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Tonight or Never (1931)

A young opera singer finds her career stalled because of her cold and passionless performances, until she finds romance with a handsome admirer.


(as Mervyn Leroy)


(adaptation), (adaptation) (as Frederick Hatton) | 2 more credits »
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Cast overview:
Nella Vago
Jim Fletcher
Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni
Robert Greig ...
Warburton Gamble ...
Count Albert von Gronac
Greta Meyer ...


A young opera singer finds her career stalled because of her cold and passionless performances, until she finds romance with a handsome admirer.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Romance





Release Date:

1933 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Cette nuit ou jamais  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film marks the screen debut of Melvyn Douglas. See more »


Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni: And that is just the trouble, it is nothing but an organ. It is as cold and as passionless as one of these American iceboxes. Let me tell you a secret; no woman can ever be a great artist without love, without passion, without a great inside flame in her heart. If she were really an artist, she would sing with more than her voice, she would sing with her heart and her soul and her body. I did!
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Referenced in Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Gloria Swanson (1961) See more »

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User Reviews

Norma Desmond on the way down.
20 December 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Once the highest paid star in Hollywood silent film Queen, Gloria Swanson looks uncomfortable and sounds a little like Gracie Allen in her shaky transition to sound in this solidly made racy comedy. Not her first or last sound picture during that era but a clear indicator her style of acting had become anachronistic overnight with new kids on the block like Joan Crawford and Jean Harlow preparing to take the heat up a notch and send Ms. Swanson packing, only to rise Phoenix like years later in Sunset Boulevard; along with Benji the canine (Petticoat Junction) the greatest comeback in Hollywood history.

Talented opera singer Nella Vaga (Swanson) has the tools but not the passion to take her place among the big names in the business. After a solid performance (sans passion) in Venice, American, Jim Fletcher, (Melvyn Douglas) is enthralled and stalks Vaga. A man of nebulous means Nella is intrigued, conflicted and makes a clumsy pass. Fletcher toys with her in a lengthy seduction that cures her stage reticence. Turns out she simply needed to get laid. Her Budapest performance is gang busters and the Met calls on as she finds love and success.

Tonight or Never is filled with ambiguous innuendo and dialogue giving it a rye subversive flavor as it keeps the audience in the dark along the way to do so. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, a Wellman like director, I could have been easily persuaded it was a Lubitsch work with it's theme, tart insinuations, use of doors, "Touch" regular Melvyn Douglas and a large ethnic caricature supporting cast with Fernand Gottschalk, Allison Skipworth and Robert Grieg (who has the most touching moment in the film with Swanson) all contributing key moments all of quirky non- stereotype. . J. Carol Naish, uncredited, offers up a tiny gem while Karloff in his Frankenstein year is weirdly perverse as a waiter.

This is Melvyn Douglas first major role and he brings the same self assured sophisticated suavity that would carry him through the next dozen or so years when he would loosen up Garbo this time in Lubisch's Ninotchka just before the black list and his own stunning comeback in later years as a multi award winning actor.

Swanson looks lovely dressed in Chanel, lounging about lush interiors photographed by the iconic Greg Toland but her performance is inconsistent at best her with comic timing off whether going up against Douglas or the supporting cast. There remain moments however when it becomes crystal clear why Ms. Swanson was a silent superstar, especially in close-ups without dialogue in which LeRoy goes retro silent to capture the star in her halcyon past, only for a moment but with maximum impact.

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