Tonight or Never (1931)

82 mins | Comedy-drama | 26 December 1931

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HISTORY

According to a 6 Jun 1931 HF news item, Adela Rogers St. Johns was to work on the screen adaptation of the play Tonight or Never , which was first produced in Hungary, and a 19 Aug 1931 HR news item noted that Sheridan Gibney was to work on the screenplay of this film. HF and MPH production charts list Sidney Howard as the scenarist. The participation of these three writers, who are not listed in the film's credits or other contemporary sources, has not been confirmed. According to a FD news item in Jan 1931, George Fitzmaurice was planning to direct the film. Tonight or Never marked the screen debut of Melvyn Douglas, who recreated the role he originally played on Broadway. According to news items, Douglas, who married his co-star in the play, Helen Gahagan, received a Hollywood contract because of his performance in the play. Ferdinand Gottschalk, Robert Greig, Greta Meyer and Warburton Gamble were also in the original Broadway play, which was theater impresario David Belasco's last production before his death. Director Mervyn LeRoy was borrowed from First National. The Var review gave the picture's running time as 66 minutes. The film's pressbook points out that both adaptor Ernest Vadja and set designer Willy Pogany were Hungarians.
       According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office strongly objected to the film after it was completed and demanded several extensive cuts. The sequence most objected to was the love scene between "Nella Vago" and "Jim Fletcher," about which Hays ... More Less

According to a 6 Jun 1931 HF news item, Adela Rogers St. Johns was to work on the screen adaptation of the play Tonight or Never , which was first produced in Hungary, and a 19 Aug 1931 HR news item noted that Sheridan Gibney was to work on the screenplay of this film. HF and MPH production charts list Sidney Howard as the scenarist. The participation of these three writers, who are not listed in the film's credits or other contemporary sources, has not been confirmed. According to a FD news item in Jan 1931, George Fitzmaurice was planning to direct the film. Tonight or Never marked the screen debut of Melvyn Douglas, who recreated the role he originally played on Broadway. According to news items, Douglas, who married his co-star in the play, Helen Gahagan, received a Hollywood contract because of his performance in the play. Ferdinand Gottschalk, Robert Greig, Greta Meyer and Warburton Gamble were also in the original Broadway play, which was theater impresario David Belasco's last production before his death. Director Mervyn LeRoy was borrowed from First National. The Var review gave the picture's running time as 66 minutes. The film's pressbook points out that both adaptor Ernest Vadja and set designer Willy Pogany were Hungarians.
       According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office strongly objected to the film after it was completed and demanded several extensive cuts. The sequence most objected to was the love scene between "Nella Vago" and "Jim Fletcher," about which Hays Office staff member Lamar Trotti commented, "This scene was one of the most offensive, if not the most offensive--in my recollection." Other scenes trimmed showed the character of Nella "writhing on a day-bed in a particularly offensive manner," and her being unable to sleep because of the honeymooners in the next room. The film was finally given a seal of approval for its original release, but when United Artists tried to re-issue it in 1935, the PCA requested that the studio withdraw it from consideration "on the grounds that [it is] highly questionable and [is] likely to be rejected by us." United Artists did so, and when they tried to re-issue the film in 1937, the PCA again rejected it. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
20 Dec 31
p. 10.
Harrison's Reports
26 Dec 31
p. 207.
HF
6 Jun 31
p. 14.
HF
5 Sep 31
p. 30.
HF
10 Oct 31
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 31
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 31
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 37
p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Oct 31
p. 11, 35
Motion Picture Herald
14 Nov 31
p. 40.
New York Times
18 Dec 31
p. 29.
Variety
22 Dec 31
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A United Artists Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by, Wrt for the scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Settings
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Swanson's gowns des and executed by
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd tech
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Tonight or Never by Lili Hatvany, as adapted by Frederick and Fanny Hatton and staged by David Belasco (New York, 18 Nov 1930).
SONGS
Selections from the opera Tosca , music by Giacomo Puccini, libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica.
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 December 1931
Premiere Information:
World premiere: 4 December 1931 in Los Angeles
New York opening: 17 December 1931
Production Date:
completed mid-October 1931 at Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Feature Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 December 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2739
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Hungarian prima donna Nella Vago sings Tosca in Venice, and while her performance is politely received, her music teacher Rudig tells her that she will never be successful until her singing is more passionate. Although Nella is infuriated by Rudig's demand that she must sing with her soul as well as with her voice, she is distracted by a mysterious man repeatedly walking in the courtyard below her balcony. Rudig intimates that the man is the gigolo of the Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni, a former diva with a notorious past. Later that night, Nella is kept awake by the passionate whispers of a honeymooning couple staying in the room next door, and she decides to return to Budapest that night. Accompanied by her butler Conrad, her maid Emma, Rudig and her stuffy fiancé, Count Albert von Gronac, Nella boards the train bound for home. Her anonymous admirer is also on the train with the marchesa, and Nella burns with jealousy. Rudig again tells Nella that she needs to experience love if she is ever to become a great singer, and she gently turns him down when he offers himself as a suitor. The next day, Rudig tells Nella that Fletcher, an agent for the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Company in New York, is signing European artists. Nella also discovers that afternoon that Albert is having an affair with another diva. Furious at his betrayal and her own colorless existence, Nella goes to the hotel where her admirer, who is named Jim, is staying. Using a flimsy excuse to get into his room, Nella vacillates between fulfilling her desires or ... +


Hungarian prima donna Nella Vago sings Tosca in Venice, and while her performance is politely received, her music teacher Rudig tells her that she will never be successful until her singing is more passionate. Although Nella is infuriated by Rudig's demand that she must sing with her soul as well as with her voice, she is distracted by a mysterious man repeatedly walking in the courtyard below her balcony. Rudig intimates that the man is the gigolo of the Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni, a former diva with a notorious past. Later that night, Nella is kept awake by the passionate whispers of a honeymooning couple staying in the room next door, and she decides to return to Budapest that night. Accompanied by her butler Conrad, her maid Emma, Rudig and her stuffy fiancé, Count Albert von Gronac, Nella boards the train bound for home. Her anonymous admirer is also on the train with the marchesa, and Nella burns with jealousy. Rudig again tells Nella that she needs to experience love if she is ever to become a great singer, and she gently turns him down when he offers himself as a suitor. The next day, Rudig tells Nella that Fletcher, an agent for the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Company in New York, is signing European artists. Nella also discovers that afternoon that Albert is having an affair with another diva. Furious at his betrayal and her own colorless existence, Nella goes to the hotel where her admirer, who is named Jim, is staying. Using a flimsy excuse to get into his room, Nella vacillates between fulfilling her desires or fleeing. Jim realizes that she believes him to be a gigolo, but nonetheless confesses his love and challenges her to stay with him "tonight or never" and experience true passion. Nella gives in, but leaves the next morning before Jim awakens. That night, Nella sings Tosca again, and her emotional performance is acclaimed by the audience and by Rudig. Nella returns home from the opera house and finds a Metropolitan contract sent to her by Fletcher. She is delighted by the contract, but overcome with guilt over her actions of the night before. Jim arrives to return the emerald necklace she left in his hotel room as payment for his "services," and she tells him that she never wants to see him again. Later, however, she goes to him and asks him to give up his shameful lifestyle for her. When he in turn asks if she would give up her career for him, she gladly tears up the Metropolitan contract. Just then, the marchesa enters and reveals that she really is Jim's aunt and that he is Fletcher of the Metropolitan. Nella is overjoyed, for now she can have love and a successful career. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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