This article first appeared just over one year ago in Classic Movie Monthly #4 for Kindle (no longer available). While there were only small changes to the text, most of the images (including all screen captures) are new to this post.
Remember the Night is more parts romance or comedy than Christmas movie, but the spirit of the holiday season is as much premise and theme as it is setting in this January 1940 Paramount release. While Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) would have stolen a bracelet in any month of the year, everything that follows, from the way her court case is handled to the romance that develops between Lee and John Sargent (Fred MacMurray)—the assistant district attorney prosecuting her—hinges upon it being that special time of year.
Like many classics, the story is simple, but the situation unique. Lee steals a bracelet and eventually falls in love with Sargent, the attorney attempting to convict her. The curve comes in the timing. Sargent knows that persuading a jury to convict Lee on Christmas Eve is well-nigh impossible. He uses some tricks of the trade to secure a continuance so that the trial will not resume until after the New Year. Sargent then takes pity upon the defendant, arranging for Lee’s release on bail so that she won’t have to spend Christmas behind bars. The problem is that the bondsman leaves Lee with Sargent, who was already trying to get out of town before her trial so he could spend Christmas with his loved ones in Indiana. Lee becomes a passenger. When it comes time to return to New York to resume Lee’s trial, she and Sargent are in love. How do they handle this? Does he relent in his prosecution? Will she allow him?
I devoted a fair amount of space to screenwriter Preston Sturges’ arrival in Hollywood in my piece about Child of Manhattan (1933) in Classic Movie Monthly #1. Since the time of that film Sturges had remained a Hollywood screenwriter, eventually signing a contract with Paramount, September 29, 1936. His first assignment was an adaptation of the Vera Caspary short story “Easy Living.” Mitchell Leisen was assigned to direct. Leisen had started out in Hollywood as a costume designer, and then set decorator and art director, learning various aspects of the business while working under Cecil B. DeMille. He had made the transition to director in 1933, and successes such as Death Takes a Holiday (1934), Four Hours to Kill, and Hands Across the Table (both 1935), made him popular at Paramount and respected throughout the industry. Sturges couldn’t stand him. Sturges biographer James Curtis wrote that Sturges saw Leisen as “a bloated phony,” who was “more interested in the sets than the material.”
Sturges still longed to direct the movies he was scripting, but Paramount production chief William LeBaron preferred him right where he was. As Curtis put it, “Directors were a dime a dozen; really good writers were always scarce.”
Sturges continued in his role as writer at Paramount, and at least enjoyed the rising wages that resulted from his labor. In 1938, he began work on Remember the Night—originally titled Beyond These Tears—for Paramount producer Al Lewin. While elements of Child of Manhattan and other Sturges screenplays had been drawn from real-life experiences, Remember the Night owed much of its romance to its writer, who had fallen in love with Louise Sargent (whose surname was attached to the MacMurray character) while writing Beyond These Tears. This romance, which soon bloomed into Sturges’ third marriage, helped the writer conquer the romantic scenes that he recognized as his greatest weakness.
By the time Sturges completed the screenplay, producer Lewin had left Paramount. The project, by then titled The Amazing Marriage, was not only going to be directed by Sturges foil Mitchell Leisen, but Leisen was also going to act as producer. Sturges biographer Curtis explains some of the ramifications of this: “Leisen was by now [June 1939] not inclined toward rewrites—for which he needed the writer—but rather toward making cuts, which he could do without anyone’s advice.”
Sturges was upset by everything from the title change (he preferred The Amazing Marriage) to Leisen’s cuts, and managed to leverage his disappointment into his first opportunity to direct. The Great McGinty (1940) was in production by the time Remember the Night was released. It launched Sturges’ career as director, while also winning him his only Academy Award—for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
Prior to Remember the Night, Leisen had directed Midnight (1939) starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, and John Barrymore. Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder had adapted Midnight, with Wilder in a very similar position to Sturges at that time, a writer with directorial aspirations. And who also despised Leisen. The complaints of Sturges and Wilder have cost Leisen much of the reputation he had earned in his own time. Despite the imprint these two greater talents had on what are recognized as Leisen’s best features, Leisen can still be remembered for the superior appearance of his films, and for his expert direction of several top Hollywood actresses including Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur, Olivia de Havilland, and Barbara Stanwyck.
