This is my entry in the "Fabulous Films of the '30s" Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Click HERE to view more fabulous posts about that fabulous decade and to earn more about this article's participation in an eBook for your reading pleasure.
If movies are a dream of what could be, Love Me Tonight (1932) is a delicious one; a flight of fancy wrapped in a sublime and romantic reverie.
Just what is romance? Romance is much more than just sexual attraction. It is a big word with a big definition. Romance is grand, it is seductive, it is glorious, it is adventure, it is imagination, it is possibility, it is joy. In Love Me Tonight’s most enduring melody, composer Rodgers and lyricist Hart tell us that all romance can be found in all of these things:
* A beautiful day in Paris;
* A wedding;
* A well-tailored and beautiful suit;
* The domestic bliss of ordinary life;
* A taxi ride;
* Artistic inspiration;
* Being moved by beautiful music;
* The camaraderie of soldiers;
* The hope in a lonely heart gazing at the moon;
* And yes, love, BIG romantic love.
The films of the early 1930s had not yet totally dispensed with the romance of the silent era. At times, even the grittiest story is tinged with stardust (especially at Paramount). Therefore, the tale of a down on his luck tailor and an even more down on his luck royal has a storybook sparkle imagined without a trace of the Depression.
Here is the cast of characters:
The city of Paris:
|The Paris of 1932|
beautiful, noisy, bustling with life, humor, humanity and love.
A tailor – and not just any tailor, a Parisian tailor so debonair and bon-vivant.
|Oh! So Charming!|
He knows how to tailor a tux and a riding habit fit for a Royal.
A princess: lonely, widowed, hungry for life and love and a widow of 22.
|A Princess longing for love|
She rides a horse.
Her court: a playboy Vicomte who doesn’t pay his bills, a count who is a less-than-inspiring-would be- lover, a sex-starved and vixenish countess, and 3 spinster aunts as giggly as a gaggle of tweens.
|French Royalty of the Depression:man-hungry meets flat broke|
All presided over by a stodgy, stingy and drier than dust Duke.
The help: the doctor, the majordomo, the maids and others who keep the wheels turning at the palace.
|The help will not fluff and fold for a commoner!|
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian with a skill and style that lies somewhere between Lubitsch and Renee Clair yet somehow surpasses both, Love Me Tonight is a tale of the joy of life and youth with a little class-war fun thrown in.
You see, our tailor, Maurice Courtelin (played by Maurice Chevalier with more youthful charm than he ever displayed before or since on screen), is a struggling tailor in this time of economic struggle. He feels blessed that he has such a prestigious client as the Vicomte Gilbert de Vareze (Charles Ruggles). There’s only one thing wrong with the Vicomte: he never pays his bills. Outraged, Maurice, as a representative of all of the other tradesmen stiffed by the Vicomte heads off to the palace of the Duke (C. Aubrey Smith) to claim his due.
Meanwhile, life at the palace is dull, dull, dull. Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy) is bored to tears and can only think of sex. The Vicomte needs money, but the old Duke won’t give him an advance on his allowance. And Poor Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald funnier and sexier than she has ever been), married to an old man at 16, widowed at 19 and starved for love at 22, suffers from an unnamed malady (her doctor tells her “you’re not wasting away, you’re just wasted”). She has a bumbling suitor in the Count de Savignae (Charles Butterworth), but he leaves her cold.
|No wonder the Princess is frustrated with friends and family like these|
On his way to the palace, Maurice and Jeanette meet. He is smitten and she is haughty (but attracted). When he arrives at the palace, a mortified Vicomte introduces him as the Baron Courtelin and pleads for some time to get Maurice his money. Maurice doesn’t like the idea, but once he see Jeanette, he changes his mind. He goes on to charm the entire household (except Jeanette), but his identity is revealed when he simply can’t help adjusting Jeanette’s badly tailored riding habit. Everyone is outraged, but none more so than the help, who are appalled that they have been waiting on a commoner (The Son of a Gun is Nothing But a Tailor is a musical highlight).
|Maurice takes the measure of Jeanette|
Of course, in the end class does not matter and Jeanette and Maurice are united because, as we know, love conquers all.
Being a pre-code production, sly jabs, innuendo and lingerie abound (15 minutes of the original film was cut after the code for naughtiness). It is a work of genius (the Rodgers and Hart score is incomparable – Paramount used 2 signature songs from this film – Isn’t it Romantic? And Lover in many of its subsequent productions), but lighter than air. Isn’t it deep? Isn’t it scintillating? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it romantic? Yes to all of the above.