Midnight (1939)

Poster - Midnight (1939) Midnight (1939)

Run time: 94 min
Rating: 7.8
Genres: Comedy | Romance
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore
Showgirl Eve, stranded in Paris without a sou, befriends taxi driver Tibor Czerny, then gives him the slip to crash a party. There she meets Helene Flammarion and her gigolo Picot, who’s attracted to Eve. Helene’s scheming husband Georges enlists Eve’s aid in taking Picot away from his wife. It works well… at first. Meanwhile, lovestruck Tibor searches for Eve. But then he learns she’s calling herself Baroness Czerny! Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>
Release Date: 15 March 1939 (USA)

4 responses to “Midnight (1939)”

  1. IMDBReviewer says:

    Why this simply marvelous comedy is not hailed as a screwball classic standing shoulder to shoulder with "It Happened One Night," "The Awful Truth," and "My Man Godfrey," and just under "Bringing Up Baby," is utterly beyond me. Claudette Colbert sparkles in the role of an American golddigger in Paris, Don Ameche is a charming romantic lead, Mary Astor is a delightfully bitchy rival, and John Barrymore is spectacular in one of the funniest performances I have ever seen on celluloid. As others have stated, it is astonishing that he read his lines off cue cards. Anyway, everything in this film works perfectly together: the acting, the direction, the crackling writing, and the zany plot which I will not go into now, but which is absolutely ideal for a screwball. It is also refreshingly politically incorrect, and while feminists might flinch at one or two scenes, that should not prevent anyone from enjoying "Midnight," which is really one of the best comedies of all time. An enthusiastic and unequivocal 10/10.

  2. rgkeenan says:

    Break out the night vision goggles, the pick-axe, and the compass to find this one if you haven’t seen it. I caught it at the MOMA cinema in the old museum basement and laughed so hard I was in tears — and so were the hundred+ people around me. Monty Woolley and Hedda Hopper are a stitch to watch — but this is definitely Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche’s movie. Colbert spends the first 15 minutes of the movie cold, wet, and hungry — and Ameche (her knight in shining Taxicab) thoroughly enjoys her predicament. The volley of screwball slap-lines goes on for another hour before the shoe finally fits (as we knew it always would.) The best grins are from Ameche’s smug insanity — and a shaving mug fully loaded.

    Best of all, the dazzling innocence of the comedy writing from Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett is so light and politically incorrect that you can almost smell "Some Like It Hot" on the distant horizon. There is no meanness or cynicism in MIDNIGHT. Just a good story, good laughs, and a cast full of people you want to meet again and again.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    Brilliant wit and clever exposition abound in the screenplays of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, and are nowhere more plentiful than in the Cinderella inspired, MIDNIGHT (1938). This often overlooked charmer was the first hit in their long and immensely successful collaboration that ended in 1950 with their Academy Award winning SUNSET BOULEVARD. Among their many other screenplays are such milestones as NINOTCHKA, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE LOST WEEKEND, another Academy Award winner, and BALL OF FIRE, another flirtation with fairy tales, wherein seven eccentric professors protect a far from innocent Snow White, Barbara Stanwyck.

    In MIDNIGHT, Claudette Colbert, a down-on-her-luck, but street-smart chorus girl, believes wealth, not love, guarantees happiness. (Brackett and Wilder definitely liked tough gals.) Though attracted to smitten taxi driver, Don Ameche, she rejects his entreaties. Fleeing from him, she meets John Barrymore who convinces her to help end the affair between his chic wife, Mary Astor, and playboy Frances Lederer. To show Astor that her lover is only after money, the wealthy Barrymore, like a fairy godfather, makes Colbert appear as an alluring, even wealthier prey: a Baroness. The wicked sisters are recast in the form of the unfaithful wife, and her friend Rex O’Malley-obviously a fairy of another kind. Barrymore’s plan works, and Lederer’s attention begins to drift toward Colbert. Angered, Astor enlists O’Malley’s aid in finding a way to shatter her lover’s idealization of Colbert. Believing they’ve discovered the truth, the ‘girls’ get ready to expose Colbert as a phony. At a grand ball, Colbert (looking every inch a Baroness in her very Cinderella-ish gown) expects the worse. However, the wicked plans are foiled when Ameche appears and, going along with the subterfuge, verifies her identity by claiming to be her husband: the Baron. Now, with the entire cast assembled, the disentanglement begins and leads to the fairy tale ending, but without a stroke-of-midnight fall from grace. Instead, the dénouement is a ride of hilarious high style farce involving more deception, misunderstandings, accusations of insanity, and finally a court trial, presided over by a befuddled Monty Woolly; this elaborate finale provides a lot more fun than a simple coach to pumpkin routine would have allowed.

    The entire cast performs flawlessly, but Astor and O’Malley (rumored to have been the lover of director Leisen) deserve special mention. As the antagonist, Astor mixes vulnerability with comic bitchiness so well; we never dislike her, and cheer her reconciliation with Barrymore. The number of O’Malley’s appearances in film is woefully small, as is the size of the roles; he would more often qualify as a bit-player than a character actor. That’s too bad, because his appealing friend-of-the-family homosexual in MIDNIGHT has none of the acrimony or overplaying found in so many of the typical queer-types of the period.

    Production values are high. Hans Drier and Robert Usher’s art direction and A. E. Freudeman’s set décor are about as good as it gets. Frederick Hollander, who later composed the scores for Wilder’s A FOREIGN AFFAIR and SABRINA, is in top romantic form for MIDNIGHT. ~ Ed LaMance ~ New York City

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    Although languishing in obscurity in comparison to other great films of 1939, Midnight is a classic that deserves to be ranked among the best comedies. In this sophisticated twist on the Cinderella story, a penniless showgirl (the incomparable Claudette Colbert) passes herself off as a foreign aristocrat to help John Barrymore win back his erring wife from a champagne mogul. If she succeeds in winning this millionaire for herself, she’ll have the rich lifestyle–the "tub of butter"–for which she’s been scheming, but taxi driver Don Ameche is determined to teach her the age-old lesson that love is better than riches. Not only is the film a delight for fans of Colbert, whose genius for offhand, sophisticated comedy shines here, but viewers are also treated to one of Barrymore’s last and funniest performances. Although he is said to have read his lines from cue cards for this film, his performance looks flawless: worldly, cunning, and wildly eccentric. Ameche provides the perfect counterpart for Colbert, holding his own in the dizzying round of deceptions, impersonations, and frivolous lawsuits. This is a sparkling, witty film that should be part of every comedy fan’s library.

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