It’s Stanwyck who we see first in Remember the Night, though not her face, not for a few moments at least.
“Glorious, madam, isn’t it?” the clerk says as he snaps an expensive bracelet on her wrist. She asks to see another piece, and as the salesman bends over and leans into the showcase she takes advantage of the distraction to disappear. Out on the street the focus remains on the bracelet until the shot widens and Stanwyck is finally revealed. She enters a pawn shop, where the clerk quickly passes around her to bolt the door shut and phone the police.
Barbara Stanwyck was attached to Remember the Night almost as soon as Leisen was. Stanwyck biographer Victoria Wilson reveals Leisen’s status as much as his desire for Stanwyck as leading lady when she writes: “If Leisen snapped his fingers, he got what he wanted. And he wanted Barbara for the part of Lee Leander, jewel thief. He felt the part was written for her.” For once director and writer agreed. During production Sturges told Stanwyck, “I’m going to write a great comedy for you.” The footnote to that quote is The Lady Eve (1941), the Sturges classic starring Barbara Stanwyck.
Leisen also had someone specific in mind for leading man.
By the time of Remember the Night, Fred MacMurray had achieved star status at Paramount. MacMurray had had a few early bit appearances in the movies while in California in the late twenties, but he was more officially discovered by Paramount in early 1934, while playing saxophone with the band in the Broadway production of Roberta. Paramount didn’t do much with him at first, loaning him to Warner Bros. for a quick bit role, then RKO where he played Mary Carlisle’s love interest in the May Robson vehicle Grand Old Girl (1935). It was the bit role in Warner’s Friends of Mr. Sweeney (1934) that paid quick dividends.
Friends of Mr. Sweeney starred funnyman Charlie Ruggles, whose brother Wesley was at that time an equally well-known director. Wesley Ruggles was set to direct Claudette Colbert in The Gilded Lily at Paramount, and was so impressed by MacMurray that he even managed to get his star to lobby for him as her leading man. The Gilded Lily was a hit, and wound up the first of seven films MacMurray and Colbert appeared in together. Its success led to Katharine Hepburn selecting MacMurray over Randolph Scott to play opposite her in Alice Adams (1935) at RKO. But it was back on the home lot that MacMurray would really take off when he was cast opposite Carole Lombard in the romantic comedy Hands Across the Table (1935) directed by Mitchell Leisen.
“I took a flying leap and put Fred MacMurray in,” Leisen said, worried about the actor’s inexperience. It was the first of nine films MacMurray would appear in directed by Leisen (Remember the Night being their fourth movie together), so obviously Leisen’s decision turned out for the best. MacMurray credited Lombard, saying, “I owe so much of that performance and my subsequent career to her.” MacMurray became a favorite of Lombard’s, appearing with her in three additional films, The Princess Comes Across (1936), Swing High, Swing Low (1937, also directed by Leisen), and True Confession (1937), and also socializing together off-screen with spouses Clark Gable and MacMurray’s first wife Lillian Lamont. MacMurray played multiple times with several of his leading ladies, including Colbert, Lombard, and Barbara Stanwyck, who he was cast with on three additional occasions following their debut together in Remember the Night.
MacMurray shares his first scene in Remember the Night with Fred Toones (1906-1962), an African-American actor who was often billed as “Snowflake” or Fred “Snowflake” Toones, if billed at all. Toones appeared in nearly two hundred feature films released mostly between 1931-1947, showing up in a variety of occupations as the typically subservient black stereotype of the time. His most common credits come as train porters, bootblacks, and, as in the case of Remember the Night, servant or man Friday. Snowflake, as Rufus, takes the incoming telephone call from the District Attorney (Paul Guilfoyle) that pulls Sargent (MacMurray) into court and delays his trip home for Christmas.
