Back in Paris, tailor Maurice is content. His reputation has been made by an aristocratic customer, the Vicomte de Vareze (Charlie Ruggles), who has ordered many suits. However, a representative from the credit bureau arrives to pop his bubble: "The Vicomte never pays."
Fellow clothiers have also extended the Vicomte credit, so Maurice is appointed their representative. He departs for the Vicomte's country château in high dudgeon and a borrowed Rolls Royce, determined to collect what is due.
The Vicomte, terrified of the wrath of his curmudgeonly uncle (C. Aubrey Smith), introduces Maurice as "Baron Courtelin." This allows the humble tailor to stay and woo the beautiful but remote Princess Jeanette, while trying to avoid the amorous Valentine (Myrna Loy). In a scene cut from the television prints of the 1960's, we learn that Jeanette is a widow who frequently faints. The doctor prescribes marriage. But the only men in Europe of comparable rank are 11 and 70. The doctor offers the only possible substitute prescription: "Exercise."
Maurice's presence is a breath of fresh air for the stuffy castle, and everyone comes to life, including Jeanette, but when his real identity is learned, he is tossed out. Jeanette decides that she'd rather live as a tailor's wife than suffocate in aristocratic isolation, so she leaps on her horse and gallops after Maurice's train in a thrilling finale.
Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times was a voice for the minority when he said that Mamoulian "gives to his scenes a charming poetic suggestion," although Hall too felt that "he may not reveal Lubitsch's satire and keen wit or René Clair's clever irony." It would take a number of years before Love Me Tonight (and Mamoulian's earlier Applause would get the reappraisal they deserved.
Stage director Ruben Mamoulian had created a classic with his first film, Applause, 1929, with Helen Morgan. He had done only two films since, City Streets and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, both in 1931. The latter won an Oscar for Fredric March. Over the years, Mamoulian's stage successes included both Porgy (the drama) and Porgy and Bess (the Gershwin opera), Marco Millions, Oklahoma! and Carousel.
Love Me Tonight offers a top-notch cast and a superb original score by Rodgers and Hart, each song advancing the story line. It represents the fusion of centuries of stage artistry and artifice with the unique infant, film. Like nearly every classic, its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The characters are actually caricatures, two-dimensional representations of the stock stage personalities of operetta, yet the human qualities they mirror are so strong that we must identify with each of them.
The princess in the tower is a pathetic remnant of aristocracy, doomed
never to marry because there is no one left who is her social equal. (Compare
this to the situation of predominantly female European royal houses after
World War I, who could find no princes for their eligible daughters.)
The commoner is a hard-working tailor, poor because the aristocracy cannot
pay its bills (social unrest, Bolshevism, unionism - all forces of the
1930s). The three witches or fairy godmothers of legend are the maiden
aunties in the tower, providing a Greek chorus of comment and response
to the action. Add to this the irascible uncle, the booby suitor, the
playboy comedian, and the nymphomaniac comedienne, all stock characters.
All these elements were brought together under the direction of a man
with the strength of steel and the lightness of a flower, and called Love