Review: This is the Night (1932) - Cary Grant's Debut and The Glimpse of a Darker Hollywood
Such is the case with This is the Night, a cheeky comedy about a woman (Thelma Todd, from the Marx Brothers classics Horse Feathers and Monkey Business) who is having an affair with a well-to-do gentleman, played by Roland Young (Topper, King Solomon's Mines). They're planning a Venice getaway, but when Todd's husband, an Olympic javelin thrower (played by Cary Grant in his feature film debut!) arrives home unexpectedly from the summer games, his wife and her lover quickly concoct a cover story involving a non-existent wife for Young's character in an attempt to keep them out of hot water with the athlete.
Busted in the act and with their backs against the wall, the secret lovebirds find their cover story is put to the test when Grant (who plays the whole thing with a knowing smirk) suggests they all follow through on the Venice vacation in hopes that he can meet this wife that Roland Young has spoken so highly of. Couples trip! Young seeks the help of a professional actress played by Lili Damita (more on her in a moment) to pose as his wife for the trip, which he hopes will trick his foe and allow him to continue his dalliances with the married man's wife. It's worth mentioning that this movie is a comedy, and this premise leads to one situation after another in which our sneaky adulterers are almost found out in the most amusing of ways.
The movie itself is slight, but pleasant. There's nothing particularly classic or sweeping here (early Hollywood productions are often akin to stage plays, bound by sets and only occasionally lingering on location), but it's always a joy to visit these studio classics (this is a Paramount film) that literally built Hollywood. They're glamorous, well-acted, and I'm of the opinion that the talent that existed during the Golden Age of Hollywood puts all others to shame. These classics possess the spirit of a time gone by that we will never recapture, and these old classics allow us to visit an era that has long disappeared, if it ever really existed in the first place. It's also fun, and a bit surprising, to be reminded of how permissive the older films can be, as This is the Night features numerous shots of our lead actresses in various states of undress. In fact, the movie builds a running gag in which Thelma Todd keeps having her clothes ripped off of her. Also, consider this line, when Young discovers Cary Grant alone with Lili Damita as she's changing outfits: "Another javelin lesson, I suppose?" Oh, behave!
This is the Night is included in the 2016 DVD set Cary Grant: The Vault Collection.