Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tonight or Never (1931)


I have had Tonight or Never downloaded since last year and just got around to watching it now. I found out about this movie when I was looking through a book about the French fashion designer Chanel and saw that she had designed the dresses Gloria Swanson wore in the film.
Tonight or Never was not a bad movie, like almost all old movies to us today it was a bit silly. I will say that Gloria Swanson knew how to pick some movies with controversial plots for the time. Swason plays a European opera singer named Nella Vargo. Her performance in Venice has been praised but her music teacher Rudig thinks she could have done much better. Nella is upset and confused- the audience loved her and she even felt she did a good job. Rudig tells her that she has no passion in her performance; she needs to know what love is and the passion of being in love. He tells Nella that until she can sing passionately she won't be able to play at the Metropolitan Opera House which after she will become the best opera singer in the world.
In the meantime, an admirer is pacing outside her window, a circle of cigarrettes litters the ground where he has been. Nella notices the man standing outside and becomes interested. All she can do is stand and look at him she doesn't call out to him. Rudig tells Nella that he was sitting near the man during the performance and that he was sitting down next to this old opera star Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni who has a notorious past. He believes the man to be the old woman's gigolo. He also reminds Nella that she is engaged to Count Albert von Cronac, but she does not love him. After everyone leaves, Nella is sitting alone on the couch when the man outside throws some flowers and note up to her room. The note says that he will see her in Budapest. She goes to the window but the man is gone.
Nella goes to bed but she cannot sleep. She keeps thinking about the man outside her window and why she did not say anything to him. Next door she hears a couple saying they love each other which bothers her to no end. To get away from Italy and to forget about the man Nella rings everyone to say that they are to leave for Budapest that night. On the train, her maid finds out that the admirer is on the same train. Nella goes to try to talk to him but the man's door is open and he is talking to the Marchesa. He says he liked Nella's performance but the Marchesa did not.
Once in Budapest, Nella cannot concentrate on her singing all she has on her mind is the admirer. He walks past her window waiting for her. She becomes frustrated with her love life so she tells her butler to order a taxi to take her to the hotel where the man is staying and to get her new white dress out for her to wear. That night she dines at the hotel and then goes to the man's room. She plays a little game with the man in the Marchesa's room, she says that she was looking for the US ambassador and his wife but she accidentally got off on the wrong floor. The man knows that Nella is there to see him; a hotel employee told him that Nella was asking about him. They talk for a bit, he says his name is Jim, and then she "leaves". He opens the window and freshens the room and sits on a chair waiting for Nella to come back in. Nella comes in and acts provocatively. In their conversation it comes up that she thinks he is a gigolo and instead of telling her no that he is not he plays along. Jim takes Nella and grabs her bruising her arm. He takes her arm and kisses it and then does the same to her other arm. Jim gives her an ultimatum: she has three minutes to make up her mind to either stay the night with him or to leave and never see him again. Nella decides to stay the night.

The next night Nella gives the performance of her life and is offered a contract to sing in New York. She feels very confident now that she will be starting a new life. Rudig had told Nella that the Count was having an affair so she told him that she no longer wants to be engaged to him and Rudig and the butler kick him out. The same day Jim comes by to bring back her emerald necklace she gave him as payment for the night before and demands that she chooses between him and New York. Nella is upset and goes to see Jim. She rips the contract up in front of him. Jim tells her that he is Jim Fletcher a talent scout from the States and that he is not the Marchesa's gigolo he is her nephew. The movie closes on Nella and Jim kissing.
Like I said a little silly for us now but a bit controversial for then. It seems Gloria Swanson knew how to get people talking with her movies.
Gloria Swanson was not horrible in the movie but she wasn't the greatest. Knowing that she was a silent film star you can see that some of her facial and body actions were over dramatic. Most of the time she talked like a dopey teenager and not like a 32 year old woman.
The costume pictured at the bottom is probably the most gorgeous outfit in the whole movie. The costume doesn't need words to describe it... the piece is Chanel and anything Chanel made was always beautiful. In one scene there was even the classic Chanel suit with the lose jacket, skirt and hat that I really wanted. Some of the costumes were over the top and definitely did not suit Gloria Swanson's figure but they were all gorgeous.