History Is Made at Night (1937):

Andrew Sarris called the title the most romantic in the history of the cinema, and the soulful immediacy of this Frank Borzage melodrama more than lives up to its rapturous intimations. (Sirk's A Time to Love and a Time to Die runs a close second, and displays a blend of joy and death not dissimilar from Borzage's.) The luminous couple here is Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur, whose unlikely Meet-Cute is one cog in the plot's web of misunderstandings -- set up in a compromising trap by her insanely jealous shipping magnate husband (Clive Brook), forlorn socialite Arthur is rescued by gallant headwaiter Boyer, who pretends to be a thief and "kidnaps" her for a night out in Paris, complete with champagne, violins, and barefoot tango in an after-hours restaurant. The two are in love by morning, though by then Brook has pinned a murder on Boyer in order to force Arthur to come back to America with him. Back in Manhattan, a friend surveys Arthur's ineffable sadness, and concludes, "I guess it's love, or something." "Love and everything," Arthur murmurs, and Borzage's close-ups, lit by Gregg Toland, gaze back at his silent days enshrining faces in the possibility of romance. The movie's fizzy/somber halves, continually leaking into each other, evoke the later, more well-known Love Affair, the decade's other great celebration of spiritually transforming love, and, like Leo McCarey, Borzage marvels at the profound emotional mobility of human beings whose souls are made iridescent by their feelings. The climactic rendezvous between the lovers' cruiser and an iceberg shames James Cameron's CGI-heavy recreation six decades later simply by focusing on the emotions at stake rather than the technology on display -- aboard the slowly sinking ship, Boyer and Arthur acknowledge their intimacy, and transcend the fear of death. Produced by Walter Wanger. With Leo Carrillo and Ivan Lebedeff. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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