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Austrian Emperor Franz Josef has arranged a marriage for his nephew, the Archduke Paul Gustave - nicknamed Gustl - to the suitable Princess Matilda, a woman Gustl can't even remember. He is instead in love with the Hungarian Countess Zarika Rafay, which Gustl can't tell his uncle since he disapproves of her family. The Emperor will allow Gustl to sow his wild oats before getting married, but that woman needs to be someone "harmless" outside of the royal circle. Since they discuss this situation while at the ballet, Gustl instead tells the Emperor that he is in love with one of the ballerinas, and the one he has chosen somewhat at random is the always distracted Lisl Gluck, who is considered the worst dancer in the company since she is always staring at the man she intends to marry, the ballet company's piano accompanist Toni Berngruber. When Gustl summons Lisl, she is relieved to learn his true intentions - that she is just a front while he cavorts secretly with the Countess (although... Written by
Because the action of the movie is so completely wedded to the music, the script was mimeographed on special music paper, with the action and dialogue printed between the staves and timed to each measure. See more »
Against his wishes, an Austrian Archduke must pretend a lovely ballet girl is his mistress - but THE NIGHT IS YOUNG and anything might still happen...
Ramon Novarro had his last starring role at MGM in this forgotten - but surprisingly enjoyable - musical comedy. This time the Studio's chameleon star plays a Habsburg royal and he brings his usual sense of good fun & high spirits to the role - laughing & singing & charming the ladies. To its credit, the Studio gave him a sendoff with fine production values and a worthy supporting cast.
English songstress Evelyn Laye was to be Novarro's final (major film) leading lady. She is lovely & very talented & will remind some viewers of Jeanette MacDonald - except she's much easier to understand when warbling than Jeanette.
Wizened Edward Everett Horton is well cast as a pompous palace bureaucrat; it's quite a hoot to watch his facial expressions throughout. Pert & sassy, Una Merkel is fun as Miss Laye's girlfriend; laconic Charles Butterworth provides some chuckles as Merkel's solemn beau. Herman Bing is very enjoyable as Novarro's majordomo; and elderly Henry Stephenson adds a touch of grace & dignity to his small role as Emperor Franz Josef.
Movie mavens will recognize Elspeth Dudgeon as an old Duchess in the Royal Box at the Ballet; Christian Rub as a cafe waiter; and George Davis as a milkman - all uncredited.
The musical score by Oscar Hammerstein II & Sigmund Romberg is all pleasantly lilting, with the standout being the classic When I Grow Too Old To Dream.'
After doing very fine work in front of the Hollywood cameras for thirteen years, Ramon Novarro found himself in the unfortunate position of being the human flotsam swept up by two powerful tides.
First, there was the definite change in the public's taste for male movie stars. The Latin Lover was out -the rugged He-man (personified by Gable & Cooper) was very much the vogue. Sensitive Novarro, with his still strong Mexican accent, no longer fit in. Thus, THE NIGHT IS YOUNG can easily be seen as the last gasp of the Hollywood Latin Lover, with roots stretching back to Valentino.
Second, with the strengthening of the Hayes Office and the enforcement of the Production Code beginning in mid-1934, a powerful studio like MGM had to be very careful with its sexually nebulous stars. Already MGM had been involved in silencing little imbroglios Novarro had gotten into in the past. A big sex scandal now could be disastrous. Unwilling to hide behind a fake marriage (as a few other male stars were forced to do), Louis B. Mayer quietly reserved the right to not renew Novarro's contract when it expired in 1935.
Ten years previous, in the title role of the hugely popular BEN-HUR, Novarro had been one of MGM's brightest stars. Now, he was a has-been.
Novarro seems to have accepted the changes with typical good grace. Always wise with his finances, money was not going to be much of a problem. He did some film work at lesser studios, both in California & Mexico. He even went on the stage for awhile and lent his fine singing voice to light operetta. And eventually, as he aged, there was some television work.
Basically, though, Novarro had already slipped into obscurity by the mid-1950's, as can be seen by a rather cruel comment Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) makes about him in one of the Hollywood episodes of I Love Lucy. Novarro continued with the occasional acting job into the 1960's.
It would certainly be comforting if movie heroes all came to happy ends at last. Such culminations to long lives would be both poetic & tidy. Ramon Novarro, alas, would have no such Final Farewell.
At the end of October in 1968, Novarro made the incredibly bad mistake of allowing two young ruffians into his home. Over the course of a very long night, he was humiliated, beaten, tortured & murdered in the most grisly, ghastly manner. (The culprits were quickly caught.) Novarro was 69 years old.
And so ends the wonderful, horrible, exciting, terrifying saga of Ramon Novarro. It is too bad that for decades the most that people recalled about him, if at all, was the gruesome manner of his death. He should be remembered as a fine actor with much charm & vivacity, who acquitted himself well in both silent & talking motion pictures. If for no other reason than BEN-HUR, he will be assured his place in film history. Now that his old movies are slowly becoming more readily accessible, it may at last be possible to give Ramon Novarro the acknowledgment & respect he deserves.
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