Irene Vail (Arthur) wants to divorce her horribly jealous husband, Bruce (Colin Clive). He, however, will stop at anything to stop her divorce proceedings, so he conjures a plan to have someone forcibly enter her hotel room then conveniently have his detective find them in a compromising situation. On a chance overhearing of this nefarious plan, Paul Dumond (Boyer), decides to save Irene by posing as a thief and kidnapper. He and Irene escape, and she learns that hes no robber at all, but her saviour. They spend a romantic evening in the restaurant where Paul is headwaiter and fall in love. But their love is endangered once Bruce catches whiff of their plan to be together.
History Is Made at Night shows the following tropes:
- Blackmail: Bruce uses blackmail (the accidental death of the intruder) and manages to get Irene forces her to drop her suit and go to America (where she ends up seeing Paul, so jokes on him).
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Bruce Vail. Hes emotionally and physically abusive to poor Irene.
- Dance of Romance: During their romantic evening in the restaurant, Irene and Paul dance to some famous tangoes while they wait for Cesare (Pauls friend) to cook them a meal.
- Disaster Movie: An interesting parallel to the actual Titanic disaster since the film goes into Titanic-mode near the end, with sinking ship and all, but ends happier and brighter than the historical disaster.
- Driven to Suicide: At the end, Bruce kills himself because hes behind the crash of Princess Irene, the ocean liner he owns and forces to go full speed ahead in poor weather conditions because hes furious that Irene and Paul are heading to Paris.
- Frame-Up: The intruders accidental death is used by Bruce to frame Paul and get Irene back with him.
- Genre Roulette: A drama, romantic comedy, buddy comedy, startup tale, disaster movie, and back again.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: A nice little speech from Irene gives the whole picture:You're right, Bruce. This time you're right. This time there is another man. You set a trap to catch me with one... and another came instead, to tell me that he loves me, and for me to tell him I love him too. And you did it! You did it all by yourself! Isn't that funny? Don't you think that's funny? Before he came, I never even looked at another man. But you wouldn't believe me! So you created one, and you sent him right into my arms...
- Love at First Sight: Paul and Irene fall instantly in love.
- Love Triangle: Between the sweet Irene and Paul and the evil Bruce.
- Nice to the Waiter: Averted by, unsurprisingly, Bruce, when he finds Paul as the headwaiter in a fancy NYC restaurant.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Wherever Paul goes, the Great Cesare follows.
- Pretty in Mink: Irene wears many pretty furs.
- Second Act Break Up: Between Paul and Irene due to Bruces interference. But Paul doesnt know the reason why hes been abandoned.