Only minutes into the movie and Stanwyck’s been established as a thief and MacMurray a prosecutor who, as his boss states, has the right kind of face to send a woman to jail. Remember the Night immediately jells once these two are placed together on separate sides of the same courtroom. Yet it’s another party altogether who inadvertently thrusts this unlikely duo into each other’s arms in a scene that also wins over the audience.
Remember the Night is funny, sad, and romantic, usually taking these emotions one at a time. This episodic nature of the movie should hurt it, but the varying scenes are stacked in a way that heightens our connection to the strong leading characters without causing any confusion. Remember the Night is uneven, though nonetheless charming and enjoyable throughout. It’s the kind of movie that, once you know it, you’ll very likely be able to pick out your favorite scene, whether it be the madcap citizen’s arrest that occurs after a country detour, or the heartbreaking reunion gone wrong between mother and daughter during this odd couple’s first stop.
For me, it is the early courtroom scene, made great not so much by MacMurray or Stanwyck, but by character actor Willard Robertson, who dominates the action as Lee Leander’s defense attorney Francis X. O’Leary.
O’Leary’s speech comes off as ridiculous when you read it in Preston Sturges’ original script. And director Mitchell Leisen more or less uses every bit of dialogue that Sturges wrote for the O’Leary character. But it’s actor Willard Robertson—who I more typically associate with no-nonsense characters—who makes O’Leary’s odd and humorous approach to the court work. Not every actor could. In fact, as over-the-top as Robertson’s speech is, I find it one the most believably acted scenes in the movie. When MacMurray’s prosecutor laughs, and Stanwyck’s jewel thief smirks, you get the feeling that the actors are enjoying Robertson’s stylings as much as their characters. And their audience.
Robertson’s delivery, right down to a final wink as he returns to his seat with his back to judge and jury, is good enough to win your attention for the entire movie.
Willard Robertson (1886-1948) was on stage as early as 1905, and reached Broadway’s Astor Theatre with The Builders in 1907. By the end of that same year he appeared in David Belasco’s The Warrens of Virginia, a production most notable as Mary Pickford’s Broadway debut. An early biography states that it was after spending three years with The Trail of the Lonesome Pine company (Note: Fred MacMurray starred in Paramount’s 1936 screen adaptation) Robertson retired from the stage to study law at the National University Law School in Washington, D.C. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine lasted only a little over a month at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre, so presumably Robertson remained with company on the road tour. If accurate, he would have begun his law studies circa 1915.
I can’t say for sure whether Robertson ever actually made it into a courtroom, as he returned to the stage after the Great War, but if he did, surely he argued no case as he did the case of Lee Leander in Remember the Night.
“He should’ve been on the stage,” Sargant’s assistant (Charles Arnt), says of O’Leary’s performance.
“He was,” Sargant replies.
Again, the movie opened with Lee Leander most definitely and flagrantly stealing an expensive bracelet from Meyer & Company. She walks a few blocks, enters a pawn shop, and is immediately locked inside the shop while the pawnbroker telephones the police. We have no doubt of Lee’s guilt.
Her defense attorney spins a story that blames the jeweler for tempting Lee with their pretty baubles, causing her to suddenly find herself blocks away from Meyer & Company with the bracelet clasped around her wrist. He claims that she then rushed back to return the bracelet and correct this mistake, but by the time she arrived Meyer & Company had closed for the evening. She then desperately sought out the home address of the shop’s proprietor S.A. Meyer, only to discover that he lived an expensive commute away on Long Island.
“Then, a crazy idea,” O’Leary suggests: “I’ll hock the bracelet to get the money to go to Long Island.”
O’Leary bewitches the jury with his speech—which, including asides and other interruptions, runs over six minutes—even causing the judge to admonish both him and the jury for drawing the jurors into his tale. The actor Robertson is in all of his glory accentuating O’Leary’s tale with pointing fingers and rising voice. By the time the defense rests he’s gasping and holding his chest as he returns to his seat, but unable to resist smiling, an action that confirms that it wasn’t only Willard Robertson giving a performance, it was his character Francis X. O’Leary playing what should have been a winning part for judge and jury as well.
