Cast & Crew
Lilli, a wistful, lovely flower girl, works at a popular Budapest cabaret and admires the cabaret's popular, racy singer, Fritzi Yajos. Fritzi is overflowing with joie de vivre , and her numerous romances have made her both scandalous and wealthy. Despite the admonitions of Otto, Lilli's admirer and a member of Fritzi's band, Lilli aspires to be just like her heroine. Her opportunity comes when Fritzi's antics spark a huge brawl in the cabaret, and the local prefect of police demands that she take a six-month "vacation" in the quiet country village of Zuppa. Fritzi, determined to stay in the big city with one of her new male friends, convinces Lilli to take her place. Lilli is overjoyed at being able to impersonate Fritzi and wear her fine clothes, and goes to Zuppa, where she is to report to the local magistrate, Count Mirko Tibor. Mirko has been warned about Fritzi's reputation, and the womanizing count is looking forward to making her his latest conquest. He is pleased by Lilli's beauty when he sees her from a distance and, when they first meet, delights in letting her think that he works for the count. Lilli goes to his house for dinner and there learns the truth. Despite her fury at Mirko's deception, she is nonetheless charmed by his good looks and seductive behavior. While Otto gets drunk with Mirko's assistant, Janos, Lilli staves off Mirko's increasingly aggressive advances. Lilli bitterly realizes that Mirko is only interested in her because of Fritzi's reputation, and when she overhears him telling his servants to "make the usual arrangements," she tells him that it is easy to make a fool of a man like him and that she has been laughing at him all evening. Mirko locks her in his bedroom, but she crawls out of the window and walks home during a heavy rainstorm. Surprised by Lilli's chaste behavior, Mirko rushes to her home to see that she arrived safely, and the next night, is more polite to her. Mirko still tries to romance Lilli, but is more gentle and less demanding. While the couple are falling in love, however, the prefect of police learns that Fritzi has not left Budapest. Bored by her lover, Fritzi agrees to go to Zuppa and arrives while Mirko is still visiting Lilli. Lilli, distraught because she believes Mirko still wants Fritzi and not her, agrees to go back to Budapest when she sees Fritzi. Lilli leaves, and Fritzi tries to seduce Mirko, but he wants nothing to do with her after having fallen in love with Lilli's honest and simple ways. Fritzi explains the deception to Mirko, while Otto tries to comfort the brokenhearted Lilli after they return home. Mirko rushes to Lilli's apartment and assures Otto that he honestly loves Lilli and intends to marry her. He then embraces his little flower girl, and Otto says with a sigh that he will take a job in Vienna.
Nacio Herb Brown
Arthur Hornblow Jr.
One Heavenly Night
The idea of putting British stage star and famed beauty Evelyn Laye in a film came to Goldwyn when he spotted her in London. Upon his return to the United States, he signed Laye to a contract and hired writers Sidney Howard and Louis Bromfield to come up with an appropriate vehicle for her.
The working titles were Escapade, Lilli and Queen of Scandal, with the story centering around a naïve flower seller from Budapest, Lilli (played by Laye), who is a fan of risqué café singer Fritzi (Lilyan Tashman). When Fritzi's antics get her in trouble with the local police, she is asked to leave Budapest for the country town of Zuppa. Unwilling to go, she hires Lilli to masquerade as her and serve out her exile while she stays behind in Budapest. Dressed in Fritzi's gowns and furs, Lilli goes to Zuppa and falls in love with Count Mirko (Boles) who thinks she's Fritzi and wants to make a conquest of her. Eventually he learns the truth but by then he is deeply in love.
It was a lightweight romance, perfectly suited to operetta, but Goldwyn put many of his best behind-the-scenes talent on the film: cameramen George Barnes and Gregg Toland (he is best remembered for his work on Citizen Kane, 1941); songs by a team of composers led by Nacio Herb Brown (who wrote scores of hits, including Singin' in the Rain). Arthur Hornblow, Jr. acted as producer and the director was George Fitzmaurice (who had guided Rudolph Valentino in The Son of the Sheik  and Ronald Colman in Raffles ). With such a production team, and with stars such as John Boles and Leon Errol along with Tashman and Laye, One Heavenly Night should have at the very least made its money back.
Apart from the fact that audiences were heartily sick of musicals, One Heavenly Night seems to have been a victim of overkill. According to a New York Times article the following year, a scene had been cut from the film where Boles sang to Laye in the middle of a rainstorm, which caused preview audiences to laugh. Mordaunt Hall described the scene in his January 10, 1931 review, "In one sequence, Lilli escapes from Count Mirko's chateau, darting through sheets of rain in a new white silk Paris creation. The Count follows, and when he perceives Lilli beating on the door of her own palatial residence he sings (in the deluge) to the girl, who returns the compliment. This is asking a wee bit too much, even for a musical comedy."
As A. Scott Berg wrote in his book Goldwyn, "That particular crapshoot cost him a fortune. Most of the critics mustered up some kind words for Evelyn Laye, but few could do the same for the rest of the production. The reviews were the worst Goldwyn had ever received and One Heavenly Night incurred his biggest loss since his entering the business over $300,000." Goldwyn never made another operetta and he never made another film with Evelyn Laye, John Boles, Lilyan Tashman, or Leon Errol.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: George Fitzmaurice
Screenplay: Louis Bromfield; Sidney Howard (adaptation)
Cinematography: George Barnes, Gregg Toland
Art Direction: Richard Day
Music: Nacio Herb Brown, Bruno Granichstaedten
Film Editing: Stuart Heisler
Cast: Evelyn Laye (Lilli), John Boles (Count Mirko Tibor), Leon Errol (Otto), Lilyan Tashman (Fritzi Vajos), Hugh Cameron (Janos), Henry Kolker (prefect of police), Marion Lord (Liska), Henry Victor (Almady, the officer), Lionel Belmore (Baron Zagon).
by Lorraine LoBianco
The AFI Catalog
Goldwyn by A. Scott Berg
The Internet Movie Database
The New York Times film review, January 10, 1931.
One Heavenly Night
Working titles for this film were Escapade, Lilli and Queen of Scandal. British stage actress and light opera star Evelyn Laye made her film debut in this picture. According to a 1932 New York Times article, one song, featuring John Boles singing to Laye in a rainstorm, was cut from the film because preview audiences "laughed loudly."