“I wish I had known you so many years ago.”
History is Made at Night is one of so many classic films I have watched and feel it deserves to be known better. This is a love story but it is a well thought out and wonderfully acted love story.
Bruce Vail is a ship owner tycoon. His new ship is named after his wife Irene (Jean Arthur). A reporter asks Bruce about a rumor where he fought with Irene while they were out one night. Bruce just brushes the incident off. Irene, in the mean time, leaves the ship. She writes Bruce a note that she wants a divorce and that their marriage was a mistake. Bruce thinks there is another man involved. He sends someone to blackmail her. He plans to walk in on his guy with Irene in his arms.
Paul Dumond (Charles Boyer) is the head waiter at a popular restaurant in Paris. He is putting a drunk man to bed at the same hotel where Irene is staying. From the drunk man’s apartment he can see Irene is struggling with the man Bruce has sent. Paul has a gun and holds the two of them up. He tells Irene to come with him. Paul takes Irene out for a ride in his car and is very nice to her. He had taken some of her jewelry and tells her the reason he kidnapped her was to give her her jewels back. Paul takes Irene to the restaurant he works at even though it is closed for the night. He wants to know what happened to her and why but she does not want to say and he does not push her.
The guy that was sent to be seen with Irene lies to get paid by saying Paul was with Irene when he walked in. Bruce kills the man to make it look like Paul committed the crime.
Paul and Irene dance into the daylight. She gets home to find Bruce and the police in her room. Bruce asks her how she escaped and she tells a big lie. When the prefect of police tells her that the chauffer is dead she becomes worried and knows what is going on. She has her pearls on when she said they were stolen. Bruce is now completely convinced that there is another man his wife’s life.
Irene sees Paul again. He is now a wanted man in Paris for a crime he did not commit. Paul wants Irene to sail away with him as his wife. He had planned to meet her at five o’clock at night. He sees in the paper that Irene and Bruce have left to back to America together. What Paul did not know at that moment was that Irene left with Bruce to save his (Paul’s) life. Paul calls Irene on the ship she is sailing on. She tells him why she left and that he must never try to find her.
Paul gets on a ship to America to find Irene. He knows she is in serious trouble. Paul has a plan for him and his friend Cesar to become head waiter and chef of their own restaurant. He knows Irene will come if he can make others come. They take over a restaurant called Victor’s and make it one of the most popular places to go to in New York City. Paul has a table permanently reserved for Irene.
Bruce has had Irene followed by a PI. He wants to know everyone Irene meets. He has the PI lie to her that she has to go back to Paris as a witness in the murder. He does this just to get Irene to go with him to the city. To try to get back on good ground with Irene, Bruce takes her to Victor’s. When Paul sees Irene he has her sit at her table. Bruce does not even know that Paul is the one he is trying to frame but to him Paul looks familiar but he cannot place him. Irene begins to laugh at how ironic the situation is. Paul is upset because he thinks Irene is now back with Bruce and that she was mocking him by laughing. In the car on the way home Bruce gives Irene her ticket to be on his latest ship to Paris. Irene takes her ticket, rips it up, and gets out of the car so she can go back to Victor’s back to Paul. She tells him that she was laughing because she was happy. She wants to run away to Tahiti with him where they can be free and put everything behind them. Paul is set on going back to Paris even though Bruce is going to try to frame him for the murder.
They do eventually go back together. They sail back on Bruce’s new ship that is named after Irene. Bruce orders his new ship to break the speed record. The weather is foggy and cold with ice in the water. The ship hits an iceberg. Paul was on deck talking to Cesar when the ship and iceberg collided. When the women and children are being evacuated Paul puts Irene into a lifeboat but she jumps out she wants to be with Paul until the end.
Back on land Bruce hears about the sinking over the radio. He knew Irene was on the ship. Bruce kills himself with the only thought being that he killed Irene with his carelessness.
Irene and Paul sit on the deck waiting for their end to come. They truly love each other and hold each other in their arms. The captain comes on deck to announce the bulkhead doors are holding and that help is on the way.
Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer were wonderful together. Jean Arthur was fantastic her performance is one of my favorite in a film. I do not even know where to begin describing how perfect Arthur was. I could like her performance so much because I am used to seeing her in comedies but I think it is mostly down to the fact that she was a good versatile actress. You feel her character’s pain and sorrow and loneliness and desperation and love and happiness. Charles Boyer I am not too crazy about. He was a good actor but I am not too crazy about him. I actually thought he was excellent in this film. In the other films I have seen Boyer in he never seemed to have chemistry with his leading ladies. In this film, though, he has beautiful chemistry with Jean Arthur. Bruce Vail was a vile evil possessive character. If this film was more popular he would be one of the most hated film characters ever. The character of Bruce Vail was played to absolute perfect by Colin Clive. It takes a good actor to play someone so hated and Clive just nailed it.
History is Made at Night, as I mentioned, is a well thought out love story. By well thought out I mean by the fact that Irene is in an unhappy marriage and it is unhappy because her husband is truly cruel to her and the man that rescues her truly loves her and wants to save her. It ranks among the greatest romantic films ever made. I feel with love stories the characters can become annoying and over done. There is never a moment where I did not like Paul or Irene, they never became annoying or over done. Frank Borzage’s direction and the cinematography were beautiful. History is Made at Night deserves to be better known and to be released on DVD so it can be rediscovered. History is Made at Night is available to watch on Youtube in four parts. Do yourself a favor if you like a good story, love film making and good acting watch History is Made at Night.