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Maurice Courtelin, a Parisian tailor (Maurice Chevalier), is owed a great sum of money by a viscount (Charles Ruggles). Stalling for time, the titled but penniless nobleman moves Maurice into the family chateau and passes him off as a baron. The beguiling Maurice soon charms the entire aristocratic household, except for the haughty Princess Jeanette (Jeanette MacDonald), who remains suspicious of him. But suspicion eventually gives way to love. Written by
Dan Navarro <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There are so many elements regarding LOVE ME TONIGHT that crossed to create one of the great musicals of American film. It probably was the best score for a Hollywood film done by Rodgers and Hart, including "Isn't It Romantic", "Mimi", and "Lover", as well as "The Sonofagun is Nothing But a Tailor" (only their scores for HALLELUJAH, I'M A BUM and THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT are as interesting, but the former only produced one standard, and the latter produced none). From their first arrival in motion pictures Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart experimented with singing that replaced dialog. Here it finally got it's opportunity to show what it could do. That's due to them having a master director (who would turn out to be more of a stage and musical director than a film one - though his films remain more than interesting), Rouben Mamoulian. Always willing to experiment in his film (in DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE, having the camera take the point of view of Fredric March for part of the film; using color to show suggestions of the threat of military violence in BECKY SHARP) Mamoulian was willing to go along with his musical pair in the extended songs like "How are you?" and "Isn't It Romantic". The latter beginning in Chevalier's tailor shop eventually involves people passing the melody from the street to a musician in a taxicab to a marching brigade of troops to gypsies to Jeanette at her palace. The cast was perfect, with Chevalier and MacDonald joined by their former ONE HOUR WITH YOU co-star Charlie Ruggles, as well as Myrna Loy, Charles Butterworth (who has some funny lines for a change), and C. Aubrey Smith. It is rare for everything in a musical to fit together so well.
Chevalier is a tailor who made the mistake of making a complete wardrobe for Ruggles a supposedly wealthy aristocrat. Ruggles owes him a lot (as well as all the other people who made parts of the clothing for Ruggles - at Chevalier's recommendation). So they send him after Ruggles, who has gone to his rich uncle's home in the country. This is C. Aubrey Smith, a reactionary old Duke. He is also the protector of Princess Jeanette, now a widow (don't feel bad for her, as Dr. Joseph Cawthorn finds out). Also staying with the Duke is Count Charles Butterworth, a scholarly aristocrat (and just as hesitant and bumbling in his delivery of dialog here as in other films, but here his comments are funny). Finally there is Smith's niece, Myrna Loy, who never saw a pair of men's pants that she did not care to open.
Chevalier's appearance is an embarrassment to Ruggles, who may be disinherited by Smith over his debts. So he keeps Chevalier from admitting that he is a tailor, and finally suggests that Chevalier is a king traveling incognito. As Chevalier and MacDonald slowly fall in love, the suspicion that he is a monarch makes him possibly a perfect match for the widowed Princess. Chevalier also enlivens the dull château with his songs (including an "Apache" number, as well as "Mimi" which everyone ends up singing - including C. Aubrey Smith!). But what would happen if the truth comes out? That is what leads to the conclusion of the film.
Many of the early surviving films of the 1930s are cut from what they originally were like. And the film that was cut is usually lost forever. In the case of LOVE ME TONIGHT, the loss is truly sad because of the quality of the film that survives. But at least we do have that surviving footage to marvel at and enjoy.
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