One Hour With You (1932)


CREDITS
BACKGROUND
PLOT
REVIEWS
RECORDINGS – American
RECORDINGS – French
MUSIC IN THE FILM
FRENCH VERSION Une Heure près de toi


Paramount.
New York premiere, Feb. 24, 1932
Released March 25, 1932.
Produced by Ernst Lubitsch.
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and George Cukor.
90 minutes.
Color-toned print.

Filmed simultaneously with a French cast as Une Heure près de toi.
From the 1909 play Nur ein Traum (Only a Dream) by Lothar Schmidt [Goldschmidt] which premiered in Munich. One Hour with You is a remake of Lubitsch’s 1924 silent comedy classic, The Marriage Circle, for Warner Bros.

Screenplay: Samson Raphaelson. Photography: Victor Milner. Editing: William Shea. “Dialogue Director”: George Cukor. Songs: Oscar Straus or Richard A. Whiting. Lyrics: Leo Robin. Gowns: Travis Banton. Sound: M.M. Paggi. Cameramen: William Mellor, William Rand, Guy Roe, Lucien Ballard. Art Director: Hans Dreier. Set Decorations: A.E. Freudeman.

Maurice Chevalier (Dr. André Bertier)
Jeanette MacDonald (Colette Bertier)
Genevieve Tobin (Mitzi Olivier)
Charlie Ruggles (Adolph)
Roland Young (Professor Olivier)
George Barbier (Police Commissioner)
Josephine Dunn (Mlle Martel)
Richard Carle (Detective Henri Poirier)
Charles Judels (Policeman)
Barbara Leonard (Mitzi’s maid)
Florine McKinney (Guest saying “good night”)
Donald Novis (Singer at party)
Charles Coleman (Marcel, the butler)
Eric Wilton (Butler)
George[s] Davis (Cabby)
Bess Flowers, Bill Elliott (Extras at party)
Sheila Manners [Sheila Bromley, Sheila LeGay] (Colette’s downstairs maid)
Leonie Pray (Colette’s upstairs maid)
Kent Taylor (Guest greeted by Colette)
Lita Chevret (Guest)
Mae Questel (Office worker)
Guests & extras: Pat Somerset, Jack Byron, James Ford, Jack Chefe

Oscar nomination: Best Picture.


Background

One Hour with You is generally described as “bright,” “sophisticated,” and “witty,” yet it is a curiously unsatisfying film. It brought director Ernst Lubitsch, Miss MacDonald, and Chevalier together for the first time since The Love Parade three years earlier. Lubitsch had directed Miss MacDonald in Monte Carlo and Chevalier in The Smiling Lieutenant in the interim. However, his exact part in One Hour with You is a bit clouded.

Officially he is listed as director and George Cukor as “dialogue director.” Dialogue directors were common in the early days of sound, especially when the director himself had a slim command of English as Lubitsch did. Cukor was not an old hand like Lubitsch, but he had made some snappy films. The Royal Family of Broadway (with Cyril Gardner), starring Fredric March, and Girls about Town, starring Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman. He wasn’t a Lubitsch, but then Lubitsch wasn’t a Cukor.

In his later years, Cukor stated variously that he directed all of the film after Lubitsch was taken ill, and that he directed part of it before Lubitsch returned and took over. Whatever occurred, the resulting film bears testimony to the lack of a strong, single overall hand.

Some of the film’s unevenness must be traced directly to the script, and, since Lubitsch is acknowledged to have done all preproduction work and script supervision, his overwhelming tendency to “third act” his films is highly evi­dent. With no other film director has a theatrical background produced so strong an effect. Lubitsch historically co-authored his films, and since they all share the same trademark, we must assume that this, too, is a “Lubitsch touch.” The story inevitably reaches a point that, on stage, would be the second act curtain. The lovers are parted or the “wrong” lovers paired. In Ninotchka, comrade Garbo returns to Russia. In Trouble in Paradise, heiress Kay Francis agrees to marry jewel thief Herbert Marshall, leaving his accomplice Miriam Hopkins to her own de­vices. In The Love Parade, the prince returns to save his queen’s good name before divorcing her. In The Merry Widow, the widow learns Danilo has been ordered to make love to her and ends their “romance.” Each needs the third act to straighten things out and provide a happy American ending.