If only he hadn’t mentioned hypnotism.
To complete Robertson’s biography, by the 1920s he had rekindled a youthful passion for writing and completed a handful of plays and screenplays during the decade. Then, a crazy idea: this renaissance man moved to Block Island, Rhode Island, and went into the swordfishing business—whether he caught them, canned them, or just hosted tours of fisherman, I do not know. But Robertson was back on Broadway towards the end of the decade, most notably appearing as reporters in The Racket (1927) and The Front Page (1928). He made the move from Broadway to Hollywood with little fanfare in 1930, one of the many stage actors lured to talking pictures, and appeared in almost one hundred fifty films between that time and his death in 1948. (The IMDb credits Robertson with one earlier silent film appearance in Daughters of the Night  for Fox. Robertson also supplied the original story and screenplay for that film.) In 1940, Carrick & Evans published Robertson’s novel Moontide, the rights of which were purchased by Twentieth Century Fox and adapted by John O’Hara for their 1942 film starring Jean Gabin and Ida Lupino. (Moontide was a bestseller with one reviewer commenting that Robertson’s “very human style of acting is apparently deep-rooted in the man. He has put these same qualities into his first novel … In all Mr. Robertson has managed to put a good deal into his disarmingly simple tale.”)
O’Leary gives prosecutor Sargent his opening by mentioning hypnotism. Sargent finds it an interesting hypothesis, but one which will require some expert testimony since he’s not equipped to examine the idea himself.
The Judge asks how he can object when Sargent hasn’t even made any sort of proposition as of yet.
“Because I know what he’s going to say,” O’Leary declares.
And he did. Sargent’s expert psychiatrist is already out of town, so Sargent requests a continuance of the trial until after the holidays. His ploy works. When the trial resumes the holiday season will have passed, as will any risk of the jury being more charitable than they should based upon that most forgiving time of year. One problem: Lee Leander can’t possibly make bail, so she’ll be spending the Christmas season locked up in jail.
But Sargent is a square guy and knows full well that he’s played a dirty trick on the young woman. He asks his assistant to send in the bail bondsman (Tom Kennedy), who winks at his pal Sargent as he tells him he’s happy to free Lee without any charge.
The bondsman’s wink was because “he’s got a mind like a sewer,” Sargent tells Lee after she’s left in his custody at his apartment.
Stanwyck and MacMurray parry against one another during their first few moments in Sargent’s apartment. She holds the same suspicions as the sewer-minded bondsman, that Sargent expects to get his money's worth out of her in his apartment. Sargent, on the other hand, establishes himself as a upright character during the scene, his basic morality having caused him to cave to the sentimentality of the season.
“One of these days, one of you boys is going to start one of these scenes differently,” Lee says. “One of us girls is going to drop dead from surprise.”
I wasn’t at all surprised to find this line lifted almost verbatim from Sturges’ script. It’s the type of florid dialogue that always makes me cringe a little during a Sturges movie. It’s pretty, and it reads well, but it’s far too literary for a character of Lee’s background, or even any character lacking a literary background. According to Sturges biographer James Curtis, Sturges often relied upon wife Louise to vet such unlikely dialogue from this script because she had a similar background to many of the characters. “If she objected to a line or a phrase, out it came.” Well, she missed this one, and a few others. I don’t mean to harp on this one line, but if I’m going to give an honest appraisal, it unnecessarily lifts me out of the movie for a moment.
Sargent soon convinces Lee that he had entirely honorable intentions when he had her released. But Lee still has a problem. Not only is she broke, she’s way behind on her rent, and has been locked out of her hotel. Sargent reaches for his wallet, but is stopped when Lee quotes her back rent at $126.40. Sargent offers the loan of his apartment, which Lee dismisses with another grating Sturges line, “Sounds like a play, doesn’t it?” (Sturges loves theatrical allusions.) Sargent finally offers to feed her, and he and Lee are next shown seated together in an elegant restaurant.
