LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932) B/W 104m dir: Rouben Mamoulian
w/Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Myrna Loy, Elizabeth Patterson, Ethel Griffies, Blanche Frederici, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Greig, Ethel Wales, Marion Byron, Mary Doran, Bert Roach, Cecil Cunningham, Tyler Brooke, Edgar Norton, Herbert Mundin, Rita Owin, Clarence Wilson, Gordon Westcott, George Davis, Rolf Sedan, Tony Merio, William H. Turner, George "Gabby" Hayes, George Humbert
From The Movie Guide: "Love it forever. Along with SWING TIME and perhaps one of Busby Berkeley's best [e.g., FOOTLIGHT PARADE], this film stands as the greatest musical of the 1930s and one of the finest ever. Although the film seems very much in a Lubitsch vein [consult THE SMILING LIEUTENANT], Rouben Mamoulian directed it, and he is perhaps most responsible for its stunning appeal. His earliest period in film (1929-34) was certainly his greatest and in this film he displays such audacity in playing with sound and image that it's no wonder he frightened everyone in Hollywood.
"The tale of a romance between Princess Jeanette (MacDonald) and Maurice the tailor (Chevalier), LOVE ME TONIGHT is effervescent frippery to be sure, but it's so inventive as to be downright eerie. The slow-motion retreat from the lovers' cottage still astounds and Jeanette's final ride on horseback to stop a train is dramatically quite striking. One is not likely to forget the dark shadows of Chevalier's 'I'm an Apache' number or the cutting and framing of both the title duet and the witty 'The Son of a Gun Is Nothing But a Tailor.' Jeanette's three worrisome aunts could almost be comic variants of the witches in MacBeth and, at one point, they sound like a kennel in an uproar. The film mocks those very conventions the genre employs, from the famous traveling rendition of 'Isn't It Romantic?' to the sudden thud of a ladder which ends Jeanette's balcony reverie.
"The cast, too, is quite remarkable, and they make the most of the saucy pre-Code antics. Ruggles's mad dash in his underwear and Butterworth's 'I fell flat on my flute' demonstrate comic diffidence of the highest caliber. In what is almost certainly her most memorable role before achieving stardom, Loy plies her smooth comic touch and gets to add a naughtiness she usually wasn't allowed later. Her mad-crazy Vantine displays a freshness partly inspired by Mamoulian and Loy's creating the part as they went along. When someone is ill and she is asked, 'Could you go for a doctor?' she instantly replies, 'Oh, yes, send him in.' The starring duo, meanwhile, enjoys one of their greatest partnerings here. Though we like some of her later films with Nelson Eddy [e.g. ROSE MARIE], the genial, risque tension between Chevalier and MacDonald works as deliciously as vodka and orange juice. MacDonald is not sufficiently appreciated for her wonderful comic flair and Mamoulian is bold enough to simply toss off her spirited rendition of 'Lover' in long shot, knowing that her play with both an uncooperative horse and the ending of the verses will be funnier that way. She matches the winking Frenchman innuendo for innuendo and her carefully stylized, sexy performance fits perfectly within the film's magnificent sense of hyperbole. Finally, the incomparable Chevalier knows exactly what he's up to as well here. Not conventional leading man material, he's both beautifully tongue-in-cheek and utterly sincere. His naughtiness avoids the puerile and the nasty, yet he can get more out of his signature song 'Mimi' than any lyricist can write."
