Round Midnight (film)

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Round Midnight
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed by Bertrand Tavernier
Produced by Irwin Winkler
Screenplay by David Rayfiel
Bertrand Tavernier
Colo Tavernier (French language translation)
Based on Dance of the Infidels
by Francis Paudras
Music by Herbie Hancock (original music)
Little Bear
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
September 12, 1986 (1986-09-12) (Toronto Festival of Festivals)
October 3, 1986 (1986-10-03) (United States)
Running time
133 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $10 million[1]

Round Midnight is a 1986 American-French musical drama film directed by Bertrand Tavernier and written by Tavernier and David Rayfiel. It stars Dexter Gordon, François Cluzet and Herbie Hancock. Martin Scorsese, Philippe Noiret and Wayne Shorter appear in cameos.[2]

The protagonist jazzman, "Dale Turner", was based on a composite of real-life jazz legends Lester Young (tenor sax) and Bud Powell (piano). While the film is fictionalized, it is drawn directly from the memoir/biography Dance of the Infidels written by French author Francis Paudras, who had befriended Powell during his Paris expatriate days and on whom the character "Francis" is based. The film is a wistful and tragic portrait that captures the Paris jazz scene of the 1950s.[3][4]

Gordon was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and won a Grammy for the film's soundtrack entitled The Other Side of Round Midnight in the category for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Soloist. Hancock won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score. The soundtrack was released in two parts: Round Midnight and The Other Side of Round Midnight.


Dale Turner, a famous tenor saxophone player in Paris in the 1950s is befriended by Francis, a struggling French graphic designer specializing in film posters, who idolizes the musician and who tries desperately to help him to escape alcohol abuse. As he succeeds, the budding friendship they develop changes their lives forever.



Round Midnight was filmed in Paris and New York City. It was produced by Irwin Winkler.

Tavernier defied the movie studio by insisting that real-life jazz tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon play the role of Turner. Gordon, who himself played with Bud Powell in Paris in the early 1960s, helped to revise and rewrite the script. The supporting cast is likewise composed of jazz musicians (mainly from the generation which followed Gordon and Powell) such as Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, John McLaughlin, and Wayne Shorter, among others who play the music live throughout the film. The musicians are joined by actors François Cluzet, Gabrielle Haker, Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Lonette McKee, and Christine Pascal.


The score for the film was composed by Hancock. The soundtrack was in two parts – Round Midnight and The Other Side of Round Midnight – released under Dexter Gordon's name and featuring his last recordings, although he does not appear on all tracks. Both albums were produced and arranged by Hancock.


Round Midnight received a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.


Gordon was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Hancock won the award for Best Music, Original Score.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 30, 1986). "Film Festival; Dexter Gordon Stars In 'Round Midnight'". New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  3. ^ KOENIGSBERG, LARRY. "Book Reviews". Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell. All About Jazz. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Ratliff, Ben (December 17, 1997). "Francis Paudras, 62, Patron Of Jazz Pianist Bud Powell". New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 

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