It’s in the restaurant that their views on life are best contrasted through an analogy that is a credit to Sturges’ talent, and that ultimately lays Lee’s soul bare.
Sargent quizzes Lee about her criminal life, hoping to rationalize her thievery so he can at least think of her as a good person, but he only confirms her as a chronic offender without extenuating circumstance.
Lee shakes off his innocent third degree by explaining, “Right or wrong is the same for everybody, you see, but the rights and the wrongs aren’t the same.”
Lee asks him if he would steal a loaf of bread if he were starving. Of course, Sargent says. Ah, but that’s because he’s honest, she tells him. Placed in the same situation, she would enjoy a six-course meal and then claim she forgot her purse.
“That’s because you’re smarter,” Sargent says.
Lee, who has been full of mirth in telling this story, is depressed by his response.
“That’s it,” she says, suddenly downcast. “We’re smart.”
She knows it’s not the truth and, even if Sargent misses it, the audience now knows she is capable of greater things. The morality Sargent had been searching for is there.
It’s while talking about his trip home for Christmas that Sargent really sees the Lee he wanted to find. He has another stroke of charity when he becomes aware that Lee regrets her long absence from home. His song request of “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” reveals that Lee grew up only fifty miles away from him. Sargent proposes dropping her off at her mother’s house in Eltonville, and picking her back up again one his way back from celebrating with his family in Wabash, Indiana.
“Aw, geeze,” Lee says, Stanwyck breaking our hearts as she borders on tears at Sargent’s kind gesture.
This is followed by a screwball comedy intersection that lands Lee and Sargent on a farm where they camp out until morning when a cow wakes Lee by sticking its head through the open passenger side window to rouse her. Sargent and Lee attempt to fill a thermos with milk for breakfast, but are interrupted by the farmer (John Wray), who makes a citizen’s arrest for trespassing and other violations. This leads to a goofy scene at the Justice of the Peace’s office, culminating with Lee once again showing how her mind works differently from Sargent’s when she lights a trash can on fire, allowing them to escape the jam and hurry across the state line.
The mood shifts one-hundred-eighty degrees in the next scene when Lee and Sargent arrive at Lee’s mother’s house. “I’m getting scared,” Lee finally admits just before Sargent pulls up in front of the house. At the door of the home where she grew up Lee is greeted by a stranger (John Beck) who she soon discovers is her stepfather. He’s cold enough, but doesn’t approach the chill accompanying Lee’s still bitter mother, expertly portrayed by Georgia Caine (1876-1964).
“Merry Christmas, Mama,” Lee says, Stanwyck keeping her voice flat.
Lee and Sargent are let in and ordered to sit down.
“What’d you come here for?” her mother asks. “What do you want?”
It only gets worse from there as Lee’s mother resurrects her daughter’s past misdeeds, and Lee tries to defend herself. Sargent is disgusted by the entire display, letting it play out only so far before he suggests they had better get going. He now sees what caused Lee, an otherwise charming young woman, to become the person he was trying to lock up when they first met. His response is to open his arms and welcome her into the bosom of his own family. Anything to get her away from her own terrible mother.
“It’s been very interesting meeting you, Mrs.—”
“The name doesn’t concern you,” Lee’s mother replies.
“It certainly does not,” Sargent says before following Lee out of the house.
In terms of mood, it is the lowest moment of Remember the Night, a movie which shifts our senses and emotions violently from scene to scene. Up next, a heartwarming stay at the Sargent family home where Sargent’s mother (Beulah Bondi), his Aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson), and their trusted hired hand Willie (Sterling Holloway) welcome him home with open arms while also embracing his traveling companion, a complete stranger, as one of their own.
