One of my favorite under-the-radar Christmas movies gets a rare airing this week end. The Preston Sturges written "Remember the Night" starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray screens tomorrow night at 6 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies (It also shows again Christmas Eve at 11:15 p.m. and Christmas morning at 6:15 a.m.)
The romantic comedy isn't available on either DVD or VHS which is a little odd considering the pedigrees of all involved. Stanwyck and MacMurray are iconic stars who would team up again more memorably in 1944's "Double Indemnity." Sturges would use Stanwyck in arguably his greatest film "The Lady Eve." In "Remember the Night" the great actress is a petty thief and MacMurry's an assistant D.A. who throws her in the slammer for Christmas. Then thinking better of it MacMurray decides to takes her to his midwestern home for the holidays. While romance ensues - this movie being written by the great Sturges there is also clever wit and surprisingly affective pathos as well.
Sturges' success and a writer and director included a nearly unmatched string of artistic and commercial hits from 1939 - 1944. After watching Mitchell Leisen direct "Remember the Night" Sturges sold his next script "The Great McGinty" (1940) for $10 so he could direct it himself. The films which followed "Christmas in July" (1940), "The Lady Eve" (1941), "Sullivan's Travels" (1941) "The Palm Beach Story" (1942), "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero" (both 1944). Sturges' career would slide from that point but his best work is some of the best ever.
There are several Sturges biographies including "Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges" by James Curtis. The title comes from a Sturges quote, "I've had a few successes between the flops."