Midnight [DVD] [1939]

Universal has released Mitchell Leisen's Midnight on DVD with an introduction by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne but no other special features. That seems to be the lot with most of the output of Billy Wilder (who co-wrote the screenplay here), whose work deserves better treatment than it has gotten from most of the studios. That said, this is one handsome transfer of the movie -- the full-screen (1.33-to-1) image is crisp and sharp, with a texture of sprayed silver on a black background, with a good full audio track set at a healthy volume. Someone thought enough of this movie to give it a reasonably generous 18 chapters, in addition to that introduction and the original trailer -- it just begs for so much more as a film, in terms of support materials. But as far as it goes, it's fine, and the movie is so rewarding on its own terms, that it should be regarded as an essential acquisition for any fans of sophisticated screen comedy.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Exclusive introduction by Turner Classic Movies host and film historian Robert Osborne
  • Theatrical trailer

Synopsis

Midnight
Paramount's screwball comedy Midnight is the first collaboration between director Mitchell Leisen and screenwriting duo Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. The film merges Brackett and Wilder's early emphasis on repartee and masquerade with ex-costume designer Leisen's flair for high style and sophistication. American Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert), a wily ex-showgirl, must impersonate Hungarian royalty in order to infiltrate the Parisian jet set. Midnight begins during a midnight rainstorm as Eve arrives penniless at Paris' Gare de L'Est, owning only the gold lamé gown on her back. She attracts the attention of Hungarian cab driver, Tibor Czerny (Don Ameche), but walks out on their budding romance; Eve will no longer make the mistake of dating for love rather than money. Instead, she finds shelter from the downpour by crashing a socialite's late-night soirée using a pawnticket and a pseudonym, the Baroness Czerny (the cab driver's surname). There, Eve meets aristocrat Georges Flammarion (John Barrymore), who entices her with a place in society if she agrees to remain disguised as the Baroness and seduce his wife's playboy lover. Meanwhile, Tibor Czerny has not given up his search for Eve. When he locates her whereabouts and discovers the fact that she is using his name, Tibor also travels to the Flammarion estate -- to win back Eve, and to pose as her husband, the Baron. What ensues is quintessential screwball comedy, full of deception, love, quadruple entendre, and outright farce. Midnight remains Leisen's most heralded directorial effort, as well as one of Brackett and Wilder's earliest successes. ~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Claudette Colbert
    Claudette Colbert - Eve Peabody/"Baroness Czerny"
  • Don Ameche
    Don Ameche - Tibor Czerny
  • John Barrymore
    John Barrymore - George Flammarion
  • Francis Lederer
    Francis Lederer - Jacques Picot
  • Mary Astor
    Mary Astor - Helen Flammarion
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