Christmas day is reserved for this loving group of people. It’s an idealistic visit, a gathering that inspires the same hope and longing in the viewer as it does fellow outsider Lee. In the Sargent home she’s treated like a daughter, even after Sargent confesses her past to his mother. She is proud of her son for his treatment of Lee, the information not altering her own opinion of Lee in any way—until Aunt Emma tells her what we already know: Sargent and Lee are falling in love. It’s not the idea of her son falling in love with someone like Lee that bothers Mrs. Sargent, it’s the realization that falling in love with Lee may potentially unravel all of her son’s hard-won success. Lee would not be the right type of wife for the type of man she knows her son has fought to become.
Lee is crushed when Mrs. Sargent explains the threat Lee poses. “He may have a little fever for me, but it isn’t going any further,” Lee says. Mrs. Sargent feels more assured about her son’s future as she leaves Lee, but despite her good intentions she casts a dagger into Lee’s heart when she pauses at the door to ask: “You do love him though, don’t you?”
“I’m afraid so,” Lee says, her voice barely a whisper.
Mrs. Sargent is a new barrier to any romance between Lee and Sargent, one which Lee cannot in good conscience break down without appearing selfish. At the beginning of the movie that might not have been a problem, but Lee’s time alongside Sargent has made her a better person. As Sargent has come to know Lee as a person rather than just another case, he realizes that she has always been a good person at heart, one who’s had to overcome a difficult life. There are no barriers for him; he’s fallen in love.
They cross the border into Canada on the way home. Sargent suggests Lee stay behind. She cannot. Doing so would corrupt Sargent just as his mother had worried she would. “In Remember the Night,” Preston Sturges wrote, “love reformed her and corrupted him, which gave us the finely balanced moral that one man's meat is another man's poison, or caveat emptor.” Only Lee’s love for Sargent keeps the story from coming full circle.
Upon their return to New York the two face off again in a clever courtroom scene. Lee slowly grasps that Sargent’s now aggressive prosecution is actually a form of self-sabotage. This may have led to a cute ending—I wanted it to lead to a cute ending. Instead, Remember the Night has a hopeful ending, but not really a happy one. Lee rises to the occasion again to keep Sargent from corrupting himself. The lovers are separated, for what sounds like will be a very long time. They say all of the right things, but if they’re both still alone by the time she’s free, then the world is a pretty lousy place. It’s a realistic ending, and approaching it from a realistic viewpoint, you wouldn’t expect any happy sequel.
Remember the Night lived up to early buzz and became a hit. As early as October 1939, came reports of “a feeling at Paramount that ‘Remember the Night’ will prove the ‘sleeper’ attraction of the season.” That feeling remained by the time of the film’s Hollywood preview, January 8, 1940, which brought acclaim from the trade publications.
“One of the nicest and best love stories screened in a long time,” said Film Daily; “It has heart-tug, drama, and an unusual story,” said Motion Picture Daily; “This, Ladies and Gentlemen,” proclaimed Motion Picture Herald, “is what might be called a customers’ picture.” Variety expected “profitable grosses in the regular runs—as either a bill topper or solo attraction—with biz potentialities enhanced by favorable word-of-mouth.”
Remember the Night was filmed in thirty-four days and came in at $46,000 under its $634,000 budget. It scored an immediate success at the Paramount Theatre in New York, where it took in an estimated $20,000 over its first weekend, on the way to an estimated $45,000 during its first week. The film was held over into a third week at the Paramount. New York critics were effusive with their praise as those with the national trades had been:
“An immensely likable piece,” wrote Rose Pelwick of the New York Journal and American; “the pleasantest surprise offered for a quite a while,” said Eileen Creelman of the New York Sun; “the surprise package of the new film year … something out of the ordinary run of films,” said Kate Cameron of the New York Daily News; “a sure-fire hit … Stanwyck at her magnificent best,” said Lee Mortimer of the New York Mirror; and Remember the Night was “the real curtain-raiser of 1940 … a memorable film, in title and in quality,” said Frank Nugent of the New York Times.
While some critics found Remember the Night “sticky, syrupy, sentimental stuff,” they typically found it “glowing and heart-warming” nonetheless.
