Midnight (1939 film)

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Midnight
Midnight 1939 poster.jpg
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Produced by A. Hornblow Jr.
Written by Screenplay:
Billy Wilder
Charles Brackett
Story:
Edwin Justus Mayer
Franz Schulz
Starring Claudette Colbert
Don Ameche
John Barrymore
Mary Astor
Francis Lederer
Hedda Hopper
Elaine Barrie
Rex O'Malley
Monty Woolley
Music by Frederick Hollander
Cinematography Charles Lang
Editing by Doane Harrison
Studio Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 15, 1939 (1939-03-15)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Midnight is a 1939 romantic comedy (with some elements of screwball comedy) directed by Mitchell Leisen, and written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder based on a story by Edwin Justus Mayer and Franz Schulz.[1] It starred Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, and John Barrymore. In 2013 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[2]

Plot[edit]

Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert) is an out-of-work American showgirl. She arrives in Paris from Monte Carlo during a rainstorm with just the clothes on her back (an evening gown). Tibor Czerny (Don Ameche), a Hungarian taxi driver, takes pity on her. He drives her around to the city's nightclubs in a fruitless attempt to get her a job, buys her dinner at the taxi drivers' café, and offers to let her stay overnight at his apartment (he will be out driving all night). However, Eve does not want to impose on Tibor, and besides, she is already feeling attracted to him and doesn't want to begin a relationship with an impoverished taxi driver. When he stops for gas, she slips away.

Eve finds shelter from the rain at a stuffy concert hosted by socialite Stephanie (Hedda Hopper). She slips in with a group, handing over a pawn ticket (for her suitcase in Monte Carlo) as an invitation card. When the pawn ticket is detected, Stephanie tries to unmask the impostor. Eve tries to slip away, but is intercepted by Marcel (Rex O'Malley), who thinks she's simply bored and recruits her for a game of bridge in a side room. The other two players are Madame Helene Flammarion (Mary Astor) and Jacques Picot (Francis Lederer), a wealthy bachelor and ladies' man. Eve introduces herself as the Baroness Czerny.

Eve partners with Jacques (to Helene's annoyance). While they are playing, the man who was sitting next to her in the concert hall comes in: Helene's wealthy husband Georges Flammarion (John Barrymore). Georges seems to recognize Eve as the wife of Baron Czerny, and chats with the "Baroness" about life in Budapest. The "Baroness" and Jacques lose a few thousand francs, but Eve has no money to pay - until she finds that ten thousand francs has somehow appeared in her purse.

Jacques insists on seeing her back to her hotel (assumed to be the Ritz). Eve is stunned to find a suite reserved at the Ritz for Baroness Czerny.

Meanwhile, Tibor, who is worried about Eve, searches Paris for her, invoking memories of the First Battle of the Marne to recruit his fellow taxi drivers.

When Eve awakes the next morning, "her" luggage is delivered - a set of trunks bearing the Czerny monogram and holding a complete new wardrobe. A car and driver are waiting outside for her. Eve is mystified and rather frightened by all this until her mysterious benefactor arrives. It is Georges, and he has a proposition for her. He saw through her the night before, and saw something else. His wife Helene is infatuated with Jacques - but last night, Jacques had eyes only for the "Baroness". Georges loves his wife and wants her back. He wants Eve to flirt with Jacques and break up his affair with Helene. Georges will pay Eve a nice sum if she succeeds, and Jacques might even marry her. He gives her an expense account of fifty thousand francs and invites her to the Flammarion country house for their upcoming week-end house party.

Eve captivates Jacques quite thoroughly. They both go to the Flammarion estate. While she is out and about with Jacques, one of the taxi drivers spots her. Tibor learns where she has gone - and that she is calling herself Baroness Czerny!

At the estate, Marcel, acting for Helene, has used the pawn ticket to retrieve the suitcase from Monte Carlo. In it is a group picture of some showgirls, one of whom looks very like the Baroness. Helene is about to expose Eve in front of all the guests when "Baron Tibor Czerny" is announced. Tibor has come to be with his "wife". Later, in private, Tibor professes his love for Eve. Eve hints that she has similar feelings, but she still thinks she wants financial security with a wealthy husband like Jacques.

The pretense continues the following morning. The "Baron" and "Baroness" have a long-distance telephone conversation with their sick child in Budapest (actually Georges in another room on an extension). Then Tibor reveals his true identity, only to have the "Baroness" explain that the Czerny barons are prone to fits of delusional madness. Jacques presses his suit, and offers to marry the Baroness if she leaves her husband, whom she has described as mentally cruel to her.

That's what Eve thinks she wants. She appears in a French court to get a sham divorce. Tibor is angry, but he accepts payment from Georges to go along with the charade. However, in court, Tibor pretends to be insane, knowing that will bar a divorce under French law. Jacques still wants the "Baroness", but Eve tells him gently that he should never marry - it would deprive so many women of his attentions. Helene is cured of her infatuation, and leaves arm-in-arm with Georges. Tibor and Eve go off to the marriage bureau - much to the surprise of the judge who just denied their divorce.

Production notes[edit]

According to a Turner Classic Movies introduction by Robert Osborne, the role that eventually went to Claudette Colbert was originally slated for Barbara Stanwyck but scheduling problems prevented her from taking it. Osborne also stated Wilder was unhappy with script changes made by director Leisen, giving him motivation to become a director himself so he would have more creative control.

Releases[edit]

The film was released to theaters in the United States on March 15, 1939.[1]

A VHS videotape was released on March 28, 1995;[3] a region 1 DVD was released on April 22, 2008.[4]

American Film Institute[edit]

Cast[edit]

Remake[edit]

The film was remade as Masquerade in Mexico (1945) with Dorothy Lamour.

In 2007, Universal Studios announced plans for a remake of Midnight to be shot in 2010, with Michael Arndt as writer and Reese Witherspoon in the lead role.[7] Universal currently owns the rights to the original version. However, as of November 2011, the film has not gone into production.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Midnight at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections" (Press release). Washington Post. December 18, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Midnight VHS (1939)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  4. ^ "Midnight (Universal Cinema Classics)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  5. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
  6. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
  7. ^ Michael Fleming (May 30, 2007). "Witherspoon to star in 'Midnight'". variety.com. 

External links[edit]