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USA, 1940 (MIFF 1990, Retrospectives)

Director: Mitchell Leisen

As a bonus adjunct to our Festival highlight, Preston Sturges: Tlie Rise And Fall Of An American Dreamer, we are delighted to be screening a brand new 35mm print of the last film to be scripted by Sturges before he branched off into fully fledged writer-director status. It's also an apt occasion to appreciate the remarkable qualities and enduring career of the film's leading lady, the late Barbara Stanwyck. Her participation here adds a unique lustre, grit and dignity to this charming romantic comedy-drama, directed with panache by that still underappreciated stylist, Mitchell (Midnight, Easy Living) Leisen.

Stanwyck (in a kind of dry run for her crooked con-woman portrayal in Sturges' 1941 hit The Lady Eve) plays Lee Leander, a professional shoplifter, who's released into the custody of Assistant District Attorney John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) for the duration of her trial's Christmas recess, while both of them can visit their respective family homes. Her people turn out to be less than welcoming, so she's invited to join his folk for seasonal celebrations. The tone is set for singalongs, communal goodwill, cryptic comments, transforming glances and the odd miracle.

The combination of Leisen's warm sophistication and Sturges' wisecracking wit result in a memorably bitter-sweet screwballer, described by one commentator as a textbook illustration of "civilized adult entertainment" Hollywood style. As a benchmark in Sturges' creative journey Remember The Night shows us something of where his considerable talent was coming from and where his crazy genius was heading.
- (PKe)

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