Random Film of the Week: History Is Made At Night

(Thanks, jolaysius!)

History Is Made At Night_MPUp until I saw all of Frank Borzage’s wonderful History Is Made At Night, the only part I’d seen was a hilarious clip that had me laughing a wee bit too hard because I’d taken it way out of context (it’s not hard to do, people). That “Cleo” gag is used again in the film, but by that time you’re probably going to be caught up in the blend of comedy and melodrama on display that adds a slight dip into disaster movie territory and tosses in a suicide for good measure. Borzage’s film isn’t your run of the mill funny flick at all and that’s exactly what makes it worth tracking down.

The plot is a bit loopy for sure, but the cast makes it work as things move from silly to serious and back again. If you’ve yet to see it, you can walk in on this film at a few different points and think you’re watching two or three different movies. It’s got some screwball elements for sure, but it’s also deeply romantic and suddenly serious as it ping-pongs about the emotional spectrum. Then again, real life is just like that at many times (which is why I like this oldie so much)…

In the film Jean Arthur is married to and wants a divorce from Colin Clive’s always jealous shipbuilding zillionaire, but he’s not having that at all. After trying to set her up in a compromising position that fails hard thanks to some timely interference by Charles Boyer, poor cranky Clive has to cool his heels while Charles spirits Arthur away to a restaurant (where the above clip takes place) and the two fall in love after some banter and a single dance. Oh, if only life could be that simple, no? Well, no. Boyer ends up the fall guy for a murder thanks to Clive’s worn on the sleeve insanity. Meanwhile, Arthur is initially convinced that he’s guilty and seems stuck with her madman and his many millions. So much for true love and standing by one’s man, right?

Anyway, there’s some globe-hopping, an investigation, the star-crossed lovers meeting up once more and then a sea voyage on a huge ocean liner that sends the film into Titanic territory once Clive gets wind that the pair is aboard. Once the film moves to that ship bound section, things get gloomy and melodramatic for a short stretch as everyone on the ship thinks they’re done for. Borzage lets shots of shocked passengers and crew do much of the heavy lifting along with a slightly tilted set (or camera) as we’re led to believe the ship is going down. However, a bit of falsely transmitted news (and some sturdy bulkheads) end up only dooming one person who’s not even on the boat (and it’s pretty obvious who).

This is such a handsome film to look at with the lovely Arthur and handsome Boyer playing their parts perfectly. Clive (who died after the film was made) is a scenery-chewing scary guy who you’d not want to be hitched to or even work for (who do you think gets killed? Someone working for him!), and save for the guy playing a comic relief chef with a phenomenally bad accent, the rest of the cast is fine. Yeah, yeah – some of you who don’t like-a the romantic stuff may think this is a turn-off for your taste buds, but I say give it a look-see and soon. It’s going to rattle around in your heads for at least a few days, I bet…

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