|Love Me Tonight
rating: (out of 4 stars)
United States; 1932
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian; produced by Rouben Mamoulian; screenplay by Waldemar Young, Samuel Hoffenstein, George Marion Jr.; based on the play by Paul Armont, Léopold Marchant
Starring Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charles Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, Myrna Loy, C. Aubrey Smith
If cities would wake up like Paris does in 'Love me Tonight', the world would be a better place. Noises from the streets slowly start to sound in a rhythmic way, until Maurice Chevalier bursts into song. This opening montage brings a smile to the viewer's face, and, except for some dated romantic moments, it will stay there the entire film. When it comes to completely dance-less musicals this is as good as it gets.
Chevalier is a tailor named Maurice. He just made a lot of new suits for Gilbert de Vareze (Charles Ruggles), who, Maurice learns, has a rich uncle, Duke d'Artelines (C. Aubrey Smith), but no money on his own. Payment is not around the corner. The love interest is Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald). We first meet her in a wonderful sequence where Maurice starts the song "Isn't it Romantic", so catchy that it starts to travel on its own through many, many people, ultimately ending up on her balcony.
She, of course, stands on the balcony from the house belonging to the duke, where Maurice arrives while pursuing the money Gilbert owes him. On his way to the chateau he already meets the Princess, where he sings the song "Mimi" for her in a way even I wanted to smack him in the face. She wants to as well. At the chateau they meet again. Also introduced are Count de Savignac (Charles Butterworth), who wants to marry the Princess, and Countess Valentine (Myrna Loy), who shows strong interest in Maurice, who by now is introduced as Baron Courtelin. This way Gilbert wins some time to get the money from his uncle.
All this is presented in a delightful way. The romantic moments are slightly dated, including the "Love Me Tonight" part. For a modern audience Chevalier can get a little annoying, mainly because of his French accent and the way he pronounces the word "love". He can't help it, but it sounds a little ridiculous. MacDonald, Ruggles, Butterworth and Loy are terrific in their roles, although I would have liked to see more of the latter. Wherever she appears, she steals the scene.
On a technical level the films is superb. Fine images enter the screen regularly, while there is also comedy to be found in the use of fast-forward, slow motion and split screens. At one time Maurice and Jeanette are literally sleeping together. This is one of the many sexually charged moments, if you want to see it that way, all funny on their own. Most musical numbers are catchy and deliver on the lyrics, with "The Son of a Gun Is Nothing But a Tailor", sung by the entire chateau of the duke including non-living objects, as the perfect conclusion.
|Review by Reinier Verhoef