Remember the Night (1940)

An overlooked screwball masterpiece from Hollywood’s golden age, written by bad-boy satiric genius Preston Sturges and directed by beloved “woman’s director” Mitchell Leisen, in which whimsical bachelor DA Fred MacMurray takes sexy shoplifting tramp Barbara Stanwyck with him to his homestead for Christmas. Sturges’s dialogue, volleyed by these pros four years before Double Indemnity, is mint, but the idiosyncratic comedy slowly, organically seeps into melancholy. The film is as smart-mouthed as it is stunningly compassionate, and Sturges’s fat heart comes through in ways that are unique in a Christmas film. The characters’ feet are planted in the real world, and the season’s triumph is rescue from the memory of a poisoned childhood.

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