Arlecchino Cinema > 15:45


Rouben Mamoulian


Sunday 02/07/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The crowning jewel of Mamoulian’s vivacious and imaginative reinvention of the musical film is the story of Maurice (Chevalier), a Parisian tailor who finds himself in a castle, posing as a baron and falling in love with lord of the manor’s daughter, Jeanette (MacDonald). Myrna Loy, playing a sexually predatory countess in the film, rightly pointed out that the whole idea sounded like a “musical spoof of Lubitsch”. However, Love Me Tonight, which was first assigned  to George Cukor, is much more complex and, as Tom Milne observed, works like “an ineffable mixture of absurdity and enchantment”. Alas, as a result of the censor’s destructive brutality, the only existing versions of the film are 15 minutes shorter than the original.
Mamoulian appropriates the concept of the city symphony and applies it to an imaginary, studio-built Paris where the simple, daily sounds of people at work amalgamate to create an impression of the flow of life in a big city, through which Chevalier surfs, spreading song and charm. To complement the score by Rodgers and Hart, Mamoulian makes musique concrète to convey the unceasing progression of space and time. This is one of the first musicals that utilises song to create momentum for the story. Even at the scripting stage, the writers were asked to fill in the gaps between songs  by extracting narrative from them. The song Isn’t It Romantic? traverses Paris from the tailor shop into a taxi and then boards a train to the country. Carried by soldiers and gypsies, the song ends up in a chateau where Jeanette picks up on a chorus that originated miles away. Another song, The Son of a Gun Is Nothing but a Tailor, is sung by the aristocratic owners of the chateau and spreads through its quarters, repeated by various servants as everyone expresses shock at the revelation of Maurice’s true identity.
The songs are interwoven with an array of visual techniques, from fast motion to zoom lens shots to split-screen and even an unforgettably ironic slow-motion scene, reminiscent of René Clair and Jean Vigo, in which a hunting party rides away from a cottage on tiptoe! In Love Me Tonight, it is not just the musical numbers which have been choreographed – the entire film is a work of choreography from beginning to end.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the pièce Le Tailleur au château (1924) by Léopold Marchand and Paul Armont.. Scen.: Samuel Hoffenstein, Waldemar Young, George Marion Jr.. F.: Victor Milner. M.: Rouben Mamoulian, William Shea. Scgf.: Hans Dreier. Mus.: Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart. Int.: Maurice Chevalier (Maurice Courtelin), Jeanette MacDonald (principessa Jeanette), Charlie Ruggles (visconte Gilbert de Varèze), Charles Butterworth (conte de Savignac), Myrna Loy (contessa Valentine), C. Aubrey Smith (duca d’Artelines), Elizabeth Patterson (prima zia), Ethel Griffies (seconda zia). Prod.: Paramount. 35 mm. D.: 104’. Bn.