Remember the Night

December 25, 2010 - Barbara Stanwyck is a thief who tries to do the right thing when she falls in love with a prosecutor in this 1940 romantic comedy. Fred MacMurray plays the smitten assistant district attorney.

As the movie opens, Lee Leander (Stanwyck) steals a bracelet from a New York City department store and quickly gets caught. Before you can say, "How do you plead?" her case goes to trial. But, it's just before Christmas and prosecutor John Sargent (MacMurray) gets the case continued until after the New Year. Rather than see Lee spend the holidays in jail, he arranges for her to be set free on bail and the bondsman promptly drops her at his doorstep.

Sargent has plans to head home to Indiana for the holidays. Well, what do you know? Lee is from Indiana, too! So, off they go, bickering playfully as they encounter detours and other obstacles along the way. They make a brief stop to see Lee's mother, but it's Sargent's mother and sister who really make Lee feel like one of the family. All too soon, the holidays are over and Lee's trial resumes. Now, the issue is not so much whether she's guilty or innocent, but whether Sargent will risk his integrity to help the woman he loves.

Overall review: *** Stanwyck and MacMurray do well with the snappy script written by Preston Sturges. The plot successfully blends romance with an ethical dilemma. The one drawback, as it so often is with older films, is that the stereotypes represented here (half-witted servants, references to wife-beating) can seem offensive to a modern audience. You just have to remember that the movie was made in a different era and accept it for what it is. In the end, these stereotypes are not central to the movie, so do your best to overlook them.