|Tonight or Never|
|Directed by||Mervyn LeRoy|
|Written by||Fanny Hatton|
|Produced by||Samuel Goldwyn|
|Edited by||Grant Whytock|
|Music by||Alfred Newman|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Tonight or Never is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film directed by Mervyn LeRoy, starring Gloria Swanson, and featuring Boris Karloff.
Nella Vargo (Swanson) is a Hungarian prima donna whose latest performances include singing Tosca in Venice. Although she is praised by the audience, her music teacher Rudig feels that she can not be the greatest opera singer in history until she performs in New York City. When she is criticized for not putting her soul into the song, she gets mad, until she suddenly notices a mysterious man walking on the street. She becomes smitten with the man, until Rudig claims that he is a gigolo whose latest client is Marchesa Bianca San Giovanni, a former diva with a notorious past.
Later that night, Nella decides to head to Budapest, accompanied by Rudig, her butler Conrad, her maid Emma and her fiancé Count Albert von Gronac, whom she is not in love with. She is shocked when she finds out the mysterious man is on board as well, with the marchesa as his company. Rudig again suggests that she will never be a great singer if she does not experience love. The next day, Rudig announces that Fletcher is in town to sign European artists, an agent for the prestigious Metropolitan Opera in New York. Later that afternoon, she finds out her fiancé is having an affair with one of her enemies.
Furious and upset with her love life, she goes to the hotel where she is staying and decides to hire the mysterious man, Jim, in hopes of experience love and thereby impress Fletcher. She is attracted to him, but is afraid to have her as his admirer. Jim, who is actually agent Fletcher, soon finds out that Nella thinks that he is a gigolo. Instead of revealing the truth, he pretends to be one and dominantly forces her to make a decision: spend the night with him or leave within three minutes.
Nella decides to spend the night with him, but leaves the next morning before he awakes. That night, she again gives a performance of Tosca, which is acclaimed as her best in her entire career. After returning home, she is overcome by joy to find out that she has landed a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, but feels guilty for what she has done the night before. The same day, Jim visits her, returning the necklace she has left to pay for his services and demanding her to choose between him and the contract. When she tears up the contract, he realizes that she is in love with him and he reveals himself to be a nephew of the marchesa and the famous talent scout. Now, Nella can have the successful New York career she has dreamt of.
The film is based on the Hungarian play of the same name, which was performed on Broadway between November 18, 1930, and June 1931. In the film, Melvyn Douglas, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Robert Greig, Greta Meyer and Warburton Gamble recreated their roles they had also played in the play. In June 1931, Adela Rogers St. Johns was assigned to write the screenplay. A month later, she was replaced with Sheridan Gibney, who was eventually replaced as well. According to a January 1931 news article, George Fitzmaurice was initially set to direct, but he was replaced by Mervyn LeRoy. LeRoy as a young unknown had appeared uncredited playing a newsboy in Swanson's 1923 silent societal drama Prodigal Daughters.
Joseph Schenck assigned Gloria Swanson to play the lead role, believing it would help the actress getting out of her career slump. The film was the only of her early talkies in which she did not sing, although ironically playing an opera singer. The film sparked Douglas' screen debut.
The Hays Code strongly objected to the film and demanded several cuts to be made. The scene which the Code thought to be the most vulgar was the love scene between Nella and Jim. A staff member commented: "This scene was one of the most offensive, if not the most offensive-in my recollection." In 1931, it was allowed to be released, but the request of re-releases in 1935 and 1937 were rejected.