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.
- 83 min
- King Vidor
- Edith Fitzgerald
- Gary Cooper, Anna Sten, Ralph Bellamy, Helen Vinson, Sig Ruman, Esther Dale, Leonid Snegoff, Eleanor Wesselhoeft, Milla Davenport, Agnes Anderson, Hilda Vaughn, Walter Brennan
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: