Once a successful writer, Tony Barrett (Gary Cooper) now dispenses self-described “tripe” for checks to support his frivolous lifestyle. When his publicist rejects his newest book, he moves to his Connecticut hometown looking for inspiration, with wife Dora (Helen Vinson) in tow; he finds a potential muse in the lovely Manya (Anna Sten), the daughter of his Polish immigrant neighbors, who’s unhappily engaged to another guy (what is known as the Ralph Bellamy Role, and, sure enough…). Much of the pleasure of The Wedding Night rests in the way director King Vidor plays fair with his slight material, never condescending to its melodramatic potential while finding fresh ways to express it—in the way stock characters reveal hitherto unknown sides (in the case of Sig Ruman’s cuddly patriarch, disturbing sides), or in the way the tentative romance between Tony and Manya becomes a mutually transforming relationship that examines both his rootless American flippancy and her rigid European upbringing. The contrast between city and country continues Vidor’s themes from the previous year’s stirring Our Daily Bread, just as the blizzard that strands the couple together attests to the filmmaker’s fascination with the emotional thrust of the elements. It’s through this insistence on directness that Vidor manages to lend Cooper a becoming streak of naughtiness (“Don’t be so moral. It doesn’t go with those eyes,” he teases his muse), and also bring the beautiful but wooden Sten down to earth, even giving her a bit of comedy by dressing the pint-sized ingénue in Coop’s oversized pajamas. Slender but lovingly textured, The Wedding Night is worth discovering.
The image is a bit worn, but serviceable. The sound is for the most part tinny, perking up during the blizzard and the climactic Polish wedding.
A bare-bones DVD, but a forgotten 1930s melodrama worth discovering.