Europeans traditionally favored the ironic or downbeat ending, so much so that a number of Hollywood films had both “American” and “European” endings. In the European version, the heroine usually died of tuberculosis or became a streetwalker, while the American ending always had her recover in time to marry her childhood sweetheart and live happily ever after.

Lubitsch lavished great care on the mechanics of building up to his “second act curtain,” and then occasionally seemed to lose interest in the third act. One Hour with You is a notable example. Not only is the ending weak, but (unforgivable for Lubitsch) it is also dull.

Lubitsch had dealt deftly with the joys of infidelity in his silent The Marriage Circle, based on the same source as One Hour with You. Here, however, no one except the stylish Genevieve Tobin seems to have much fun. Her stodgy husband is played by Roland Young in a tight-lipped version of the rôle he would perpetuate in Topper. Charlie Ruggles plays the expansively repressed Adolph with enough intensity to make us hope he will ultimately succeed in his amorous endeavors.


Plot

The credits again show Lubitsch’s insistence on style from the first moment. The hands of a giant clock revolve, printing and erasing the title credits. Curiously, Lubitsch never took this to its next logical step, unfolding the opening sequence of the film behind the credits as is commonly done today.

The Paris police commissioner (George Barbier) is instructing his patrolmen poetically in a scene duplicating the police station sequence in René Clair’s 1930 musical classic, Le Million. However, it is not criminals they seek but lovers who are clogging the park benches, leaving no room for tourists.

The situation is not funny.
Our best cafés are losing money.

A likely pair of culprits is quickly found. “You can’t make love in public,” the gendarme growls. “Oh, but officer, he can!” cries the lady. “Darling!” cries the man and they sink back into their embrace. They are, the officer learns, Dr. and Madame Bertier (Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette). As the only married couple in the park, they are ordered to leave.

“Well, there’s only one place to go,” sighs the lady. Collecting top hat and furs, they make their less than reluctant way to a snug little townhouse with vast art-deco interiors. The bedroom door is opened. They enter. The door closes. The door opens again. Dr. André Bertier reappears, and, in a continuation of the style of directly addressing the film audience that Lubitsch-Chevalier had begun in The Love Parade, he tells us that it is not what we think. They are married. “Dar—ling…” calls Colette Bertier from the next room. “Vive la France!” says the doctor and exits.

On a white satin bed, the pajamaed lovers sing “What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do.”

ANDRÉ: I don’t have to stop when I kiss your hand.
COLETTE: It’s lawful.
ANDRÉ: It’s grand!

They turn out the light. Pause. “Oh, darling,” says Colette. “I forgot to tell you.” The light goes on, and she asks him to guess who’s coming for lunch tomorrow. He tells her to tell him tomorrow and turns off the light. A few moments of darkness. The bed light is again turned on, and Colette, holding the light chain, tells him that it is Mitzi, her old school chum from Lausanne. Several more exchanges take place in the double bed during which the light goes on and off. Finally André unscrews the bulb and tosses it out the window. “Mitzi, kitzi, itzi, bitzi…” he coos in the darkness.

A painting of a lady clad in gauze: “So that’s Mitzi?” says an admiring voice. “My wife,” agrees Professor Olivier (Roland Young). “When I married her she was a brunette, but now you can’t believe a word she says.” The art connoisseur is a detective (Richard Carle), hired by the disgruntled professor to obtain evidence for a divorce. In Switzerland, he explains, they have a peculiar law. When a husband shoots his wife, they put him in jail. Therefore he has brought his wife to Paris where the law is not so disagreeable. Mitzi (Genevieve Tobin) won’t make him wait long. At that moment, a spring shower is driving her into a waiting taxi, waiting of course for André who chivalrously offers to drop her. She makes more progress than she realizes, for after several minutes André leaps from the cab to walk home in the downpour.

