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In 1932, long before anyone thought of social media, Rouben Mamoulian captured the magic of going viral
"LOVE ME TONIGHT"
VALENTINE'S DINNER & CLASSIC MOVIE
Friday, February 12, 2016
Highland Country Club 931 Alexandria Pike, Ft. Thomas, KY 41075
Cocktails & Dinner starts at 6:00; Film 7:30; discussion after.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM:
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You don't need to be a techie to marvel at the direction, camera work and production skills of Rouben Mamoulian, whose inventive genius created one of the most sophisticated and technically accomplished cinematic works of its time. This virtually flawless film had a profound effect on the genre and is considered one of the best movie musicals ever made.
Accolades from audiences, film historians and critics are numerous and effusive – see Resources, below. Everything fits together seamlessly – the witty screenplay, the chemistry of the all-star cast and supporting comedic troupe, the infectious melodies in the brilliant, hit-laden score created by the famous team of Rodgers and Hart ... yet the film doesn't take itself too seriously and the cast had a good time making it.
With its double entendres and suggestive dialogue and images, the themes of romance, sex and seduction are the obvious comedic focus of LOVE ME TONIGHT. Risqué but not licentious, the film is so well written, directed and acted it doesn't need the sexual devices we see in contemporary films.
Buffet dinner with multiple entrées, sides, salad; complimentary glass of wine, dessert, coffee or tea. Advance Tickets: Dinner+Film = $35, Film Only = $10. Additional bar purchases can be made directly with HCC. LIMITED SEATING in an intimate setting, advance reservations recommended. Easy access, free parking,
An amazing, one-of-a-kind opening, with two distinct parts
The opening sequence consists of three songs and several snatches of dialogue that introduce a vast array of characters while simultaneously depicting their environment. The scale of Mamoulian's achievement is evident from the first eighteen minutes, which so effectively establish the key themes of town/country, night/day, rich/poor, old/new and two hearts becoming one.
First: The movie begins with a brilliant audio/visual montage, with the sights and rhythmic sounds of morning street life in Paris. The scene morphs into introduction of a tailor, Maurice Courtelin (Chevalier), as he starts his day and walks to work, greeting friends in song as they open their shops. Courtelin's humble quarters and his encounters with the "everyman" citizenry establishes the working class milieu, building rapid rapport with the Depression-era film audience.
Mamoulian's eight-minute tour de force subtly, yet effectively, sets the stage for the story to be told: Yes, this a romantic comedy fairy tale for adults, but we'll come to sense tension between the petit bourgeois and the elite.
Second: Rodgers, Hart and Mamoulian came up with the idea of a song that would be handed off from one character to another, and the beautiful and lasting "Isn't It Romantic" was born.
More about the opening sequence ...
In addition to the fascinating blending of songs and action that sets the film apart, LOVE ME TONIGHT features technical attributes that are decades ahead of their time. Using everything from zoom lenses to slow motion (unknown in 1930's Hollywood), Mamoulian's technique includes a saucy split screen shot of Maurice and Jeanette's heads on neighboring pillows; an elevated starburst top shot that preceded Busby Berkeley's signature camera angle; and a nod to his Russian film training and Sergei Eisenstein in the final frames. In a self-parody of the rom-com genre, Mamoulian's romantic role reversal and empowerment of his female lead was rare in the '30s.
If one considers cinema as an early form of social media, the creative genius of Mamoulian, Rodgers and Hart is confirmed by watching the iconic "Isn't It Romantic" go viral onscreen, sung and passed along by many people while covering the distance from Paris to countryside in the course of a single day.
And in the realm of popular culture, the viral metaphor is equally apt... "Isn't It Romantic" was featured in eight other movies, recorded by dozens of vocal artists and jazz grouips, embraced by cultures around the world and is plentifully found on YouTube, Google and myriad other websites.
LOVE ME TONIGHT is considered the screen's first integrated musical, in which script and musical numbers are so closely related that every number serves a dramatic purpose. As such, it was actually the precursor by a decade to the stage's first integrated musical, Oklahoma!, (also directed by Mamoulian).
Director Rouben Mamoulian chose one of Broadway's top songwriting duos, Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, to write the score. In a rare move for a film or stage musical, he had them write the songs first, making sure that each lyric related closely to plot and character. He also had Hart write rhymed dialog for selected scenes to define character and advance the plot. Then he put the screenwriters to work. The result was an impressive melding of script and score, perfectly fitting the director's concept of the film.
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Maurice Chevalier as Maurice Courtelin and Jeanette MacDonald as Princess Jeanette, with Myrna Loy as Comtesse Valentine supported by an ensemble cast of accomplished comedians:
Charles Ruggles as Vicomte Gilbert de Varéze, Charles Butterworth as Comte de Savignac, C. Aubrey Smith as the Duc d'Artelines, Elizabeth Patterson as First Aunt, Ethel Griffies as Second Aunt, Blanche Frederici as Third Aunt, Joseph Cawthorne as Dr. Armand de Fontinac, Robert Greig as Major Domo Flammand and Bert Roach as Émile.
Cast member links and descriptions are at Wikepedia and IMDB.
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CENSORSHIP and the Motion Picture Production Code:
What is pre-Code Hollywood? Broadly framed, this is an era in motion picture history dating from the advent of "talkies" (films with sound) in 1927 to the mandatory enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code in July 1934. While films were censored in this era, they were not as severely censored as the films that came after enforcement in 1934.
Equally important, this time in our history witnessed powerful elements that shaped American culture. For example: the concept of peace between world wars, and general prosperity before 1930; the stock market crash and Great Depression; prohibition, public disregard for same, speakeasies, bootlegging and resultant violent crime; increased world travel and greater awareness of other nationalities and ethnicities; the drought, Dustbowl and national migration,etc.
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In researching this film, I've discovered an immense amount of essays, articles and reviews. l had little idea that LOVE ME TONIGHT was universally held in such high regard and am indebted to all for their perspective and analysis. – Tim Swallow, CWC
Many excellent LOVE ME TONIGHT materials at TCM (Turner Classic Movies):
Introduction The Essentials The Big Idea behind the Film
Behind the Camera Critic's Corner Pop Culture Trivia & Fun Facts
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% Fresh
Wonders in the Dark
Danny Reid's PRE-CODE.COM, an excellent source of Hollywood Pre-Code and censorship info and reviews of films from that era:
What is Pre-Code Hollywood? Pre-Code Timeline
Pre-Code Glossary Love Me Tonight Review