Midnight

Midnight

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Cast: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore

     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
The original title of this Cinderella-inspired screwball comedy was Careless Rapture, a heading that signified the devil-may-care euphoria long distinctive of its genre. However, when Paramount released the picture in 1939, its filmmakers had changed its name to Midnight -- the historic hour that Cinderella's party ended -- and skillfully marked the conclusion of screwball's carefree heyday. At the turn of the decade, and on the eve of World War II, even comedies were moving farther away from Depression-era escapism (which gave birth to screwball) and closer to the postwar skepticism that gripped American film way into the '60s. Mitchell Leisen's Midnight survives as a harbinger of this change. As film critic Molly Haskell points out, Leisen's work is the transitional link between the fairy tale Paramount of the '30s and Billy Wilder's acerbic output for the studio in the '40s and beyond. In this initial collaboration between the two filmmakers (Wilder and partner Charles Brackett developed the screenplay), Leisen wisely allows the impending pessimism of his writers to pollute the outdated felicity of his genre. The extroverted intelligence of screwball's conventional heroine, here played by Claudette Colbert, is supplemented by a worldly understanding far beyond the usual bawdy wit. When her potential suitor asks what kind of job she desires, the gold-digging Colbert answers that at this time at night, she is certainly not looking for needlework. Beneath this sentiment's sexual innuendo is a sense not of simply sarcasm, but of a fatalism and resignation presaging Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment -- characters all too aware of their place in the world. In fact, it is the knowledge of their position in the universe that is made strikingly obvious to all of Midnight's characters. Wilder and Brackett's script does not hesitate to remind them and the audience of the war about to ravage Europe -- at the height of the film's shenanigans, a French judge gravely derides the main characters' tomfoolery in the midst of world turmoil. Contrasted with Leisen's sumptuous direction (he was a filmmaker who often mistook opulence for refinement), this outlook exemplifies the notable metamorphosis of the screwball comedy from insouciant to mordant. Midnight, thus, is much more than an amusing diversion; it is remarkable as a turning point in the annals of film history.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/22/2008
UPC:
0025193312921
Original Release:
1939
Rating:
NR
Source:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:35:00
Sales rank:
17,741

Special Features

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

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Claudette Colbert Eve Peabody/"Baroness Czerny"
Don Ameche Tibor Czerny
John Barrymore George Flammarion
Francis Lederer Jacques Picot
Mary Astor Helen Flammarion
Elaine Barrie Simone
Hedda Hopper Stephanie
Rex O'Malley Marcel
Monty Woolley Judge
Armand Kaliz Lebon
Gino Corrado Taxi Driver
Joseph DeStefani Head Porter
Sarah Edwards Party Guest
Charles Judels Doorman
Louis Mercier Cafe Pianist
William Eddritt Actor
Joseph Romantini Footman
Judith King Actor
Eugene Borden Porter
Paul Bryar Porter
Eddie Conrad Prince Potopienko
Gennaro Curci Major Domo
Billy Daniels Roger
Leander de Cordova Footman
Carlos de Valdez Butler
Arno Frey Room clerk
Joyce Mathews Girl
Ferdinand Munier Major Domo
Nestor Paiva Woman's escort
Lionel Pape Edouart
Harry Semels Policeman
Leonard Sues Bellboy
Michael Visaroff Footman
Bryant Washburn Guest

Technical Credits
Mitchell Leisen Director
Charles Brackett Screenwriter
Hans Dreier Production Designer
Farciot Edouart Special Effects
A.E. Freudeman Set Decoration/Design
Doane Harrison Editor
Frederick Hollander Score Composer
Arthur Hornblow Producer
Irene Costumes/Costume Designer
Charles B. Lang Cinematographer
Edwin Justus Mayer Original Story
Franz Schulz Original Story
Robert Usher Production Designer
Billy Wilder Screenwriter

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