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A 90 YEAR OLD DISCOVERY – Leonard Maltin’s crazy movie

When I was a freshman at NYU, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective by Ernst Lubitsch. Every day after class, I took the subway up to town in time to catch the show at. 17.30, and every day I left the auditorium floating in the air, after watching a movie that really lifted my spirits.

Not long ago, I stumbled upon a 1932 movie that I knew nothing about – on YouTube, of all places. It is called Evenings for sale and the highest compliment I can give it is that it reminded me of a Lubitsch comedy. (When I interviewed Billy Wilder years ago and told him that was how I felt about his charming film Love in the afternoonhe hesitated and said “Something may be Lubitsch-like but there was only one Lubitsch. ” Agree, but still …)

Herbert Marshall, Sari Maritza, Charlie Ruggles and Mary Boland star in this Paramount production. The studio was in desperate financial need at this point, but you would never know it from the quality of their films. Actually, Evenings for sale benefited from being able to use the best songs from Love me tonight and The big broadcast in his wall-to-wall score without paying a dime for them. The relative Hollywood newcomer Marshall had just made Problems in paradise for Mr. Lubitsch and drove high when the little-known Stuart Walker directed him in this modest 61-minute film.

Bert Roach and Sari Maritza

Marshall is almost always good, just like Ruggles is. The revelations in this picture are the little known main lady Sari Maritza and one of the character actress’ doyennes, Mary Boland. Despite its exotic name, the lovely Maritza grew up in England; her mother was Viennese. She did not make much of an impression during her brief stay in Hollywood in the early 1930s, but she is perfect here.

Boland practically invented the archetype of a loud, naughty, dominant woman who is usually seen foreheading her unfortunate husband. She is well remembered for her work in The woman and Pride and Prejudiceand reached his apotheosis as a boorish, bull-in-a-China-shop American in Ruggles of Red Gapopposite her frequent costar Charlie Ruggles.

But i Evenings for sale her character is nuanced. She is a widow from the Midwest who has come to Vienna full of unrealistic dreams and expectations. A scene where she drinks champagne for the first time is played so touching and realistic that your heart is broken for her. She is a pathetic creature who is only spared humiliation by Marshall’s gentlemanly treatment of her.

Marshall, you can see, has fallen: When he was a replacement for a proud Austrian family, he is reduced to working as a gigolo in a smart café. When we first meet him, he plans to take his own life. But I will not reveal more. I also do not want to oversell this charming film, which only lasts 61 minutes.

It is certainly not accidental Evenings for sale is written by women. The source material was a short story by IAR Wylie, the prolific, Australian-born author who formed the setting for around thirty films, including Four Sons and Guardian of the Flame. The script is credited to SK Lauren (a playwright whose film credits include Blonde Venus and A girl in need) and Agnes Brand Leahy, who worked as a stenographer at Paramount before being given the opportunity to write for Clara Bow in the late 1920s. She died in 1934 at the age of 40 years.

This bright ball of a film was not met with great fanfare in 1932. Perhaps both critics and cinemagoers were spoiled. The studio issued its fair share of quirks and clinkers that year, but also broadcast Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Million Dollar Legs, Horse Feathers, One Hour with You, Love Me Tonight, Blonde Venus, Night After Night, Hot Saturday, and If I had a million into the cinemas. Warner Bros. uncharacteristically mimicked the sophisticated charm that was Paramount’s specialty in two Kay Francis-William Powell films released in 1932, Jewel robbery (which opened in July) and One-way passage (which followed in August). By the time Evenings for sale came in November, however, it must have seemed anticlimactic That New York Times sent his critic Mordaunt Hall out to the Brooklyn Paramount Theater to cover it.

Evenings for sale has never been released on home video, but J. Compton takes the credit for “restoring” the version available for free on YouTube and the Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/EveningsForSale1932Restored). One of my friends, who is restoring movies for a living, says: “The restoration seems to consist of running image-sharpening software on the file. This increases the contrast of edges / edges in the image and gives the illusion of larger details.” It is by no means a perfect copy; it is a little washed out and has an unfortunate composition, but it is more than sufficient. If there is any justice, Universal (which owns the Paramount library from this period) will one day reveal the negative and offer a sparkling copy online or to Turner Classic Movies. In the meantime, I encourage you to allow yourself to fall under its spell. What a charmer!

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