In the word of screenwriter Preston Sturges, “Love reformed her and corrupted him.”
Remember the Night is an often forgotten Christmas film, which is a shame as movies with Barbara Stanwyck are always great (in fact this is the first of three on the list).
Now since I’m going to bet no one knows the plotline to this film (as opposed to just about all the other films on this list which we know almost by heart) I’m going to reveal some spoilers. The movie follows Stanwyck’s character Lee Leander, a thief who is caught stealing an expensive diamond necklace only a few days before Christmas. Enter Fred MacMurray’s character John Sargent, New York City Assistant D.A. Knowing that a jury won’t convict her only a couple of days before Christmas he gets the trial postponed until after the New Year so that he can get a conviction. While clever he is not heartless and asks the local (and rather shifty) bail bondsman to bail her out so that she can be out of prison. Said bail bondsman, thinking that Sargent has more lascivious reasons than just Christmas charity, brings her to Sargent’s apartment after baling her out. Sargent, who is just desperate to just leave for his mother’s home in Ohio, convinces Lee that he has no intention of taking advantage of her, but he decides she deserves a good meal before he leaves. At dinner he finds out that she has no where to stay other than prison…except her mother’s in Ohio. By now you can see the trip to Ohio they will both take, how her mother doesn’t want to have anything do with her and how our beautiful thief ends up spending Christmas with her prosecutor and his family. Each step in this story is motivated by Sargent’s desire to show a good and charitable Christmas spirit (except for that desire to convict her).
It should come as the exact opposite of a surprise that it just happened one night that these two fall in love.
Besides the obvious fact that this movie takes place at Christmas, it is a Christmas film because it is about seeing the best in everyone, about forgiveness and about redemption. In this film everyone behaves in a way that is directed to show the best within us and that no one is beyond hope.
(Am I the only one who feels that as movies have gotten worse over the decades, trailers have gotten consistently better?)
(And my conservative beliefs are soothed by the fact that the only truly vicious people are shown to be government agents who wished to nickel and dime people with unjust regulations and a low class welfare recipient.)
I’m not going to say this is the most original story of all time (although it being made in 1940 does kind of make it more original than it may seem).
All in all a great Chirstmas film.