History is Made at Night has been described as a romantic tragedy, which it indeed is, up to a point. The film begins deceptively in screwball-comedy fashion with socialite Jean Arthur and handsome head waiter Charles Boyer "meeting cute." But there's nothing cute about Arthur's estranged husband, shipbuilder Colin Clive. Insanely jealous, Clive arranges for the ship on which his wife and her lover are travelling to hit an iceberg--then, aghast at what he has done, Clive commits suicide. As the ship lists dangerously close to sinking beneath the waves, the terrified passengers--Boyer and Arthur included--huddle on the deck. The fog-enshrouded scene in which Charles and Jean affirm their love in the face of death is among the most heartrending sequences ever filmed (the director was Frank Borzage, a past master at transforming potential maudlin material into high-gloss art). Even the happy ending of History is Made at Night does not diminish the power and poignancy of that shipboard scene.
by Hal Erickson synopsis