at “affair”, whether it be the bail bondsman’s reason for bringing her to the apartment, or just the assumptions of others, like the one farmer who brought them in under citizen’s arrest, probably don’t quite fit the Code. Still, it’s only hinted at (and may go over the heads of the younger audience), so it’s not too bad. With the rest of the cast working well here, too, including Sterling Holloway, who’s rather fun as the over-worked hired hand for Mrs. Sargent (and who gets a brief moment to sing the song “A Perfect Day”). A very wonderful movie, easy to watch any time of the year (but, as I said, it’s best around Christmas), and one I very highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios, and is one hour, thirty-four minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

Happy #CleanMovieMonth2020!


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