21 September 2010 | wes-connors
Ramon Novarro Turns in His Crown
"The Night Is Young" was the last film Ramon Novarro made as an MGM player, and ended his decade plus run as a Hollywood movie star. It's moderately successful, but apparently couldn't (at the time) make up for its disastrous predecessor "Laughing Boy" (1934), which failed to attract much money in either foreign or domestic markets. So, MGM and Mr. Novarro agreed to a mutual parting of their ways. There are some who believe Navarro was assisted in his declining popularity, due to his sexual preference.
But, in hindsight, "The Night Is Young" looks more like the studio tried to rescue Novarro, after his first across-the-board flop. The production values are high, with many accomplished names appearing in the cast and crew. Novarro looks fit again, arresting a growing chubbiness (unfortunately, his character claims to be twenty-five). MGM took a chance with director Dudley Murphy and leading lady Evelyn Lave, however; if either one or the other were a stronger choice, the film might have worked.
Most faulty is the story, which had half of its plot removed. Writer Vicki Baum (of "Grand Hotel" fame) originally wrote that Novarro's Prince picked his Ballerina to test his ability to procreate, before an arranged marriage (herein, to Rosalind Russell). Of course, the Prince falls in love with the Ballerina. Due to the adoption of the Hays Production Code, in 1934, the "sanctity of marriage" clause forbid what was to have originally occurred. See "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg" (1927) for the real story.
The soundtrack, by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, begot a big ten-inch #1 hit for Kenny Sargent with Glen Gray's orchestra as "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" / "The Night Is Young" spent nearly half of 1935 on hit parades. Novarro declined an immediate return to MGM as "Ricardo" in The Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera" (which would have charmed many), and returned as the star of Republic's "The Sheik Steps Out" (1937). As usual, it was an unimaginative role choice.
***** The Night Is Young (1/11/35) Dudley Murphy ~ Ramon Novarro, Evelyn Laye, Charles Butterworth, Una Merkel