Mitzi arrives and the friends romp through the rooms, exchanging giggling confidences in rhymed dialogue, underlined with music:

COLETTE: Oh, Mitzi, my darling, how have you been?
MITZI: I’m much wiser now, thanks to several men.
COLETTE: How’s the composer you went with so much?
MITZI: He’s gone but he had such a marvelous touch.
COLETTE: And the painter who painted you all draped in gauze?
MITZI: One night I found out what an artist he was!
COLETTE: How’s the Professor?
MITZI: Which one do you mean?
COLETTE: The one that you married.
MITZI: Oh, he’s still on the scene.
COLETTE: You don’t sound so happy.
MITZI: Unless you’re well mated,
this business of marriage is much overrated.
COLETTE: Oh, Mitzi, you don’t know how sorry I feel.
As for André and me, well, it’s just too ideal.

And she sings of the joys of married love, “We Will Always Be Sweethearts”:

Day after day we will always be sweethearts,
The same as the day we began.
(Copyright Famous Music Corp.)

André arrives home somewhat damp from his walk and is introduced to Mitzi. “My very best friend,” sighs Colette happily, placing their hands together, “and my very, very husband.” Lunch is announced, and the ladies exit. André turns to the camera and tells us that he is determined not to weaken. “We’ll see,” he says hopefully and goes to join the ladies.

Paris doesn’t agree with Mitzi. She soon requires a doctor. Naturally she phones Dr. Bertier. André is reluctant to mix business with Mitzi, but Colette insists. André kisses Colette goodbye, squares his shoulders and marches off to a martial tune.

Mitzi, reclining in a ravishing peignoir on a chaise lounge, receives Dr. Bertier and suggests a complete examination. André counters with various remedies, all to be taken “Three Times a Day.

ANDRÉ: This tonic ought to help you.
MITZI: I know a sweeter way.
ANDRÉ: Oh, no, madame, I couldn’t see you three times a day.
(Copyright Famous Music Corp.)

Professor Olivier discovers them in the midst of the examination. “Madame is in a very serious condition,” André hastily assures him. “Why shouldn’t she be,” replies the professor genially. “Conditions are bad everywhere.”

Colette, in Jeanette’s now-compulsory satin step-ins, is trying to dress for her dinner party while answering numerous phone calls. One caller is Adolph (Charlie Ruggles). He inquires with fierce intensity if he will be sitting next to her. She replies that he is her husband’s closest friend, but that is as far as she’ll go. Adolph tells her he is coming as Romeo. “What? What? Not a costume party?” He hangs up and summons his butler. Why was he told it was a costume party? “Ah, monsieur,” murmurs the smirking Marcel (Charles Coleman, the eternal butler), lowering his eyes to Adolph’s knobby knees, “I did so want to see you in tights.”

André is having his own problems. Every time he slips into the dining room to rearrange the place cards so that he is not sitting next to Mitzi, Colette catches him. She, of course, assumes that he is trying to sit next to the scantily gowned Mlle. Martel (Josephine Dunn).

Mitzi, in an equally revealing gown, takes leave of her loving husband after being assured that he won’t be home all night. Her reluctant maid is also ordered to take the night off. At the party, Colette confides her fears about Mlle Martel to Mitzi who sets her mind at ease. She won’t let André out of her sight. All will be well.

Adolph bursts in and rushes about in search of Colette so that he can say “How do.” Dinner is served, and, to the strains of a hired orchestra, the party sweeps in to dine. Mitzi has now reswitched the place cards so that André is sitting next to Mlle. Martel. André is mortified, and Mitzi gives Colette a knowing shrug. Colette is furious and decides to flirt with Adolph. “Let’s be happy. Let’s be gay,” she cries. “Are you talking to me?” gasps Adolph. “Romeo!” coos Colette.

The orchestra launches into the melting “One Hour with You” for after-dinner dancing. Adolph doggedly pursues Colette around the dance floor. “When are we going to be gay?” Colette is too busy watching the mechanics of Mitzi “res­cuing” André from Mlle. Martel. Mission accomplished, Mitzi gives Colette an enormous wink over André’s quivering shoulder, and they swirl off to the music. “Right now!” cries Colette, and Adolph takes her in his arms.

