Princess Alexandra is set to reel in Crown Price Albert, who her family hopes will agree to marry her. But when Albert arrives at court to visit Alexandra, it becomes very clear that she doesn’t want a forced marriage and isn’t terribly interested in Albert.
So, Albert does what any prince would do: try to win her over. Alexandra’s mother, Princess Beatrice, also concocts a plan to invite astronomer Dr. Haller (Conrad Nagel) to court in order to make Albert (Rod La Rocque) jealous.
The trouble is, when Haller arrives, Alexandra just may fall for both men. It’s quite the love triangle: a princess deciding between a prince and an intellectual. How ever will she choose between two such suitable men?
Alexandra makes her choice in 1930’s One Romantic Night. Paul L. Stein directs this adaptation of Ferenc Molnar’s play The Swan. One Romantic Night is the first talking film of Lillian Gish, who portrays Princess Alexandra.
The film is a mix of drama and comedy, not veering too far from the middle of the spectrum. In other words, it isn’t hilarious, but it isn’t intense either. It remains somewhat engrossing throughout its running time, but could have been made more exciting, even with such a typical love story at play.
Oddly enough, though working with actors who had much more experience than she with sound films, Gish completely steals the show here. She was also at a bit of a disadvantage because, in addition to her lack of sound experience, she was going on 40 years old but her character was meant to be a teenager.
Overcoming these challenges with seeming ease, Gish outshines her cast mates and pulls off the role remarkably well. You’d never guess by looking at her here that she was in her late 30s. She gives a very good performance in her slightly silly but also endearing lovelorn princess character.
Also a standout is Marie Dressler as the mother of Gish’s princess. The character is very pushy and controlling, but Marie plays her in such a way that the audience finds her funny rather than obnoxious. It’s very easy for characters such as this to become frustrating for the audience to watch, but Dressler brings a sense of comedic value to the role.
Though Gish succeeded in her first sound film and went on to have just as much success as she’d had in silents, this film in particular does show some of the difficulties of Hollywood’s transition to sound. Much of the dialogue sounds very stiff and forced, because cast and crew alike had not yet adjusted to making it sound natural. This is particularly true for Rod La Rocque, who portrays Albert. This was his third sound film, and he is terribly wooden in his delivery.
One Romantic Night is a decent film, worth watching for fans of Gish or those interested in the silent-to-sound transition. It’s a fairly typical story of a love triangle that very well may leave the average viewer dozing off. The score: 2/5