Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One Hour with You (1932) - "Should I be brave and misbehave, or not?"

Film Poster One Hour with You 1932
"One Hour With You" (1932).

As far as I'm concerned, 1932 was one of the top years for movies, right up there with 1939 and 1969. In the absolute depths of the Great Depression, Hollywood truly worked its magic to make people feel better. See some of my reviews of Carole Lombard films from that year.

Title Card One Hour with You 1932
Title Card for "One Hour With You" (1932).

"One Hour with You" (1932) is a delightful musical from the master, Ernst Lubitsch, with some uncredited help from another master, George Cukor. There was a dispute about who deserved the directing credit that wound up in court, believe it or not, with Lubitsch winning. If you ever wondered where Maurice Chevalier of "Gigi" fame came from, straw boater and all, well, this is a good place to start. The songs are wonderful, with Chevalier doing his nightclub act for us with the Oscar Straus/Leo Robin tune "What Would You Do?" and combining with McDonald on "What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do."

Maurice Chevalier Jeanette McDonald One Hour with You 1932
Maurice Chevalier is at his finest in "One Hour With You."

This is a delightfully lighthearted take on marital shenanigans by the great Lubitsch. Filmed two years before the advent of the Hayes Code, it plays around with feelings and passions in the manner of a latter-day Doris Day comedy, but with its own unique style. It is a musical comedy, but with an edge of seriousness which is usually expressed in rhyme or by characters directly addressing the camera in monologues about their inner turmoil. And throughout, everyone is dressed in fine suits and fashionable gowns that show everyone off to best effect.

One Hour with You 1932
A saucy pre-Code scene from "One Hour With You."

Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald are a happily married couple still in the throes of early-marriage passions. They make out in the park and then continue the proceedings at home. Jeannette's best friend Mitzi (Genevieve Tobin) is coming to visit, though, and she is in an unhappy marriage because her husband knows she cheats on him. On first sight, she flirts with Chevalier, who fights the urge to succumb, but you know how that goes. It turns out Jeannette has a suitor as well....

Maurice Chevalier Jeanette McDonald One Hour with You 1932
You sing lovely my dear - "One Hour With You."

Chevalier is wonderful, and he doesn't wear a single boater or top hat. He does his usual shtick, swaying at times to his own patter, and the songs fit his singing style perfectly. Probably the most defining thing about the film is the brazenly dominant role of women in the bedroom antics. A final scene, where Chevalier is feigning indignation at Jeanette's enhanced confession of her own infidelity with her mousy suitor Adolph (Charles Ruggles), is a classic, with her continually telling Chevalier to sit down while he eggs Ruggles on behind her back to admit to whatever McDonald says they did. The ending would not have been possible after the Hayes Code, but reflects reality better than any moralistic tripe ever could.

Maurice Chevalier Jeanette McDonald One Hour with You 1932
Very sophisticated evening wear in "One Hour With You."

Not quite the best comedy, or the best musical, or the best musical comedy. But it is the best for what it is, a lighthearted diversion from the sure hand of master Lubitsch.

Just to put you in the mood, below is Jeanette singing "one Hour with You."


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