From Tom Milne's book examining the career of the director, Rouben Mamoulian: "There are several reasons why Love Me Tonight stands so head-and-shoulders above any other musical for years --- perhaps until the emergence of Minnelli --- quite apart from the excellence of its script (by Samuel Hoffstein again [who also wrote Mamoulian's DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE], in collaboration with Waldemar Young and Marion, Jnr.) and its songs. One is the delight Mamoulian always takes in having the unlikeliest actors sing in their own voices --- Walter Huston in Summer Holiday, for instance; apart from the rare pleasure it affords of hearing Sir C. Aubrey Smith warbling and (almost) dancing the roguish 'Mimi,' this habit gives what is unashamedly a fairy-tale fantasy a kind of doggy matter-of-factness which prevents it from taking off irrevocably into the thin air of whimsy like Lubitsch's Ruritanian romances. Another is the skill with which Mamoulian interleaves songs and action, so that unlike all the contemporary musicals made by Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley, Mark Sandrich or Robert Z. Leonard, one does not have the equivalent of the theatrical trois coups each time a production number is imminent. Most of all, though, it is --- yet again --- Mamoulian's impeccable feeling for rhythm and movement. In a very real sense, Love Me Tonight is one long, unbroken production number. ...
"It seems that Mamoulian recorded the entire musical score before he started shooting: hence the almost uncanny harmony between sound and image. On Maurice's arrival at the chateau, for instance, the place is deserted since the guests are on an outing in the forest and the footmen are playing football against the old soldiers' home. To funereal tones echoing the dead march of the bridge game, he pushes the door open on the vast, empty hallway; as he explores, the music quickens, bouncing into an accentuated chord each time he opens a door, accompanying him presto as he races up a series of staircases to the top of the chateau, trilling happily as he skips down again, and finally lapsing into the dead march as the guests return from their outing a moment or two before he reaches the hallway again. Entirely unforced in their counterpoint, the images are a perfect complement to the music.
"Similarly, the hunt scene is turned almost into a pastoral ballet by Mamoulian's camera, which orchestrates the movements of horses and hounds through the woods in tempo with the music, even reserving a gay little theme (something Disney later copied, to vulgar effect) for the stag as it hops daintily and unconcernedly along, obviously enjoying itself hugely and oblivious to the hunting horns and baying hounds which have been momentarily suspended from the soundtrack. Later, in one of the most magical moments of the film, Maurice rescues the stag and the amused Duke orders the huntsmen to 'Go back, quickly and quietly. On tiptoe'; and in slow motion, amid a momentary hush, the horses turn and literally steal back the way they came. ...
"[Richard] Rodgers and [Lorenz] Hart, of course, provide a wonderful springboard with their brilliant music and lyrics, but the wit and flourish of Love Me Tonight are uniquely Mamoulian's own. Even the impeccable cast are handled like instruments in an orchestra, so that the chirruping aunts, gruff Sir Aubrey Smith, manhunting Myrna Loy, Robert Greig's sonorous butler, and the twin gloom and irrepressibility of Charles Butterworth and Charlie Ruggles, are woven like recurring motifs into the texture, whose main purpose is a merciless send-up of the immaculately conceived heroine of convention. The Princess, we are told, is wasting away like Camille from an unknown malady. But the doctor who examines her with a rather less than professional eye, leaves us in no doubt as to his diagnosis: 'You're not wasting away,' he pronounces. 'You're just wasted.' and Maurice, to her unutterable outrage, offers an unmistakable cure when he looks her straight in the eye to sing 'You know I'd like to have a little son of a Mimi by-and-by.'
"Tipped out of the carriage in which she has been bowling along gaily singing 'Lover' and dumped unceremoniously in a ditch; responding with a soft, hurt 'Oh!' of indignation as she reproves her lover for ungentlemanly conduct only to be told 'And you, Your Highness, are not a woman'; subjected to the indignity of Chevalier's look of silent incredulity as he measures her for a riding-habit and records a modest 34 inches for bust --- Jeanette MacDonald cheerfully aids and abets her own destruction in one of her most enchanting performances. Her heroic finale, when she casts discretion and social consideration aside and gallops across the fields in an Eisensteinian montage of hooves and train wheels to stand on the track, arms akimbo and head thrown proudly back as the train (and her lover) rushes towards her, is --- like Love Me Tonight itself --- an ineffable mixture of absurdity and enchantment."