Remember the Night Reviews
They both give very good performances in their respective roles as John Sargent and Lee Lelander. She is the woman who is caught shoplifting for the third time and is ordered a trial, but he is the one who postpones the trial so she can have Christmas to spend with her family.
Leisen's direction is decent and the two leads are a real delight together whether they are on screen or not. Their best pairing would come 4 years later, but the first outing has got off to a very decent and solid start.
What also makes it better is that Christmas movies were very rare during this decade so its makes a good, festive treat.
I first became a fan of writer-director Preston Sturges' films "Sullivan's Travels," "The Lady Eve," "The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek" and "The Palm Beach Story" - all four star screwball romantic comedies - and started to seek out all the films he worked on.
Displeased with the way other directors interpreted his scripts, "Remember the Night" was the last film Sturges wrote before directing his own works. This is where I must step in and say that RTN director Mitchell Liesen was at his peak and did an excellent job with the material. His judicious editing of the script and his many light touches helped to draw natural and touching performances from the entire gifted cast. It couldn't be a more perfect movie. And I should know, I have watched "Remember the Night" more than 25 times, continue to be charmed and find something new to love with every viewing.
I first saw RTN on TV back in the 1980s when cable TV started playing black and white classics on the old AMC (American Movie Classics). I found it a completely original story, about a pretty young thief who meets a district attorney with a heart of gold. (I know that's rare, but believe me it's possible.) Assigned to prosecute Lee Leander after she is caught stealing an expensive bracelet, John Sargent manages - with the inadvertent help of her blowhard defense lawyer (a hilarious Willard Robertson) - to get the trial put off until after the Christmas holidays. Feeling guilty that the shoplifter will have to wait out the postponement in jail, Sargent arranges bail. This first act of kindness sets off a domino effect of compassion and grace that shows the healing powers of love, acceptance and absolution.
Twenty years ago, on one of our first dates, I showed my future wife just one scene from this film on a poor quality video tape I made of that early TV broadcast. The scene where Sargent's family sing "The End of a Perfect Day" is just a fragment of this heartwarming film, but when I looked over to see my sweetheart's reaction, she already had tears welling up in her eyes and I realized that she got it. And to me, getting it is everything.
This is my wife's favorite movie, a one-sheet poster from it now hangs over our fireplace, and we've told hundreds of people how RTN is (to us) as good as "The Wizard Of Oz," "Casablanca," "Singin' In The Rain," "It's A Wonderful Life," "The Thin Man," "It Happened One Night" and many other four star classics you can watch over and over again and still feel all the magic of a perfect film.
"Remember the Night" was finally released on VHS in 1998 and looked fine when compared to a broadcast quality picture on TV. But it soon went out of print and still remained difficult to find or see for years. We started buying up VHS copies to pass on them on to other film buff friends. We held screening parties in our home. We took copies on the road and introduced the film to others. "Remember the Night" was both loved by those who had seen it and lost to those who could not find a copy.
After years of petitioning, TCM put it out on DVD in 2010. It looked better than the VHS and sold well for a forgotten little gem. Though the market for DVD's had started to fall off, because of its success, TCM released another version, now restored by no less than the Library of Congress, three years later. And now finally the topper - a brand new Blu-Ray version is finally available and it is stunning! The picture is a super sharp fine grain, showing more detail to enhance those subtle performances and the delightfully funny script. Watch it on the biggest screen you can find with the lights low, the phone turned off, next to the love of your life. You will thank me later.
P.S. As I type these words I am reminded of the inscription my wife had engraved inside the wedding ring I now wear... "Remember The Night."