One Romantic Night, starring Lillian Gish in her first talking film, has all the problems of early sound films: the voices are either too low or too high and most importantly the actors seem very uncomfortable having to speak their lines. Gish was one of the greatest actresses of the silent era but here in her first films she seems out of her element. The ridiculous story and the casting of a very effeminate Rod La Roque as one of the love interests completely brings down the film along with several other elements as well.
Prince Albert (La Roque) has been invited to the home of a Princess Alexandra (Gish) to propose to her. Albert is a partygoer who can stay out all night and has several women on the side. He does not want to marry Alexandra any more than she wants to marry him. Alexandra tells her mother Princess Beatrice (Marie Dressler) her feelings about Albert and getting married but her mother will not hear any of it. Beatrice is hell bent on having her daughter married to royalty since their family has lost their own throne. Albert and Alexandra go for a walk in her garden. She knows that he does want to marry her and she flat out asks him if he is going to propose and if he is not if they can still be friends since they have been since they were children. Albert agrees to them being just friends.
Alexandra’s two younger brothers are tutored by a young man named Dr. Haller (Conrad Nagel). Haller is in love with Alexandra. She does not know it but her brothers sure do. Beatrice is getting worried about her daughter and Albert. She comes up with the plan to make Albert jealous for him to want to be with Alexandra. By this time Alexandra has found out that Haller likes her so when her mother suggests that she go with Haller to the dance that night she is hesitant but goes along with the plan. All through the dance Albert cannot keep his eyes off Alexandra and becomes extremely jealous of her with another man. Haller does not realize he is being played. He is happy just having the princess’s attention and having her in his arms. At dinner Haller sits next to Alexandra and Beatrice freaks out. The guests do not understand why because Haller after he keeps them entertained with his talk of astronomy.
Beatrice has coffee held just for the family in a small room. She plans it for Alexandra and Albert but Haller walks into the room with the prince. Beatrice has had enough and fakes being sick to be taken away from the situation. The only person who approves of Haller and Alexandra together is her uncle who is a bishop and believes she should love and marry anyone she wants. When Albert comes back after attending to the queen he starts to berate Haller. To make the argument stop Alexandra kisses Haller. That night when Alexandra is in her room packing to runaway with Haller, Albert comes in. He takes the princess in his arms and kisses her and tells her he loves her. She responds by saying she is mad at him for the way he treated Haller.
Alexandra does not wind up running away with Haller. The next morning he decides to leave. Haller tells Alexandra he was going to leave without saying goodbye and also that when she kissed him the night before that she did it out of pity not love. The bishop says to him when Alexandra leaves that he had worshipped the princess from afar just like one of his stars for so long and when he got close to her the star around her faded.
Beatrice gets a telegram saying that Albert is to be married to another princess from a far off place. Eventually Alexandra finds out the telegram and the marriage are lies when Albert comes to her window that night. He tells her he made the telegram up to make her jealous.
I am sure you can guess that unfortunately Lillian Gish runs off into the sunset with Rod La Roque.
Lillian Gish was a very good actress but as I said at the beginning she seemed very out of her element speaking in a film. I think before I ever saw Gish in a silent I had only ever seen her in Night of the Hunter where she is so amazing but that was one of her later talking films. I have yet to see any other of her sounds films, from what I hear she got better the more she made. Gish seemed very awkward but I am not sure if it was that the characters were awkward or the acting was by all of them they all seemed so nervous. It was funny to see her in one scene make a motion like she used to in her silents- after Albert kisses her she backs away with wide eyes and puts her hand to her mouth. I loved that because it felt for a split moment I was watching one of her silents. Gish by this time was thirty-seven she seemed so unbelievable as a young naïve princess. Conrad Nagel was very good. I have heard of him before but I have never seen him in a film before this. Rod La Roque was just a terrible choice to play Albert. I was so mad Alexandra wound up with this feminine looking man. La Roque was an awful actor I have seen him in a film before and I remember I did not like him in that one either. Marie Dressler was also a terrible choice for Princess Beatrice. She was such an ugly woman and she acted way too over the top. The over the top acting and the character did not suit her at all.
If you listen real closely you can hear the camera pounding away in the background when a scene is quiet. That was a big problem during early sound as well as the audio balance. The voices as I mentioned were too low or too loud as well as the background noises.
One Romantic Night is not the greatest film. I sat through it just because of Lillian Gish and I am will tell you to only sit through this film if you like her and nothing more. Do not go crazy looking for One Romantic Night, though, no matter how much you like Lillian Gish, take your time and drag your heels.