Interestingly, neither Chevalier nor Miss MacDonald introduced the classic title song. It was young Donald Novis, the tenor of the opera sequence in Monte Carlo, as vocalist with the orchestra. The four principals then sing or talk the lyrics as they circle the dance floor. (The song was later used with nonsense lyrics as the Klopstockian love song in Million Dollar Legs (1932) with Jack Oakie. Eddie Cantor took it up as the theme song for his radio program, and it has been identified with him ever since.)
Mitzi drags André onto the terrace and undoes his tie. André is horrified. He can’t tie a tie. Mitzi can, she assures him, and slips off into the inviting darkness of the garden. André is in a dilemma. He turns to the audience and outlines his alternatives. If he goes inside and Colette sees his tie, he gets into trouble. If he goes into the garden, he gets into trouble but he gets his tie fixed. What shall he do? He breaks a sprig from a bush and plucks the leaves, daisy fashion, reciting the choices, concluding with “I get my tie fixed.” He follows Mitzi into the moonlit garden.

A close-up of André’s tie. The camera pulls back to reveal that it is tied around Mitzi’s ankle. André thinks better of his decision and flees once again. The moon is affecting Adolph too. He tells Colette that if it weren’t for his splendid education, he’d yield to the animal in him. Colette has no ear for his proposals. She goes in search of André, only to find him having his tie tied by the obliging Mlle. Martel. It is Colette’s turn to rush off into the garden, sobbing bitterly.

The party is over. Mitzi shakes André’s hand and whispers that she will be waiting in a taxi at the next corner. “Five minutes.” “Impossible!” he replies. “Ten minutes.” “Ridiculous!” “All right, fifteen minutes.” “Positively…maybe.”

Everyone is gone. André wonders how it all happened in “Oh! That Mitzi.” His indecision is resolved when Colette angrily orders him from the house. “My compliments to Mlle. Martel,” she sneers as the door slams. He is gone.

“André!” she cries, and runs in search of him. Someone is standing in the shadows by the door to the garden, waiting for her. It is Adolph. He seizes her:

I’m dying for one hour with you.
I’ve got to pour my love out to you.
I’m just insane with desire.
I’m on fire. Have a heart.”
(Copyright Famous Music Corp.)

He kisses her triumphantly. “André!” she cries. “You’ll have to call louder than that if you want André to hear you,” Adolph murmurs, “…but if you want Adolph, all you have to do is whisper.”

Colette sinks down on the couch sobbing, not over Adolph, but André. “Sorrow makes you even more beautiful,” says Adolph. “Thank you, Adolph,” sobs Colette. Adolph can hardly contain himself: “Any man who would leave a woman like you on a night like this with a man like me…deserves it.”

Colette tells him that it was she who was wrong. “You have a right to be wrong. You’re a woman. Women were born to be wrong. I like my women wrong.” Colette escorts Adolph to the door and maternally gives him a good night kiss on the forehead. Across town, the lights go out in Mitzi’s apartment where something of a similar nature is taking place.

The next morning, André comes home to find Colette awaking from a nightmare. She tells André in song that she dreamed Adolph kissed her. He laughs at the absurdity and they reprise “We Will Always Be Sweethearts.” They are reconciled.

The day brings other changes in the lives of the principals. The professor receives a “Daily Report on the Nights of Mlle. Olivier.” Mitzi is seen departing from her residence. lock, stock and nude portrait, as her husband beams approvingly from the window above. His arm is around the waist of the now obliging maid (Barbara Leonard).

At the office of the divorce court, the lady clerks, with knowing smiles, sign, seal, and stamp a summons. André has just received this summons when Professor Olivier is announced. The professor toys with André at great length until Colette comes in. The professor departs and Colette speculates at equal length on why he and Mitzi have separated. André slips into the garden for a musical respite: “What Would You Do?”

Do you think you could resist her?
Do you think you wouldn’t have kissed her?
Would you treat her like a sister?
Come on, be honest mister!
(Copyright Famous Music Corp.)

Colette must be told. At length André tells her. “My husband and my very best friend,” she says unbelievingly. She again orders André from the house. “From now on, you’re nothing but a doctor to me!”

Adolph walks in on them, inspiring Colette with a plan for revenge. “What’s your one hour,” she tells André, “compared with my twenty-five minutes?” André laughs in disbelief. Furiously, Colette turns to Adolph to verify her account of their torrid tryst. Behind her back, André condescendingly motions Adolph to agree to everything she says. Adolph does, and Colette announces triumphantly that now she and André are even.

