Notable as the third film in which producer Sam Goldwyn tried to make a star out of Russian actress Anna Sten, The Wedding Night has enough fringe benefits in its credits-Gary Cooper, director King Vidor, cinematographer Gregg Toland-to merit a look. Sten is in truth not bad, though certainly no Garbo or Dietrich, the actresses whose exoticism and allure Goldwyn was hoping to replicate in his "discovery." Her thick accent, which, according to Goldwyn biographer Scott Berg, drove Goldwyn to at least one on-set fit of apoplexy, is at least justified here by her role as Manya Nowak, the daughter of a Polish immigrant farmer (Sig Rumann). The script has dissipated writer Tony Barrett (Gary Cooper) falling in love with Manya after she becomes the muse who unblocks his latent talent. Barrett and his boozy wife (played wittily by Helen Vinson) are a couple of good-time swells when they're making the New York social scene, but send them into the country and, well, at least one of them wakes up and smells the roses. Manya is a second-generation daughter caught between the conventions of the old country and her sense that in America her choices should be less limited. But she is also virtuous; she can't consider a romance with Tony as long as he's married, though she's attracted to him as a sensitive alternative to her clod of an arranged husband, Frederik Sobieski, played by the dependable Ralph Bellamy. The Wedding Night also marks another film in which Vidor examines the virtues of rural living (see Our Daily Bread and Hallelujah! for comparison). Give Goldwyn credit: already taking a chance by foisting Sten again on an indifferent public, he didn't take the crowd-pleasing way out in resolving the story's conflicts. Not surprisingly, the film finished Sten's career in Hollywood for good.
by Tom Wiener review