Wedding Night The (1935)
Directed by King Vidor with a screenplay by Edith Fitzgerald that was based on an Edwin Knopf story this average romantic drama was producer Samuel Goldwyn’s third and last attempt to make a Greta Garbo-like actress out of Anna Sten. However even starring her opposite (his one-time leading contract actor) Gary Cooper didn’t succeed and she soon left Hollywood. This film isn’t bad but it’s also not particularly compelling nor believable though it does offer an opportunity to see Siegfried Rumann better known as Sig Ruman play a dramatic role. Ralph Bellamy plays his soon to be typical male doormat an early role he would soon perfect opposite Cary Grant (and other leading men) that would become a staple in his career. Helen Vinson plays Cooper’s ‘good-time’ wife Esther Dale plays Sten’s mother (Ruman her father) and Walter Brennan plays virtually the same role with the same taxi jalopy that he would play in another Goldwyn film (These Three (1936)) the following year.
Cooper plays writer Tony Barrett who’s lost his touch after 5 years of the good life partying and drinking too much with his wife of the same time period Dora (Vinson). After slugging his friend Gilly (George Meeker uncredited) for saying as much and hearing from his publisher Heywood (Douglas Wood) that he’s refusing the author’s latest book Barrett leaves New York and returns with his wife to his family’s boarded up homestead in Connecticut $1000 in debt. A colorful taxi driver named Jenkins (Brennan) takes Tony Dora and their servant Taka (Otto Yamaoka uncredited) to the old mansion. It does take long before an enterprising Polish immigrant Jan Nowak (Ruman) and his daughter Manya (Sten) who speaks better English arrive to offer Tony $5000 for a piece of cleared land albeit littered with rocks on which he plans to grow tobacco. This is a godsend for Dora who can’t wait to return to city life. But after Tony visits the Nowaks and gets a taste of the simple life and Mrs. Kasia Nowak’s (Esther Dale) plum soup he decides that he’s found an inspiration for his next book. While Dora returns with Jenkins to the train station Tony and a reluctant Taka stays.
Tony’s primary inspiration for his latest novel is the beautiful Manya whom he’d seen hesitate when she’d heard that her father’s primary reason for purchasing the land was for her dowry; he’d then witnessed the agreement between Nowak and his neighbor Sobieski (Leonid Snegoff) whose son Fredrik (Bellamy) is to marry Manya. Eleanor Wesselhoeft plays Mrs. Sobieski; Milla Davenport is Manya’s live-in grandmother; women are property in their culture whose purpose is to serve their men. When Manya brings milk to Tony’s kitchen the liberal-minded writer finally gets his chance to “put the moves” on her but she’s insulted and standoffish. When later she’s milking the cow he apologizes and gets a promise from Manya that she’ll read his writings once he’s written several chapters.
Winter sets in and Taka deserts Tony; Manya comes over and cooks the helpless writer breakfast which becomes a regular occurrence as she becomes the muse for his writing. He reads her poetry and their relationship becomes closer but still platonic. However her father and fiancé who says he’s through with her are not amused. The situation grows worse when after spending the day with Tony Manya is snowed in unable to return home in a blizzard. When Kasia who seems to recognize and want love for her daughter (perhaps that she’d never had) finally tells her husband where their daughter is he trudges through the snow and retrieves her the next morning. Nowak accuses his daughter of trying to be an American. Even though “nothing happened” between Tony and Manya save one rushed kiss she did sleep in his bed (alone). Fredrik still agrees to marry her and the wedding arrangements proceed though Manya’s friend Helena (Agnes Anderson) notices the bride-to-be is not too excited about it. Meanwhile an outspoken housekeeper named Hezzie (Hilda Vaughn) looks after Tony.
Upon receiving a garbled telegram from her husband Dora returns via Jenkins’s cab to check up on the book’s progress. After reading it and again meeting Manya she figures out that the Sonya of the novel and Manya are one in the same and surmises that she’s lost Tony’s love to her. Dora also tells Manya about the impossibility of the book’s protagonist (e.g. Tony) ever being together with Sonya; they’re from two different worlds. Later Dora tells Tony that she still loves him but he makes it clear that he believes their love is lost forever. The titled night finally arrives and Dora mentions Manya’s earlier visit now that it’s too late. Still he rushes to the celebration arriving at the post-wedding reception and dances with her one last time before Fredrik cuts in. Tony leaves without accepting a drink offered by Nowak. That night a drunken Fredrik egged on by the other men finally goes upstairs to Manya who’d been prepared for her fate by her mother and friends. But Fredrik disgusts her and her reaction to him is less than satisfactory such that he rushes out of the house to Tony’s while Manya chases after him. He enters the house and climbs the stairs where he and the writer begin fighting. Neither see that Manya has followed her newlywed husband but at the top of the stairs Dora screams when she witnesses her rival being knocked backwards down the stairs by the scuffle. Manya dies in Tony’s arms and later won’t be consoled by Dora who leaves him as he stares out the window and reminisces imagining Manya coming towards his house across the snow while waving to him.