Midnight (1939)

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  • directed by Mitchell Leisen
  • starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, 
  • A chorus girl, stranded in Paris, is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife’s affair with another man.

“From the moment you looked at me, I had an idea you had an idea. 

This was an enjoyable screwball comedy with a script by Billy Wilder that never settled into one place for too long a time. As a viewer, my sympathies and expectations were constantly shifting, often due to a character being caught in a lie or succeeding at one.

I watched closely for hints of John Barrymore’s notoriously broken-down, drunken behavior. There’s one report that he wandered into the women’s bathroom on set to relieve himself. “You can’t be in here,” one woman protested when she caught him, “it’s for women.” He turned around mid-stream and replied, “so is this.” In most of his films beginning in the mid to late 30s the crew would have to write his lines on a chalkboard and hold it up for him just out of frame. While the eye contact problem was noticeable, as for focus and believability he fared pretty well as the funny and loyal Georges Flammarion. I also kept an eye out for how Claudette Colbert likes to stage herself in shots, something she was very demanding about due to an obsession she had with proper lighting and the “unfilmable” right side of her face. She too pulled it together to play the scheming Eve Peabody with a ton of charm and humor.

As with most screwball comedies, it basically begs you not to take anything too seriously, especially as the yarn starts unwinding in a third act that featured a handful of gags and plot twists a minute. After an enjoyable and organically paced first half, it was still fun but jarring towards the end once Eve Peabody’s ruse started falling apart and picking itself back up so many times.

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all the things I should have seen

2 Responses to Midnight (1939)

  1. Pingback: Cam Reviews: Midnight | sally cooks

  2. Pingback: Cam Reviews: Easy Living | sally cooks

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