On Jan. 17, 1940, Remember the Night opened at the Paramount Theatre in Times Square, with the film grossing $45,000 in its first week “in spite of the freezing weather which cuts into all Broadway Theatre receipts,” The Hollywood Reporter noted a week later. THR’s original review of the Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray starrer, titled “‘Remember the Night’ Fine – Direction, Script, Cast Excellent,” is below:
All that Remember the Night needs to make it one of the best pictures to come from Paramount in many a day is a slight tightening up of one or two sags by eliminating some superfluous footage. Aside from this, it has everything, a heart-warming story based on a distinctly unique premise, sparkling comedy which always has a latent heart tug, superlative performances, an excellent script, top notch production and direction. One could wish for a different ending, one more in keeping with the spirit of the rest of the picture and less apparently dictated by the inexorable Hays production code. But the picture has box office written all over it and it may well become one of Paramount’s big grossers of the year.
The story is that of a young assistant district attorney who, seeing he is about to lose his case against a beautiful jewel thief before a sentimental jury, manages to have it adjourned over the Christmas holidays. Then, his conscience bothering him a bit, he quixotically bails out his prospective victim, after which a sequence of curious but logical situations eventually finds him taking her with him via motor car to spend the holidays at his home in Indiana. The small town Christmas spirit gets in its work and the two fall in love with each other, resulting in complications when they return and the trial is resumed which produce a dynamic climax.
Barbara Stanwyck has never given a smoother, more compelling portrayal, nor has she ever looked more attractive than in her role of the girl crook, while Fred MacMurray also gives one of his best performances as the attorney. Willard Robertson is a sock with his purposely overplayed presentation of the defense attorney’s plea. Beulah Bondi and Elizabeth Patterson, as MacMurray’s home folk, are superlative, as is Georgia Caine in her brief part as Barbara’s stern and unrelenting mother. Sterling Holloway scores as the hometown man of all work. All others in the cast give capable portrayals.
Both on the production and direction sides, Mitchell Leisen has given an excellent account of himself. In the direction, he has contributed innumerable touches of finesse, and his production effort is a well-rounded affair. Preston Sturges wrote an exceptionally good story and screenplay. — Staff review, originally published on Jan. 6, 1940.