Midnight (1939 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mitchell Leisen|
|Produced by||Arthur Hornblow, Jr.|
|Music by||Frederick Hollander|
|Edited by||Doane Harrison|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Midnight is a 1939 American screwball comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor, and Elaine Barrie. Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder based on a story by Edwin Justus Mayer and Franz Schulz, the film is about an unemployed showgirl stranded in Paris who is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife's affair with another man. 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".
American showgirl Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert) arrives in Paris on a train from Monte Carlo during a rainstorm wearing an elegant evening dress. With no money and no place to stay, she arranges a deal with a soft-hearted Hungarian taxi driver named Tibor Czerny (Don Ameche), who agrees to drive her around to the city's nightclubs looking for a job in exchange for her doubling his fare. After an unsuccessful search, Tibor buys her dinner at a café and offers to let her stay overnight at his apartment while he finishes his night shift. While attracted to Tibor, she decides not to get involved with a poor taxi driver, and when he stops for gas, she slips away.
Seeking shelter from the rain, Eve sneaks into a black tie classical concert using the pawn ticket she received for her suitcase in Monte Carlo in lieu of an admission card. When Stephanie (Hedda Hopper), the socialite hosting the affair, is informed about the pawn ticket, she searches the audience to unmask the impostor. Eve tries to slip away, but is intercepted by Marcel Renaud (Rex O'Malley), who ushers her to a room to join him for a game of bridge with Helene Flammarion (Mary Astor) and Jacques Picot (Francis Lederer), a wealthy bachelor and ladies' man. Eve introduces herself as "Baroness Czerny" and is partnered with Jacques.
While the foursome are busy playing, Helene's wealthy husband, Georges Flammarion (John Barrymore), enters the room and notices the beautiful woman who left the concert during the search for the pawn ticket owner. Pretending to recognize Eve as the wife of "Baron" Czerny, he chats with the "Baroness" about her life in Budapest. At the conclusion of the bridge game, Eve and Jacques owe their rivals a few thousand francs, and as Eve prepares to write an IOU, she discovers that ten thousand francs have somehow appeared in her purse—placed there by Georges. Jacques insists on escorting her back to the Ritz where she tells him she's staying. When they arrive, Eve is stunned to find a lavish suite is reserved for "Baroness Czerny".
Meanwhile, Tibor is worried about Eve and searches for her throughout Paris. He recruits his fellow taxi drivers by organizing a lottery where everyone puts in five francs and the driver who finds Eve wins the money. The drivers scatter across the city in search of the missing showgirl.
The next morning, Eve awakens to learn that "her" luggage has arrived—an expensive set of trunks bearing the Czerny monogram and containing a complete new wardrobe. Informed that her car and chauffeur are waiting outside, Eve is mystified and frightened by all this until Georges arrives, her mysterious benefactor. He explains that his wife and Jacques Picot think they're in love with each other, and that last night at the bridge game he noticed that Jacques had eyes only for the "Baroness". Still in love with his wife and wanting her back, George proposes that Eve encourage Jacques in his flirtations in order to break up his affair with Helene. Georges will pay her a handsome sum if she succeeds, and marriage to Jacques and his wealthy family might offer additional incentive. He gives her an expense account of fifty thousand francs and invites her to the Flammarion estate in Versailles for a weekend house party.
In the coming days, Jacques becomes thoroughly captivated by Eve's charms and offers to take her on a Mediterranean cruise. While driving to Versailles for the weekend party, the couple are spotted by one of the taxi drivers who learns that she is calling herself "Baroness Czerny". He returns to collect the lottery money from Tibor, who cannot believe she has a car and chauffeur and is staying at the Ritz using his name. Meanwhile, Helene learns that they accused the wrong person of being the "imposter" with the pawn ticket. Suspecting that the "Baroness" is in fact the imposter, Helene has her friend Marcel use the ticket to retrieve the suitcase from the pawn shop in Monte Carlo.
At the Flammarion estate, Eve and Jacques arrive and make no secret of their attraction to each other—to Helene's consternation and jealousy. When Marcel arrives with the suitcase, they search its contents and find a photograph of some showgirls, one of whom looks like the "Baroness". Helene is about to expose Eve in front of all the guests when "Baron Tibor Czerny" is announced. Tibor informs the hosts that he has come to be with his "wife". Later in private, Tibor professes his love for Eve, who hints that she feels the same way, but she is determined to find financial security with a wealthy husband like Jacques.
The next morning the pretense continues as the "Baron" and "Baroness" have a long-distance telephone conversation with their sick child in Budapest (actually Georges on an extension in another room). When Eve suspects that Tibor is about to reveal his true identity, she explains that the Czerny barons are prone to fits of delusional madness. When Tiber tries to confess being a taxi driver, the guests simply humor him. After Eve describes the mentally cruelty of her marriage, Jacques offers to marry her if she leaves her husband—the very thing she wants.
Soon after, Eve appears in a French court to get a sham divorce. Although Tibor is angry with Eve, he accepts payment from Georges to go along with the divorce charade. During the divorce proceedings, however, Tibor pretends to be insane, knowing that this will prevent a divorce under French law. Jacques still wants the "Baroness", but Eve tells him gently that he should never marry—that it would deprive so many women of his attentions. Finally cured of her infatuation, Helene leaves arm-in-arm with her husband Georges. Tibor and Eve go off to the marriage bureau—much to the surprise of the judge who just denied their divorce.
- Claudette Colbert as Eve Peabody
- Don Ameche as Tibor Czerny
- John Barrymore as Georges Flammarion
- Francis Lederer as Jacques Picot
- Mary Astor as Helene Flammarion
- Elaine Barrie as Simone
- Hedda Hopper as Stephanie
- Rex O'Malley as Marcel Renaud
- Monty Woolley as The Judge
- Armand Kaliz as Lebon
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.
The film was released to theaters in the United States on March 15, 1939.
American Film Institute
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. Universal currently owns the rights to the original version. However, as of November 2011, the film has not gone into production.
- "Library of Congress announces 2013 National Film Registry selections" (Press release). Washington Post. December 18, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
- "Midnight VHS (1939)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- "Midnight (Universal Cinema Classics)". amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
- Michael Fleming (May 30, 2007). "Witherspoon to star in 'Midnight'". variety.com.