While trolling TCM’s line up over the summer I found This is the Night with Cary Grant. I love Cary Grant I will sit through just about any film he was in especially his early films. I do not believe I have seen a Cary Grant Pre-Code film before so I had to see it and it is one I never heard of before. Not very long into the film I found myself completely enjoying it especially the acting.
The film begins with a lavish party in Paris. Anyone who is to be known and seen pulls up. Claire Mathewson (Thelma Todd) steps out of a car only for the chauffer to close the door and rip her dress off! All she had on is her underwear and a fur coat. Claire is married to Stephan (Grant) but she has been seeing a man named Gerald Gray (Roland Young). The two almost get caught (or what they believe is almost) by Stephan when Gerald’s friend Bunny (Charlie Ruggles) comes by to bring them tickets to Venice. To get them out of a jam Bunny lies to Stephan telling him that the tickets are for Gerald and his wife… Gerald is not married. Stephan is not fooled he knows there is no wife but he goes along with their lie and decides to go along with Gerald and his “wife” to Venice along with Claire.
Now Gerald is a bind and has to find a wife. He decides to hire an actress but the actress he wanted did not take the role for fear her boyfriend would hurt the guy. She gives the role to a young actress named Germaine (Lily Damita). Germaine desperately wants a job she needs the money. She is not the type of girl Gerald was looking for he tells her he wanted someone “spectacular”. Well Germaine gives Gerald something spectacular alright, she goes behind a changing screen and removes her clothes then she comes out from behind the screen and wraps herself around some curtains and prances around really sexily.
Once both the couples get to Venice the fun and jealousy and love begin. Germaine and Gerald sleep in separate rooms since they are not really married. All night Gerald could not sleep so many things were keeping him awake. Claire sees that her lover is tired and she gets jealous thinking he was up with Germaine all night. To keep up the front that they are married Germaine gives Gerald a big kiss which she pretends makes her dizzy and she goes inside. Claire has had it already and tells Gerald to get rid of the girl. When he tells Germaine she has to go she throws a fit and starts speaking rapid French. She refuses to go and does not.
Since Stephan knows what is going on he tells Germaine (without giving away that he knows) that they should console each other since both their spouses are cheating on them. Germaine looks over from the table she and Stephan are sitting and sees Gerald. To make her fake husband jealous she takes the other man’s hand. Gerald gets really jealous then he and Bunny proceed to get drunk all afternoon.
The situation for Germaine does not go very well for a while. Gerald is really in love with her, Stephan is chasing after her to get back at his wife, and Bunny has very drunkenly professed his love for her by climbing to her balcony from a ladder.
This is a classic Pre-Code through and through. There were so many hints of subtle sexuality such as Germaine’s little striptease, Gerald telling Germaine to stop breathing a certain way because it sounds immoral, and the running joke of Claire’s dresses constantly being ripped off by the chauffer and she stands in nothing but her under garments. Even the storyline is racy with a married woman going around with a man and her husband winds up wanting to cheat with Germaine.
The beginning of the film starts out as a sort of little musical. When Claire’s dress rips all the people around her sing “Madame has lost her dress” and soon all of Paris is singing it as well. Even Cary Grant gets a little singing action when he asks Bunny for a key.
I loved the cast all except for Roland Young. Compared to the suave and very young Cary Grant and the hysterical Charlie Ruggles he was not that great. Grant was so handsome. This is when he looked his best besides his roles in the 1940s and early 1950s. This was his first film he ever made and you can see already how much incredible talent he had he played the jerky husband to perfection and made it look to effortless. Charlie Ruggles is perfect as the blundering assistant. He just got funnier as the film went on.
I have never seen Lili Damita in a film before this. Sure I have heard her name before and seen her in pictures because she was married to Errol Flynn but I had never seen her act. I thought she was fantastic especially the part where she does that little striptease for Gerald. Damita had a very thick French accent but that made her all the more appealing and adorable. I cracked up when she got angry and yelled in rapid French. Damita’s comedic timing was perfect she was so fantastic in all her scenes the way she was able to be really funny and then pull off being dramatic and sad.
I have also never seen Thelma Todd in a film before, heck I never even knew who she was. I liked her she did not play her character to the extent that she was annoying which could have so easily happened. I will say she was a trooper for having to get her dresses ripped off a lot and that she was very sexy.
The direction by Frank Tuttle is in the style of Ernst Lubitsch where it is a comedy that takes place in Paris and is very racy. Tuttle was not a very inspiring director his camera angles are not mind blowing or anything to brag about and he did not get as much as could have been gotten out of his actors even though they were quite perfect it still felt like there was something more underneath them that could have come out. He was not terrible he just was not the best. I went ballistic with the blue tint at the beginning and whenever there was a night scene. It just did not flow at all with the black and white scenes.
This is the Night would probably not even be remembered today had it not been for the fact that this was Cary Grant’s first film role. Forget that fact though if you ever see the film because it is an excellent Pre-Code with saucy, racy lines. This is the Night one of the best comedies I have seen since I started watching classic films, there are so many funny scenes and the cast delivers them perfectly. This is definitely a film to see if you love Pre-Code comedies.