Two for Tonight (1935) Poster

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5/10
From songwriter to playwright
lugonian27 April 2002
"Two for Tonight" (Paramount, 1935), directed by Frank Tuttle, is a virtually forgotten musical that pairs Bing Crosby and Joan Bennett, recent stars of "Mississippi" (1935), for the second and final time. The difference between these two movies is like night and day. With "Mississippi" comes WC Fields to brighten up the comedy, and composers Rodgers and Hart with their lively score. With "Two for Tonight," it looks more like a 20 minute short stretched out to 61 minutes with the use of numerous tunes, mostly sung by the crooning Crosby himself, to fill in the blanks.

The movie opens with Bing Crosby singing the title tune during the opening screen credits. After that, the story begins with Mrs. J.E. Smythe (Mary Boland), a scatterbrained mother with three grown sons, each by an ex or deceased husband, being interviewed by a visiting census taker (Bert Hanlon), who quips an amusing line regarding Mrs. Smythe's deceased husband, "Buried because of death!" The three grown sons in question are Gilbert Gordon (Bing Crosby), an ambitious songwriter and piano player; "Pooch" Donahue (Douglas Fowley); and Buster De Costa (James Blakeley). But the center of attention goes to Gilbert, who hopes to promote his new songs to Alexander Myers (Maurice Cass), a music publisher. The census taker, who knows Myers, tells Gilbert how he can reach him. Learning that Myers likes to relax by sitting under a tree and reading his newspaper, Gilbert arrives at his estate where he parks himself on top of the tree where he sings out one of his songs to Myers below. Aside from the fact that Myers is hard of hearing, Gilbert's singing is drowned out by the noise of a passing airplane that soon crashes into the tree, injuring Gilbert. The daring aviatrix turns out to be Bobbie Lockwood (Joan Bennett), who not only agrees to help pay Gilbert for his medical expenses and damages, but because she works for Broadway producer, Harry Kling (Lynne Overman), she arranges for Gilbert to be granted an interview. Kline, who wants to present a new script for his temperamental actress, Lilly Blanca (Thelma Todd), offers Gilbert an opportunity by offering him a chance to come up with a complete play, with song and lyrics, within seven days. He agrees to the challenge, having Bobbie act as his secretary. But problems arise when Lilly tries to make a play for Gilbert.

Aside from too much plot inserted in such a short time frame, "Two for Tonight" succeeds in presenting itself with new melodies, compliments of composers Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, including, in order of presentation, "Two for Tonight," "Takes Two to Make a Bargain," "Takes Two to Make a Bargain" (reprise); "From the Top of Your Head to the Tip of Your Toes," "Without a Word of Warning," "I Wish I Were Aladdin" and "Without a Word of Warning" (reprise). The "Aladdin" number, which is sung inside a jail cell by Crosby and others inmates, with one singing he would rather be RIP VAN WINKLE, ranks one of the more catchy tunes in the story. "Without a Word of Warning" a smoother, mellow tune, might have been a more worthy movie title than the one used for this production.

Seen in the supporting cast are Ernest Cossart as Hompe, a loyal butler who helps Gilbert come up with ideas to the storyline of his play; Jack Mulhall, Charles Lane and Charles Arnt, among many others. Mary Boland, a resident character actress in numerous Paramount comedies, does what she does best with her comedy lines in the manner of Gracie Allen, such as, "It shouldn't be hard (to write a play). A play runs only two hours, and you have a whole week to write it," or doing a combination of Louise Fazenda and Alice Brady dizziness characterizations, which mostly add up to Mary Boland's own interpretation of her screen persona.

"Two for Tonight" is as close as to having Bing Crosby featured in "B" movie material. While I wouldn't label this to be his worst movie, it comes nowhere near his borderline average films either. It's obviously an excuse to exercise the crooner's vocal chords and give him more experience with his acting ability until a better script comes along. And that would soon happen, especially in the 1940s where Crosby would not only be at the top of his profession, but an Academy Award winner as best actor of 1944 to boot.

A real curio in itself, "Two for Tonight" is worth seeing, especially to devoted fans of the legendary Bing Crosby himself. (**)
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7/10
Better than it's reputation!
girvsjoint3 September 2013
'Two For Tonight' usually gets dismissed as a 'B' movie, and not one of Bing's best, and yet it is a pleasant little 61 minutes, with some catchy songs delivered with the usual flair from the movie's greatest crooner! The lovely Joan Bennett and Bing, make a handsome couple and have some nice chemistry between them! And another plus for this little movie, is that it has the funniest nightclub scene ever filmed, anywhere, anytime! Always a pleasure to see character actors like Charles Lane popping up in these old films, they can turn a small role into a little gem of a performance! There are about 8 of Bing's 1930's films yet to make an appearance on DVD, and this is one of them, hopefully one day it will, to the delight of all fans of the great crooner, of which I'm one!
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5/10
Bing's totin' a heavy load here
bkoganbing29 January 2005
I'm sure by now anyone who's read my critiques of Bing Crosby's movies realizes that my big complaint is during the 30s, Paramount asked him to carry a lot of lightweight material on the strength of his charm and personality. He was never asked to do more than in this film.

The sad thing here is that the potentiality for a great film was there. This could have been a great 30's screwball comedy. It begins nicely enough with three half brothers, like the Cartwrights in Bonanza, trying to get started in show business. They all have the same mother, Mary Boland, who is her usual flibbertigibet character and something of a con artist. She's sure no Ben Cartwright.

The three brothers Bing Crosby, James Blakeley, and Douglas Fowley are trying to get a stone deaf music publisher to hear a tune they've written. Of course they don't succeed, but Bing's singing is interrupted by a small airplane crashing into the tree he's perched in, crooning the ballad. The plane is piloted by Joan Bennett. It's a very funny sequence, but the film doesn't really move from there.

One thing Paramount did do was give Crosby five very nice songs written by one of the best screen songwriting teams ever, Mack Gordon and Harry Revel. None of the songs became any kind of hit for Bing and I'm at a loss to understand why. The best song that Crosby ever sang written by those two was not one that he introduced in film. It was Did You Ever See A Dream Walking, which he recorded two years earlier. That one got a bit of a revival in the 1980s version of Pennies from Heaven.

This was the second film he did with Joan Bennett and unfortunately it was not as good as Mississippi, done earlier that year. During the 30s Joan Bennett was always compared to her sister Constance and usually came off second best. She's best remembered for being Elizabeth Taylor's mother in Father of the Bride and Father's Little Dividend opposite Spencer Tracy.

With the sure hand and good direction of an Ernst Lubitsch or a Mitchell Leisen this film would have been a whole lot better. As it is Crosby fans like me will love it, others will probably leave it.
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3/10
Less Bing For Your Buck.
mark.waltz1 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A lack of a solid script is the issue for this extremely short musical farce that starts off promisingly and lands with a thud. Crosby's a songwriter down on his luck who ends up in a romance with the secretary (Joan Bennett) to a play publisher after her plane crashes near where he is sitting and accidentally hurts him. The potential for a fun screwball comedy with a few songs is there, but the humor is lacking beyond the presence of a stone-deaf song publisher and Crosby's extremely dim-witted mother (Mary Boland) who wants him to present "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to the producer as a new play. (She actually believes that you can write a play in two weeks since it only lasts two hours on stage!) The funniest lines come from a butler filled with malapropisms, but the romance between Crosby and Bennett (like in "Mississippi" the same year) never crosses the line beyond "cutesy".
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