My further investigation into the films of Anna Sten brought me to “The Wedding Night,” the picture she made in 1935 with Gary Cooper. Cooper plays a fiction writer in New York City, Tony Barrett, whose latest novel is rejected by his publisher. He returns with his wife Dora to his rural Connecticut home, where he meets his Polish tobacco-farming neighbors. Among them, Barret finds Manya Novak, played by Anna Sten. After Dora returns to New York, Manya becomes Tony’s muse as he writes a novel about his fascinating Polish neighbors. Naturally, Tony falls in love with Manya.
The director, King Vidor, does comedy extremely well, but perhaps his style and this story is not suited to Cooper’s understated acting style. Walter Brennan appears as the eccentric village stationmaster, spouting his usual folksy opinions. Sig Ruman, often so funny playing befuddled Germans, plays Manya’s strict and very serious father. All of the humor and the tragedy in The Wedding Night comes from cultural clashes between the Poles, the New Yorkers and the rural Connecticans.
The ending of The Wedding Night surprised me, and it probably contributed to the film’s lack of success at the box office. Greg Toland provides clear and crisp cinematography, and the blizzard scenes look realistic. Anna Sten did not make another film for Samuel Goldwyn, but she provides a fascinating portrayal here. Only a few of Sten’s lines seemed unintelligible, but she is playing a peasant after all. Sten and Cooper seem to have a good chemistry in The Wedding Night, but he didn’t like her.