One Hour With You

Of all the Ernst Lubitsch musical comedy films I’ve seen, I’ve found that the one with the least subtlety may be “One Hour With You,” which was released in 1932.  Maurice Chevalier stars as Dr. Andre Bertier, a happily married man who encounters a very determined lady (Genevieve Tobin as Mitzi) who wants to have an affair with him.  She reveals her intentions right away when she enters a taxi and finds herself sitting next to Andre.  From there, Mitzi tries every trick to trap the good doctor into seducing her, including the feigning of an illness that brings him to her Paris apartment on a house call.

The poster for "One Hour With You"

The poster for “One Hour With You”

Andre’s doting wife Colette, played by Jeannette MacDonald, should make an affair unthinkable.  Their tuneful, light-opera romance plays out in opulent surroundings and suggests harmony, bliss and respect.  But Andre soon finds out that Collette and Mitzi are acquaintances from school and call themselves friends.  When Mitzi arrives at the apartment, Andre’s nervous reserve worries his wife, making her think he doesn’t like her friend.  When Mitzi telephones and says she’s sick, Collette urges Andre to visit Mitzi, not suspecting her flirtatious friend.

Roland Young plays Mitzi’s husband, Professor Olivier, who hires a private detective to tail his wife.  Eventually, Andre and Mitzi consummate their affair, giving the professor the evidence he needs for a divorce.  Meanwhile, Charles Ruggles, who co-stars in a similar role in Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise” from 1932, plays Andre’s best friend Adolph, who adores Collette.   The hapless Adolph arranges a late-night rendez-vous with Collette, which never becomes an affair but leaves Collette wondering about her loyalties to her husband.

Eventually, the truth comes out when Professor Olivier’s lawyers subpoena Andre for divorce court, citing the research of the private detective.  Andre admits his infidelity, but Collette and Andre reconcile without much bickering — thanks to Adolph’s mumbling confession about his feelings for Collette.  In this case, two wrongs do make a right.

Lubitsch and screenwriter Samson Raphaelson emphasize the “love in Paris” theme at the beginning, when he shows Andre and Collette necking in the park.  The policeman says, “You are the only married couple in this park.”  Later, Andre talks directly to the camera, describing his home life and affections for Collette in a very “wink-wink” manner.  Chevalier and MacDonald, always fun to watch, then sing a song called “What a Little Thing Like a Wedding Ring Can Do,” making it highly unlikely that there would ever be affairs in this fantasy world.  But then, Mitzi shows up.

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