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Her Night of Romance

Her Night of Romance(1924)

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teaser Her Night of Romance (1924)

Silent movie star Constance Talmadge is largely unknown to contemporary audiences, overshadowed by the enduring legacies of Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow. Yet in the twenties, Constance Talmadge--the bubbly, pretty comedienne with a knowing confidence and a sweet personality (in contrast to her elder sister Norma, who specialized in romantic tragedy) -- was one of the biggest and most popular Hollywood stars. "She pinned down a role that became her, both on and off the screen -- the hoydenish, devil-may-care, flirtatious sophisticate," in the words of film historian Jeanine Basinger.

Her 1924 comedy Her Night of Romance, directed by Sidney Franklin (The Good Earth, 1937) and scripted by Hanns Krly, is a familiar romantic farce of mistaken identities and ridiculous plot twists to bring together Dorothy Adams (Talmadge), an American heiress in London, with the seductive but penniless Lord Paul Menford (Ronald Colman). It's just the right mix of silliness and sophistication that made her career.

Talmadge makes her entrance with a visual gag that will be at least partially lost on modern audiences, yet still works thanks to her flair for comedy. The daughter of "the American brush king" steps out of a luxury liner for the cameras of the British press looking like a pinched, prissy Victorian schoolmarm, her face tightened into a disapproving sneer. The joke, of course, is that Talmadge is a sweet-faced beauty with a breezy, sunny disposition, and so, we soon learn, is her character Dorothy Adams. This savvy American girl stages the whole thing to discourage British fortune hunters, much to the exasperation of her father.

Talmadge is undeniably the star of Her Night of Romance but the film is most notable today for showcasing Ronald Colman in one of his first leading roles. The handsome, suave and dark-eyed British-born stage actor Colman was elevated to leading man status when he was cast opposite Lillian Gish in the lavish drama The White Sister in 1923. In Her Night of Romance, Colman is given a chance to show off his comic chops and displays an easy grace in his very first scene. As he sees his society girlfriend off at a train station, he transforms what could be a slapstick scene into a light comic dance performed as effortlessly as Astaire. Before the sequence is over, Talmadge and Colman meet cute not once but twice (he's oddly charmed by her in disguise and undeniably smitten by her out of her guise) and their initial attraction is fanned by a cascade of misunderstandings, contrived plot twists and the usual complications of mistaken identity farces.

The silly affair, which pulls Dorothy's father (Albert Gran), Lord Paul's mercenary business partner (Jean Hersholt), a famous doctor and Lord Paul's servants into the shenanigans, may be ridiculous but it's no more absurd than many other romantic comedies of the period. Screenwriter Hanns Krly, a longtime collaborator with Ernst Lubtisch (who brought the writer with him from Germany to Hollywood) and an old hand at romantic farce, juggles the multiple characters and the cascades of complications with surprising ease. It takes a lot of plotting acrobatics to send practically every character in Her Night of Romance to the country manor and Krly brings it together with a minimum of fuss. Director Sidney Franklin, a veteran studio craftsman who exemplified the glossy studio style of MGM with his tasteful direction, brings elegance to the silly little romantic comedy and keeps the story moving and the comedy bouncing. The great art director William Cameron Menzies creates the world of high society London in Hollywood.

The film's success spawned a sequel, Her Sister from Paris (1925), reteaming Talmadge with co-star Colman, director Franklin and screenwriter Krly for another farce of false identities and romantic complications (Talmadge plays two roles in this one). It was the beginning of a brilliant career for Colman, who rose to the A-list and remained there through the transition to sound, thanks to a voice that was as elegant and cultured as his silent film persona. Constance, however, never made the transition to sound and retired a major star of the silent screen just a few years later.

Director: Sidney Franklin
Screenplay: Hans Kraly
Cinematography: Ray Binger, Victor Milner
Film Editing: Hal Kern
Cast: Constance Talmadge (Dorothy Adams), Ronald Colman (Paul Menford), Jean Hersholt (Joe Diamond), Albert Gran (Samuel C. Adams, Dorothy's father), Robert Rendel (Prince George), Sidney Bracey (Butler), Joseph Dowling (Professor Gregg), Templar Saxe (Dr. Wellington), Eric Mayne (Dr. Scott), Emily Fitzroy (Nurse).
BW-70m.

by Sean Axmaker

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