Remember The Night is a “Isn’t Christmas Wonderful”-genre holiday special, wrapped in a noir-style trench coat and fedora.
The incomparable Barbara Stanwyck (Cry Wolf) and the damn fine Fred MacMurray (Quantez, Double Indemnity) star as a thieving dame who got sticky fingers once too often, and the prosecuting attorney whose job it is to land her in jail.
MacMurray (John Sargent) has something of a reputation to maintain: he’s the best in the department at getting female defendants convicted. Accordingly, when, just before Christmas, he sees the jury about to acquit, he…calls for a recess. The jurors will feel obliged to him for giving them Christmas off, resentful towards Stanwyck (Lee) for having dragged them back to the box, and in the post-holiday gloom are much more likely to give him his conviction. However, there is no heart so cold but knows a touch of pity, and seeing poor Lee fuming and frustrated about spending Christmas in jail, arranges to bail her out.
And then, since she doesn’t have money or a place to stay–or pocket money for a meal–takes her out to dinner. And then, since it turns out they are both native Indiana-ians, arranges to take her home for Christmas. Even though this technically means that he is transporting a felon across state lines.
Hijinx ensue….and they’re going to spend the honeymoon at the Niagara Falls.
There really isn’t any much more to this say about the movie than that, except to add that, did we mention, it stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray at the top of their noir-sharp dialogue game and enjoying themselves enormously. Such as when they have to make a fast exit from a hick judge:
Sargent: You threw a lighted match into the wastebasket?
Lee: Well, I wasn’t aiming for the spittoon.
Sargent: You know that’s called arson?
Lee: [faux-aghast] Nooo! I thought that was when you bit somebody!
Or Lee, dismissing the suggestion that it’s kleptomania behind her thieving ways: “Well, they tried that. But you see, you can’t turn around and try to fence the stuff afterwards. They take away your amateur status, then.” Or Sargent’s completely deadpan explanation to his mother that Lee is actually a petty crook who is out on bail….no, Mother, I wasn’t joking. And it’s not even a first offense.
So: good stuff, adroitly packaged, funny, fun, heartwarming, perfectly cast, and perfectly pleasing in every way. They don’t make movie stars like this any more, and they don’t make movies for them any more.
Rated: …we’re at Niagara Falls right now, darling.
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