Cinema History: Remember the Night (1940) Film Review

Certificate: U

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Screenwriter: Preston Sturges

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Runtime: 1hr 34mins

Language: English

Rating: 3 Stars

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Just before Christmas, Lee Leander is caught shoplifting. It is her third offense. She is prosecuted by John Sargent. He postpones the trial because it is hard to get a conviction at Christmas time. However, he feels sorry for her and arranges for her bail; he also ends up taking her home to his mother for Christmas. Surrounded by a loving family (in stark contrast to Lee’s own family background), they fall in love. This creates a new problem: how do they handle the upcoming trial? – From IMDB

Perfect for fans of films like Bringing Up Baby, this film makes excellent use of it’s formula to make a pretty entertaining and mildly funny Romcom.

It’s bizarre to think that the formula for Romantic Comedies really hasn’t changed that much in 80 years.  Boy and Girl still meet under unusual or inconvenient circumstances, there is usually a colourful and eccentric cast of side characters and more often then not, there is some kind of big challenge or deadline in the film, that the couple inevitably have to overcome.  And they usually do, all the while learning important moral and personal lessons along the way from each other.  It’s a formula that is still used in RomComs now, and was just as relevant and entertaining in the 40s.

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Actually the mean spirited lawyer character is one of my favourite character archetypes to have in films like this to watch as their soon to be soul mate, whether they me male or female, successfully break down their cynicism and cold-heartedness.  Yes it’s a little over done, but it’s a classic for a reason. 

The side characters, Johns family, are easily my favourite characters in the film, John and Lee themselves being a little too cookie cutter to make any real impression.  His aunt and mother re two perfect busy-bodies, thinking they know what’s best for everyone, and it is always good for a laugh. 

Yes the story is a little far-fetched, and as a Romantic Comedy is just about as predictable as they come, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be really enjoyable.

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