They turn to the audience and explain that, despite the confessions, they are crazy about each other. What would you do? Well, that’s what they do too! The orchestra launches into a lively rendition of “One Hour with You.”


Reviews

The film was still a director’s medium, at least as far as Lubitsch’s films were concerned, and every review dwelt on his contribution. “The result is something so delightful that it places the circlet of gilded laurel leaves jauntily upon the knowing and wise head of Hollywood’s most original and knowing director of sophisticated comedy,” rhapsodized Mildred Martin of the Philadelphia Inquirer. She felt that Genevieve Tobin had nearly stolen “stellar honors…right before the wide and beautiful eyes of Jeanette MacDonald.”

The New York Times, too, gave first honors to Lubitsch and second place to Chevalier. “This latest Lubitsch production, aided by M. Chevalier and his supporting cast, is filled with scintillating wit of the Parisian variety…The fair and graceful Miss MacDonald is in her element in this offering…One Hour with You is an excellent production with Lubitsch and Chevalier at the top of their form.” Jeanette was still, more or less, window dressing.


Recordings

(See Discography for further information)

“Oh! That Mitzi” (Maurice Chevalier)
“Oh, Cette Mitzi” (Maurice Chevalier)
“One Hour with You” (Jeanette MacDonald; also Jimmie Grier and the Cocoanut Grove Orchestra with vocal by Donald Novis)
“We Will Always Be Sweethearts” (Jeanette MacDonald)
“Coeur contre coeur” [We Will Always Be Sweethearts] (Jeanette MacDonald)
“What Would You Do?” (Maurice Chevalier)
“Qu’auriez Vous Fait?” [“What Would You Do?”] (Maurice Chevalier)


Music in the Film

Music mostly by Oscar Straus or Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Leo Robin. In listing performers after each title, “and” denotes a genuine duet, while commas between names indicate a sequence of singers.

Overture: “One Hour with You,” “We Will Always Be Sweethearts”
Police station talk song (Barbier, male chorus) – John Leipold.
“What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do” (Chevalier and MacDonald) –
Straus and Robin.
Mitzi-Colette talk song (MacDonald and Tobin) – Straus and Robin.
“We Will Always Be Sweethearts” [“Day after Day”] (MacDonald) – Straus and Robin
“Three Times a Day” (Chevalier and Tobin) – Whiting and Robin
“One Hour with You” (Donald Novis, Chevalier, Tobin, MacDonald, Ruggles) –
Whiting and Robin.
“It Was Only a Dream Kiss” – talk song (MacDonald and Chevalier) – Straus and Robin. INTO:
“We Will Always Be Sweethearts” reprise (MacDonald and Chevalier)
“What Would You Do?” (Chevalier) Whiting and Robin.
Finale: “One Hour with You”


Une Heure près de toi

A French version of One Hour with You, called Une heure près de toi (One hour near you), was shot simultaneously on the same set and with many of the same performers. French script by Léopold Marchand. French lyrics by André Hornez (the French equivalent of Lorenz Hart). Debut at the Paramount Theatre, Paris, June 1, 1932.

In the French-language version, Lily Damita as Mitzi is equally
hot for her friend’s husband.

Chevalier and MacDonald play the leads in both English and French versions. Josephine Dunn and Richard Carle repeat their rôles as Mlle Martel and a detective. Other principals in the French version are:

Lily Damita (Mitzi Olivier)
Ernst Ferny (Professor Kurt Olivier)
Pierre Etchepare (Adolphe)
André Cheron (Prefét de Police)
Richard Carle (Detective)
Josephine Dunn (Mlle. Martel)

Extensive inquiries in France have failed to locate an existing print, but there is always hope. After being assured for years that “La Veuve Joyeuse n’existe plus” (Jeanette’s simultane­ously filmed French version of The Merry Widow no longer exists), it turned up. Miracles can happen!


Recordings

“Coeur contre coeur” [We Will Always Be Sweethearts] (Jeanette MacDonald)
“Oh, Cette Mitzi” (Maurice Chevalier)
“Qu’auriez Vous Fait?” [“What Would You Do?”] (Maurice Chevalier)