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Evelyn Laye portrays Lilli, a simple virtuous girl, who masquerades as Fritzi (portrayed by Lilyan Tashman), the notorious showgirl when the later is ordered out of town by the chief of police. Count Mirko (played by the wooden John Boles doing his best Al Gore imitation) comes to town just to make love to Fritzi and is nonplused to find that she does not readily surrender her charms to him. Lilli does her best to carry off the masquerade without losing her virtue to the Count. Leon Errol performs a "funny" drunk routine that he must have brought with him from vaudeville and which has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film. To virtually no one's surprise, the real Fritzi returns while Lilli's virtue is still intact, Count Mirko and Lilli fall in love, and they all live happily ever after. Anna Karenina this ain't, but it can be a pleasant evening's diversion if your expectations aren't too high.
The problem with One Heavenly Night is that it tries too hard to be a little of everything, and can't make up its mind what it wants to be. We have the coy, demure Evelyn Laye as Lilli and the tall, dark, and dashing Count Tibor (John Boles) chasing each other around in a mansion, and out in the rain (although Lilli's hair and dress don't seem to get very wet after running through the pouring rain...) Lilli pretends to be Fritzi, a famous entertainer. Then, for a time, its also a comedy with Leon Errol as Otto, who gets drunk and silly with the Count's house manager, as they discuss the wine room and drinkies. These routines scattered about really slow the movie down. Then Lilli and the Count do a GREAT job singing to each other, in Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy operatic style. This 1931 Goldwyn production is made just before the Hays movie code came riding in, and TCM showed it at midnight, just in case. There are some suggestive songs, but no blatantly improper scenes which were so common in movies made at this time. Surprisingly good quality sound and photography. The plot is a little hit or miss, but not a bad way to spend 80 minutes. No surprises in this one...
This original operetta was a flop in 1930 and still is, despite good production values (no surprise, with Goldwyn as producer) a shimmering leading lady (Evelyn Laye) and a fun supporting turn by Lilyan Tashman. The songs by Clifford Grey, Herb Nacio Brown, Edward Eliscu and Bruno Granichstaedten are mildly pleasant, nothing more, and a musical with a boring book (by Sidney Howard, of all people!) needs superior songs to float, and these second- rate numbers don't help. Finally the enterprise sinks completely during long and tiresome slapstick routines performed by Leon Errol. Sometimes the viewer wonders whether this production was meant to be a conventional operetta or a variety show. John Boles as the romantic lead exudes more energy than in his straight dramatic roles and sings well, but not often enough to put a dent in the tedium. Students of cultural history will find this film interesting as an example of why screen musicals became unpopular for a time. It's too bad Laye had to be in a turkey for her American sound film debut. She had everything it took to be a major player.
I was just two years old when this was made - an early talker (me, not the
film!!). Tonight, I was in a mood for lighthearted escapism, and this
my mood down to the ground. A truly charming bit of fairy tale froth. An
operetta by any other name. Not one little hint of nastiness or
Oh my, why to they not make films like this now
Evelyn Laye who was one of the great musical performers of the London
stage made only a few films at this point of her career and this one
being only one of two she did in Hollywood. Later on as a character
actress she did much work on the big and small screen. This rather
uninspired vehicle does afford one an opportunity to see her in her
Sam Goldwyn who produced it knew he had a turkey on his hands, it is fairly obvious that a full musical score was written for this and numbers must have been cut right and left. It didn't help too much.
The plot is similar to something Laye's American contemporary Marilyn Miller might have done on stage. Laye is a poor flower girl working in a theater in Budapest. The star Lilyan Tashman who is a wild child causes a riot and is ordered out of town. Laye agrees to go in her place and Tashman decides to hide out.
But the local lord of the place she's exiled to, Count John Boles who is also the police prefect is a bit of a rake and he's planning a little fun and frolic because he's heard of Tashman's reputation. Laye who really likes what she sees in Boles is kind of torn as to how to behave, be her good girl self or be the party animal Boles was expecting.
Leon Errol is in this film as Laye's friend and confidante and you know how bad the film is because Errol's famous drunk act takes up a lot more footage than normal. Leon Errol was a fine performer, but not in the dose we got here. Errol's comic relief becomes the show.
For those who like Eddy/MacDonald operetta even they will be bored with One Heavenly Night.
Speaking of Jeanette and Nelson, Evelyn Laye was in the original cast of Bittersweet on stage. Now if she had filmed that it would have been worth preserving.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the 1930s, there were quite a few god-awful musicals that are
awfully hard to stomach today. That's because unlike other musicals,
the songs were almost operatic in style and high-pitched warbling
abounded. Now you probably are immediately reminded of Jeanette
MacDonald and Nelson Eddy's films, though there were some that came out
before theirs that were actually far more difficult to stomach--the
films were so old fashioned and the singing so dreadful. Oddly, the
studio heads even placed Laurel and Hardy in a few of these musical
monstrosities--they were that popular an 'art' form at the time.
Here in ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT, we've got all the makings of a terrible old musical. The singing is among the most high-pitched and ear-shattering, the songs are dull, the acting (at times) is suspect, the film features comic relief (Leon Erol) that isn't all that funny and the love story is rather creepy.
Let's talk about the love story for a moment. The film begins with a not especially attractive lady singing a song rather poorly. Yet despite this, the men in the audience respond like she's "Swing Shift Cinderella" (from the Tex Avery cartoon) and begin hooting and hollering and acting like horny dogs. After a riot, the police order this sex kitten out of the city but instead she sends a similar looking friend. This friend (Evelyn Laye) has dreamed about the life of a vamp and she's quick to agree to the masquerade. However, the vamp's reputation proceeds her and the Count in the town she arrives in assumes she's an easy sexual conquest. When he practically rapes Laye (great name, huh?), she runs off and realizes she doesn't want to be a vamp! Yet, oddly, later the Count realizes he actually loves Laye and wants to marry her, not just lay Laye. And so the two kiss and live happily ever after! Aside from promoting date rape, this plot is really, really hard to believe and is made all the worse by the couple periodically breaking into song.
Overall, the idea behind the plot isn't bad but the execution and romance are so god-awful I can't recommend the film.
"Caught in her Own Love Trap... she could not stem The Fury of His Love!" screams the poster that was used to advertise this 1930 musical/operetta. If only it were true... Even though elegantly produced by Samuel Goldwyn, "One Heavenly Night" became one of the big flops of the year and the passing decades have not been kind to it. This "talkies" screen debut of West End singing star Evelyn Laye was obviously intended to launch her on a musical film career in Hollywood, but both critics and audience rightly perceived the flick as a turkey, and Miss Laye's career as a screen song siren never materialized. In fairness to the lady, it's difficult to imagine what vocal and thespian powers she might have drawn upon to overcome the stale script, the so-so music, and the stilted performances of her co-actors (including John Boles and a painfully unfunny Leon Errol). It's nice to know that -- after being bruised by Tinseltown -- Evelyn Laye returned to a long and highly successful career on the British stage and died in the 1990's, much loved and appreciated by her audiences, at the ripe old age of 95. As for "One Heavenly Night," if you get the opportunity to see it... don't...
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