LOVE ME TONIGHT. Paramount Pictures, 1932. Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Charlie Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, Myrna Loy, C. Aubrey Smith, Elizabeth Patterson. Music by Rodgers & Hart. Director: Rouben Mamoulian.

   As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best romantic comedy musicals of all time. The plot is simple. A tailor in Paris (Maurice Chevalier) goes to a castle in the country to be paid for some work he’s done, gets mistaken for a baron, and falls in love with a princess (Jeanette MacDonald).

   Love Me Tonight was one of the first musicals in which the songs are an integral part of the story, in fact moving the plot itself along on more than one occasion. A fact worthy of note, but the cinematography? Perhaps even more astounding. Under Mamoulian’s direction, the camera never stops moving, zooming in and out at will, and using split screens as well as fast and slow motion to both great dramatic and comedic effect. It is difficult to believe that this movie was made in 1932.

   Two long scenes need pointing out in particular: The opening of the movie takes place on a quiet Parisian street at dawn. Then a worker comes out with a hammer to work on the pavement, then a woman comes out of her house to sweep the sidewalk, two other women open their windows to flap rugs against the railings, two shoemakers begin hammering nails into boots in a syncopated counterpoint harmony, and soon there’s a entire cacophony of sounds (and music) showing off life in a big city.

   Later on, the song “Isn’t It Romantic?” begins by being sung by Maurice Chevalier in his tailor’s shop, is picked by a man taking a cab to the train station; on the train a band of soldiers overhear it, and continue to sing it while marching through a forest, where a gypsy hears it and takes it back to his camp, from which the sound is heard by the princess in a balcony of her palace. Wonderful!

   Other songs you may have heard of are “Mimi,” “Love Me Tonight” and “The Son of a Gun Is Nothing But a Tailor.” Of the players, both Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald were made to play their respective roles, while Charlie Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, and C. Aubrey Smith, all resident members of the nobility, are in fine comedic form. There is but one regret in this film. One can only wish that Myrna Loy were on the screen more. Unfortunately several of her pre-Code scenes were deemed too risque when the movie was re-released in the late 1940s, and the shorter version from that date is the only one that still exists.