One Hour With You

Screening on Film
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
With Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Roland Young.
US, 1932, 35mm, black & white, 80 min.
Print source: Universal

“Nobody can be held responsible for his actions,” says one character towards the end of One Hour With You, summarizing the subversive moral compass of this joyous ode to promiscuity. Originally helmed by a fledgling George Cukor but then taken over by Lubitsch with the endorsement of Paramount, the film casts a jaundiced eye on the sacraments of marriage and fidelity by setting in motion an exuberant love quadrangle and delighting in the resulting crisscrosses of affection and libido. Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald play happily wedded lovers first seen necking in a moonlit public park, a rude police flashlight doing little to daunt their passion. As each embarks on their own extramarital affair, however, questions are raised about their commitment—that is, until one remembers that this is a Lubitsch film, where an air of friskiness permeates polite society and characters are seldom resigned to an inflexible code of ethics. Lubitsch was recovering from a divorce at the time, making it tempting to read the film’s ecstatic celebration of polygamy, expressed through Chevalier’s flamboyant direct-to-camera addresses, as a therapeutic act on the director’s part.

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