One exception came from fan magazine Photoplay who said, “even Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck can’t pull this out of the average class,” and further prodded, “Plenty of sweetness and light, but you’re not likely to remember the night you saw this.” Several classics were recommended as top films that month by Photoplay, including Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, Destry Rides Again (all 1939), and His Girl Friday (1940), but Remember the Night wasn’t strong enough to oust either Day-Time Wife (1939) or Green Hell (1940) from their selections that issue.
Modern opinion sides with the majority of contemporary thought. Sturges biographer James Curtis refers to his subject’s original screenplay as “easily the best romance Sturges ever wrote.” MacMurray biographer Charles Tranberg calls Remember the Night “one of the best films of his (MacMurray’s) career.” Stanwyck biographer Al DiOrio praised “another star in Stanwyck’s crown … it remains, to this day, one of her most enduring films.” And more recently, Victoria Wilson called Remember the Night “Leisen’s best picture to date and Barbara’s best performance,” in her huge Stanwyck biography.
I’m with them. The swinging emotional tides worked for me, and even if I find some of Sturges’ dialogue jarring to my ear, overall there were enough gems to keep from distracting me too much. I feel the same way about much of MacMurray’s dialogue in his next film opposite Stanwyck, the classic Double Indemnity (1944), and I can’t blame Sturges for that.
As for Remember the Night, MacMurray is solid and Stanwyck spectacular in her performance. Sterling Holloway surprised in his singing of “A Perfect Day,” while entertaining the rest of the time with another of his quirky performances in a goofball part. Beulah Bondi and Elizabeth Patterson were admittedly a bit syrupy in their roles as Sargent’s mother and aunt, but a slathering of syrup was called for in their parts. Georgia Caine stood out as chilling as Lee’s mother, and I maintain that Willard Robertson is the unsung hero of the entire movie in nailing a difficult role at a critical early juncture of Remember the Night.
As a Christmas movie Remember the Night does not deliver the typically upbeat ending. It’s happy enough, but bittersweet at best.
Remember the Night was released on DVD by Universal Studios in 2010.
- James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges (New York: Limelight, 1984), 109.
- “Bloated phony,” Curtis, Between Flops, 110; “more interested in the sets,” Ibid., 113.
- Ibid., 6.
- Ibid., 123.
- Ibid., 125.
- Victoria Wilson, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 801.
- Curtis, Between Flops, 145.
- Charles Tranberg, Fred MacMurray: A Biography (Albany, Georgia: BearManor, 2007), 32.
- Tranberg, Fred MacMurray, 32-33.
- Ibid., 41.
- Ibid., 42.
- “Who's Who in the Theatre,” New York Times, August 30, 1925, 2.
- “Who’s Who,” New York Times.
- N.L. Rothman, "Human Actor and Writer," Saturday Review of Literature, August 31, 1940, 14.
- Curtis, Between Flops, 124.
- Preston Sturges, Preston Sturges: His Life in His Words (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 288.
- “In the Cutting Room: Remember the Night,” Motion Picture Herald, October 14, 1939, 37.
- “Reviews of New Films: Remember the Night,” Film Daily, January 9, 1940, 5; Vance King, “Hollywood Reviews: Remember the Night,” Motion Picture Daily, January 9, 1940, 4; “Showmen's Reviews: Remember the Night,” Motion Picture Herald, January 13, 1940, 36.
- “Film Reviews: Remember the Night,” Variety, January 10, 1940, 14.
- “Thirty-four days,” Tranberg, Fred MacMurray, 72; “at $46,000,” Wilson, A Life of, 821.
- “Critics' Quotes,” Motion Picture Daily, January 22, 1940, 2.
- William Boehnel of the New York World-Telegram in “Critics' Quotes,” Motion Picture Daily, January 22, 1940, 2.
- “Shadow Stage: Remember the Night,” Photoplay, February 1940, 84; Ibid., 62-63.
- Curtis, Between Flops, 124; Tranberg, Fred MacMurray, 70; Al DiOrio, Barbara Stanwyck: A Biography (New York: Coward-Mccann, 1983), 121; Wilson, A Life of, 823.