WEDDING NIGHT, THE
(director: King Vidor; screenwriters: Edith Fitzgerald/based on the story by Edwin Knopf; cinematographer: Gregg Toland; editor: Stuart Heisler; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Gary Cooper (Tony Barrett), Anna Sten (Manya Nowak), Ralph Bellamy (Fredrik Sobieski), Helen Vinson (Dora Barrett), Sig Ruman (Jan Nowak), Esther Dale (Kaise Nowak, Mother), George Meeker (Gilly), Walter Brennan (Bill Jenkins), Leonid Snegoff (Sobieski), Elinor Wesselhoeft (Mrs. Sobieski), Douglas Wood (Publisher), Otto Yamaoka (Taka, Cook), Hilda Vaughn (Hezzie, Housekeeper); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Goldwyn; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; 1935)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
King Vidor (“The Big Parade”/”The Crowd”/”Our Daily Bread”) helms this weepie melodrama about a thwarted romance. This was producer Samuel Goldwyn’s third attempt (“Nana” and “We Live Again”) to make Russian-born Anna Sten a star, but it didn’t succeed and she no longer got starring roles in Hollywood (she was frustrated by her lack of English and uneasy before the camera). Sten became known as “Goldwyn’s Folly” in the 1930s, as the illustrious movie mogul couldn’t make her into the next Garbo or Dietrich.
The Wedding Night is based on the story by Edwin Knopf and written by Edith Fitzgerald. Despite the sensitive artistic direction by the usually reliable Vidor (showing the power of redemption), the film is less than compelling due to its unbelievable forbidden love story, a wooden Sten and a miscast Gary Cooper. These faults prevented the film from being more than a curio that garnered good reviews for its contemporary adult theme but a poor box office.
Once prominent but now washed up high-living and hard-drinking novelist, Tony Barrett (Gary Cooper), can’t get a book published and retreats from Manhattan to his Connecticut farmhouse with his showy wife Dora (Helen Vinson) to get a place to stay for free and find inspiration for his next novel. There he meets his Old World neighbors, Polish immigrants farming tobacco in Connecticut, Jan Nowak (Sig Ruman) and his lovely daughter Manya (Anna Sten), who solve his money woes by dad buying a plot of land for her dowry from him for $5,000.
Dora (Helen Vinson) misses the city nightlife and returns to the Big Apple, while Tony decides to write about his Polish neighbors growing tobacco and uses Manya as his heroine. Manya brings about a spiritual revival in the author, as the two are attracted to each other. But his wife refuses to give him a divorce and her dad objects, and dad promotes her marriage to the eligible doormat neighbor Fredrik Sobieski (Ralph Bellamy). On their wedding night, the drunken Fredrik becomes frustrated with his bride’s frigidity and attacks the author in a deadly way that results in unexpected tragedy.
In Hollywood circles, The Wedding Night became known as “Goldwyn’s Last Sten.”
REVIEWED ON 9/8/2009 GRADE: B-