Venice 2 Society

Cary Grant’s debut in THIS IS THE NIGHT is pretty eye-catching!

The movie “stars” Lily Damita (Mrs. Errol Flynn) but the best work is done by the ineffably unassuming Roland Young, with strong support by Grant, Thelma Todd, and Charlie Ruggles (in non-annoying mode).

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There’s a running gag about Thelma getting her dress ripped off, usually when Young is around, so he can be made to seem like the culprit, a role he is hilariously ill-suited for.

We begin in Hollywood Paris, and as Lubitsch said, “There is Paramount Paris, MGM Paris, and the real Paris. Paramount Paris is the most Parisian.” It’s 1931, so the film, a romantic farce, has elements of operetta seeping in at the edges. There’s no actual songs, but a fair bit of recitative.

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Cary Grant plays a javelin thrower who is also a jealous husband (dangerous combination). Young is dismayed to learn that the married woman (Todd) he’s been fooling around with (it’s a pre-code) is married to a man who throws “those murderous pointed things.” He admonishes her, “Claire, the moment you meet a man, right after you say Hello, you must say My husband throws javelins.”

Frank Tuttle directs with considerable panache — he’s an undervalued figure who could bring surprising flair to multiple genres. Without his THIS GUN FOR HIRE, there might not be any recognizable Jean-Pierre Melville.

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Roland Young gets all the pussy.

Lily Damita is fine, I guess. She does a lot of acting with her breasts, wagging them in outrage or puffing them up as if to intimidate an enemy. Young is the real star, because he’s so unusual. His catchphrase is “Oh,” said with a kind of exhausted dread. Ruggles is his more energetic foil. After he’s tumbled into a canal, and Young threatens to throw him back, he says, “You can’t scare an old canal man like me.”

A small army of screenwriters hammered this thing together, affirming Preston Sturges’ complaint that Hollywood believed writers should work in teams, “like piano movers.” At least in this case, the instrument arrived at its destination gleaming and tuneful.

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8 Responses to “Venice 2 Society”

  1. Reblogged this on wack60585.

  2. theredshoes1 Says:

  3. One of the greatest scenes in history!

  4. erichkuersten Says:

    I agree – it’s like a quintessential Paramount movie – all the ingredients for their champagne and opium surrealism, with Grant the strapping javelin man and Young way less annoying than Ray Walston was in a similar role in Wilder’s Kiss Me stupid… the blue tinting is way too darkening though

  5. God I love Roland Young, but does anyone know how he became so good at mumbling? Because he can’t have done that onstage surely.

  6. Perhaps he had the rare power to project his mumbles to the back row? It would be quite a talent. He seems to have been able to do it immediately — he mumbles in The Unholy Night in 1929, in an unsuitable dramatic lead role (he’s still the best thing in it). Nowhere have I seen evidence of him overplaying in some early perf that might have caused him to dial it way down in shock.

  7. And this film is probably the highest billing the great Irving Bacon *EVER* received: fifth place!!

  8. He knocks Claire Dodd out of the credits altogether!

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