One Hour with You (Ernst Lubitsch & George Cukor / U.S., 1932):

A dapper case for matrimonial elasticity, argued in sleighs and insinuations. Maurice Chevalier pauses outside a bedroom to address viewers: "I am married and I like it. Sorry to disappoint you." The wife (Jeanette MacDonald) is in bed, and the couple's friskiness is undiminished by the wedding ring. Their bliss is contrasted with another couple's fabricated formalities, as Roland Young and his divorce detective gravely consider a painting of the tawny wife (Genevieve Tobin): "When I married her, she was a brunette. Now you can't believe anything she says." The structural sense from The Marriage Circle and The Merry Jail is brought into play after Chevalier and Tobin share a flirtatious cab ride, Charles Ruggles as MacDonald's would-be Romeo rounds out the farcical geometry. The story goes that George Cukor simply filmed Ernst Lubitsch's setups the way five decades later Tobe Hooper supposedly just had to train his camera on Spielberg's Poltergeist ideas, but a case for mere authorial ventriloquism crumbles as soon as one recognizes the airiness of Girls About Town and Holiday in the close-up of Tobin's shoes doffed in randy anticipation. The snap is Cukor's own, yet the setting is still Lubitsch's universe of seduction, discretion and manners -- rearranging the seats at the dinner table trembles a relationship, being caught with your tie undone in the garden terrace is no different from getting caught with your pants around your ankles. Smitten underneath the moon glow, Ruggles voices the Lubitsch dilemma with ardent awkwardness: "If I didn't have such a splendid education, I'd yield to the animal in me." It all leads back to the drawing room, with the fourth wall broken along with marriage conventions. With Josephine Dunn, Richard Carle, and Barbara Leonard. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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