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Friday, June 20, 2014

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1942)

No, not that A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, there’s no Titanic in sight. Instead, a sort of Dark & Stormy Haunted House of Screwball Murder Mystery, with Loretta Young & Brian Aherne as newlyweds just moving into a two-room flat (plus garden) at 13 Gay St. in Greenwich Village. (Real street, by the way.) Turns out they’re early, so the lights aren’t on, but blackmail & murder is running rampant! A delightful situation for Aherne’s murder mystery author, always hunting up his next plot. (No doubt, Columbia was hunting up a new Nick & Nora Charles/THIN MAN Series!) These slapsticky farces can turn dumb & tired pretty quick, but little remembered helmer Richard Wallace keeps everyone light on their toes & doesn’t oversell the hoary physical gags. There’s a real sense of silly fun here, even a couple of nifty scares, thanks to Joseph Walker’s spooky low-key noir lensing. Plus, witty music cues from Werner Heymann that support, rather than simply Mickey Mouse, the comedy. It’s no classic, but generally leans in the right direction; no small feat. (And one that Wallace managed to good effect in comfy little pleasures like WEDDING PRESENT/’36 and YOUNG IN HEART/’38.*) The film gets so darn sensible, they even let Young & Aherne go to the cops when they’ve got something fresh to report. Imagine that! Or maybe they just wanted another chance to show Chief Detective Sidney Toler out of his Charlie Chan drag.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: It’s rare to see a Hollywood version of a Manhattan two-room flat that looks more or less like a Manhattan two-room flat. Kudos to art director Lionel Banks! And kudos to whomever it was who managed to get Loretta all sooted up in the coal bin without a whiff of a follow-up BlackFace gag. All she does is wash it right off. Hurrah!

DOUBLE-BILL: *Cary Grant & a blonde Joan Bennett make WEDDING PRESENT viable, but YOUNG IN HEART is even better, with a super cast and sweet Janet Gaynor hanging it up at 32.

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