Remember to Watch ‘Remember the Night’

Remember the Night posterIf you think you’ve seen every classic Christmas picture (and most of them one too many times, at that), you’ll be pleasantly surprised, we hope, to learn of one that’s flown under the radar of many a classic movie buff.

Remember the Night (1940) was the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before moving into the director’s chair with The Great McGinty (1940). Mitchell Leisen directs here, and though Sturges was said to have been disappointed with Leisen’s efforts, it’s hard to imagine why. It’s a terrific picture, one that should be every bit the holiday favorite that pictures such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, and others have become.

Remember the Night features Fred MacMurray as an ambitious assistant D.A. in NYC who finds himself with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck on his hands because he has asked for a delay in her trial, so as to avoid the jury feeling any holiday-inspired sympathy for her.

It soon comes out that both the D.A. and the dame are Hoosiers, so she accompanies him on a road trip to visit their respective families. Stanwyck’s brief visit with her mother doesn’t go so well, though, so she sticks with MacMurray, whereupon romance and laughs ensue.

Remember the Night is plenty sentimental enough to qualify as a holiday classic, but like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s got a dark side, too, delivered with gimlet-eyed bite. Apart from a brief appearance by regrettably stereotypical Black valet character, played by Fred Toones, who does his best with what he’s given, it’s well night perfect.

This post was first published in slightly different form on December 6, 2013.

Happy 141st Birthday, Elizabeth Patterson!

The delightful character actress Elizabeth Patterson, best remembered today for her role as Mrs. Trumble on I Love Lucy, was born 141 years ago today in Savannah, Tennessee. Here are 10 EP Did-You-Knows:

  • Patterson’s father, a Confederate soldier, was a county judge. She attended public schools and college in her home state, and it was after participating in collegiate theatricals that caught the acting bug, very much against her parents’ wishes.
  • Her parents sent young Patterson to Europe in hopes of discouraging her theatrical ambitions, but their tactics backfired: Attending performances of the Comédie Française only increased her interest in a life in the theatre.
  • Upon returning from Europe, Patterson received a small inheritance that allowed her to move to Chicago. There she joined a theatrical troupe, the Ben Greet Players, that specialized in the works of William Shakespeare; Patterson also toured with repertory companies.
  • Patterson made her Broadway debut in 1913 in the play Everyman. She would remain active on the New York stage through 1954.
  • It wasn’t until 1926, when she was 51, that Patterson appeared in her first motion picture, The Boy Friend, but having broken into cinema, she made up for lost time, appearing in more than 100 features and shorts over the next 35 years.
  • Patterson made her first appearance on television in 1950 on an episode of The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre. She would go on to appear on nearly 35 other television series and TV movies, including the recurring role for which she is most famous today, Mrs. Trumble, the elderly neighbor of the Ricardos and the Mertzes on I Love Lucy.
  • Patterson was 77 when she made her first appearance on I Love Lucy, but it wasn’t as Mrs. Trumble. On an episode entitled The Marriage License, she played Mrs. Willoughby, the wife of a Connecticut justice of the peace (you may recall her painfully off-key rendition of I Love You Truly). It wasn’t until the next season that the Mrs. Trumble character was introduced, and Patterson would go on to play her for three more seasons.
  • Patterson’s nickname was Patty.
  • Patterson never married, and during her 35 years in pictures, she lived alone at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood.
  • Patterson, who specialized in frail but persnickety characters—maiden aunts, small town gossips and the like—proved to be a relatively tough old bird: She lived to the age of 90, dying in 1966 of pneumonia.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth Patterson, wherever you may be!

Elizabeth Patterson