Friday, December 17, 2010

Remember the Night

If you are looking for a Christmas movie that doesn't involve lust for a Red Ryder BB gun or Clarence the Angel proving your worth, but still want that Christmas feeling...look no further than:

Remember the Night - 1940
Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray
Preston Sturges script!

The best Christmas movie you probably haven't seen!
Take some Stanwyck at her sassy best and most gorgeous...toss in some handsome and high minded MacMurray...throw in the perfect mother types Beulah Bondi and Elizabeth Patterson...and just for kicks...add in a young Sterling Holloway!
Cast of Characters:
Lee - a career criminal - a petty thief who has been arrested yet again.
Jack - an Assistant District Attorney - a crackerjack attorney who only wants go prosecute and move on.
Lee's Mom - A BITCH
Jack's Mom - A SAINT
Jack's Aunt- A saint in training
Willie - Some random teenage cousin of Jack's living with his mother and aunt
Assorted background characters

Lee and Jack meet in criminal court Christmas week. He is prosecuting her for theft, and her defense attorney is attempting to get her charge dismissed with some hilarious courtroom's a small taste:

The defense attorney fails, and due to Jack's request for a continuance, she is stuck in jail until after the Christmas holiday. Jack's conscience suddenly bothers him, so he asks a bail bond guy to bail Lee out of jail for Christmas. Of course, the bond guy takes this to mean deliver the chick to Jack's house:

This was not Jack's plan, as he is already overdue in Indiana for Christmas with his mother. But, being a gentleman, he takes her out to dinner and they get to know each other. Here is a great scene where Lee very deftly explains the difference between right and wrong and how each person views rights vs. wrongs:

So they dance and Lee turns out to be from Indiana also and Jack decides to drive her to her mother's home for a reunion while he is on the way to his own mother's home. When they arrive at Lee's mother's house (on the wrong side of the tracks, mind you), you immediately understand why Lee ran away and hasn't been home in a long time:

So...being a nice guy, Jack rescues her again and takes her home with him for Christmas. Please note the extreme difference in arrival greetings:

You get the picture. Over the course of the Christmas week, Lee and Jack bond, doing things like this:

But this film isn't simply about two people meeting and falling in love. There's a secondary plot going on involving two people learning to adjust their codes/standards and pre-conceived notions of people. Lee is living her life by the code she invented to protect herself from want. Want of material goods, and more importantly, want of love. MacMurray is living his life by the code he was raised with. A Code involving love, honesty, hard work, and so on. Lee and Jack want each other, badly, but can their lives intersect? Should they? I don't want to ruin the film for you, but let me tell you, despite being 1940, the film is very honest in it's treatment of the characters, the situation they are in, and what should happen to them.

There is this scene, for example:

So Christmas is over, Stanwyck has to return to jail and MacMurray to prosecuting her. Will he prosecute her? Will she allow him to throw his case just so he can marry her? Here they are at Niagara Falls on the way back to New York, discussing what they should do:

and that, dear readers, is where I shall leave it - get the movie on or won't regret it!

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