Submissions should be flooding in today and I can’t wait to share them with you all on Monday ~ July 24th. With my ‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon, bloggers will explore films where spouses attempt to murder each other. Some succeed, some fail, some get off Scott~free, some are caught. Since I’m hosting this shebang, I guess I’ll go first with a film that precedes Julia Roberts’ “Sleeping With The Enemy” by 54 years.
In loving classic films, I approach them two ways: one, with anticipation and the other with obligation. I felt the latter with “HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT.” All this time, I was thinking it was some frou frou-y cotton candy confection with Chevalier and MacDonald. You know…singing princesses and cavalier playboys. ( I hadn’t even bothered to IMDB it to see who the actual cast was ). With my obligatory viewing, I entered this screening with, my dumb ol’ pre~conceived notions. I wanted to re~cast it. The unlucky triumvirate to my meddling re~casting were: JEAN ARTHUR, CHARLES BOYER and COLIN CLIVE.
Oh Boyer could stay, but I wanted to replace Jean Arthur with Irene Dunne and Colin Clive with Basil Rathbone. As the movie unfolds, I threw away my silly casting notions and went with the hand director FRANK BORZAGE.
HISTORY IS MADE OF ( SOME ) SPOILERS
The movie starts right away, with a note taped to the mirror ( I thought of “BUtterfield 8” ) which explains all we need to know: A jealous husband; a wife who’s sick of him…and she’s left him. I loved the complexity of the story and how “History…” unfolds is seamless. I reveled in the twists and turns and mix-ups and misunderstandings. Yes, I love how the movie is plotted out; a divorce correspondent case cum jewelry robbery cum “meet cute.” The way Borzage goes from damsel-in-distress…to…romance… to…disaster film is masterfully handled. Smooth transitions, nothing abrupt; like I said…seamless. I was totally absorbed and invested in each part of the story. There were a few things I predicted ( which still didn’t spoil what I watched ) and I was surprised by others. There were many points of foreshadowing that were answered throughout the movie. What a pickle the film puts Boyer and Jean in. How will they get the heck out of this. The stories’ weaving made a beautiful, disturbing tapestry.
INSANE IN THE BRAIN
Bruce: “I ought to kill you for this.”
Irene: “Why don’t you. Then I’d never have to see you again.”
Ouch! She knows. He knows she knows. And now she knows he knows she knows. (Mull that one over). Colin Clive is dastardly. He’s utterly galling. Clive plays the part to an infuriating fare-thee-well as shipping magnate Bruce Vail. His obsessive possessiveness need to control was beyond the pale. He wants to control her, make her his. He’s had a portrait painted of her and presents it to her:
Bruce: “Well, what do you think of your portrait? I had it painted from a cherished photograph. I’ll hang it in the Royal Suite of the Princess Irene.”
Irene: “By the neck until it dies?”
OMG! Harsh. Harsh for 1937, and just as harsh eighty years later. I was taken aback by the deadness of her voice and comment. It was devoid of life.
Bruce was absolutely diabolical. He couldn’t be dissuaded by detective or lawyer. I dare you to find…one…redeeming…thing about him other than he loves her. Wait…this can not be love. To consider wrecking an entire ocean liner with hundreds of passengers just to kill her is a Pyrrhic victory of outrageous proportion. Normally I would laud that and file it away in my Rolodex of Villainy, but I just couldn’t here. Probably because the victims were Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer ( in spite of my initial mental “Casting Switch” ). He was mean. Abusive. Sick. Control control control. He grabs her by the neck. Pushing, taunting. He made me sick!!! I hate emotional blackmail. Divorce is not an option for Clive’s character. He would never let her go no matter what. Men like that never…let…go.
What is stunning, like something ironic out of mythology is, Bruce’s fear ~ his wife cheating on him ~ he causes TO happen. And when it does happen, I love her speech about it:
“This time there IS another man. You set a trap to catch me with one, and another came instead, to tell me that he loved me. And for me to tell him I loved him too. And YOU did it. You did it all by yourself. Isn’t that funny? Don’t you think that’s funny? Before he came, I never even looked at another man. But you wouldn’t believe me. So you created one and sent him right into my arms.”
D’ya think this is a lesson learned? Naaaah.
LOVE AND ROMANCE
Oh….I could swoon at the love story of Paul and Irene in “History…”. Acting~wise, I’m just about a Jean Arthur convert now; of her apple cheeks and unusual hoarse and scratchy voice. Her laughing while crying. Or is that crying while laughing. She’s sensitive, her vulnerability is sexy. She can wear the hell out of those clothes. ( Who DID her costumes? ) And I believe her. I believe her distress. I believe her in love. I see the touch of comic timing here. There is something engaging about her. She’s different here than the light pixie I am used to seeing. Boyer as Paul…Welll….welll now ladies. Can we talk? I mean, can we talk? I know. Not here; too public. But girls…Boyer. He’s got it. I really now see him as so underrated an actor. His name’s not bandied about like other 30’s and 40’s favorites among classic film lovers. I don’t know why…now. Love sick. Hurt by love. Loved by love.
( Boyer in love ):
They dance in the restaurant from night ’till dawn. Fall in love without words.
Paul: “Now…it would be okay to say. But I can’t. Unless you will believe it. Will you?”
Irene: “I think I will believe it. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because tonight is what I’ve waited for. Maybe it’s because I’ve needed tonight more than anything in my life. Because I’ve never been happy before. Because…”
Boyer’s accent, his dark looks already get my vote. But his ‘Paul’ was a nice caring loving man. But is he similar to Bruce? Both are businessmen, both interested in Irene…but for different reasons: one to possess / one to love. ( Two sides of the same coin? ) What a contrast. Look at him in his restaurant and how he treats customers and waiters. When he’s in New York. Look at him in his new restaurant and how he handles staff; firm but caring. But is he obsessed? After all, he’s taken over this restaurant and left a table permanently vacant in the hopes that one day, Irene will come in. I guess obsession is okay depending on which side of it you’re facing. How hurt he was when he finally sees Irene come into his restaurant…with her husband.
THE DISASTER FILM
An ominous foghorn underscores everything. I am in shock when Bruce gives the Captain the order to go with that speed test. Full steam ahead! Captain, my Captain, you crazy! The ship will break apart at this speed, and does. The S.O.S. montage was well~done. Chaos, fear…perfect. Life boats, jumping sinking ship. Women and children first. And lovers last. If Bruce cannot have Irene, no one will. Only then can he put a bullet in his brain.
“HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT” shows a man consumed by jealousy to insane degrees he will do anything to hold on, even if he has to destroy it. His unreasonable jealousy is ultimately self~destructive. “History is Made At Night” has also made me a convert on a couple fronts. I forgive Boyer for how mean he was in “Gaslight.” I must actively seek out Frank Borzage films with a vengeance. And as for Jean Arthur…Ms. Arthur, will you forgive me?
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Won’t you come back Monday July 24th and check out these bloggers who show you how marriage can be murder. ThanxXx!
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