The Horn Blows at Midnight

Overview

Though Jack Benny made a cottage industry out of joking about the purported rottenness of his 1945 vehicle Horn Blows at Midnght, the film is in fact a delightful comedy-fantasy-certainly not Benny's best film, but far from his worst. While dozing off during a radio broadcast, studio musician Athaniel (Benny) dreams he's a trumpet player in Heaven's celestial orchestra. At the behest of glamorous angel Elizabeth (Alexis Smith), Athaniel is brought into the lavish chambers of The Chief (Guy Kibbee), who has a job ...
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Overview

Though Jack Benny made a cottage industry out of joking about the purported rottenness of his 1945 vehicle Horn Blows at Midnght, the film is in fact a delightful comedy-fantasy-certainly not Benny's best film, but far from his worst. While dozing off during a radio broadcast, studio musician Athaniel (Benny) dreams he's a trumpet player in Heaven's celestial orchestra. At the behest of glamorous angel Elizabeth (Alexis Smith), Athaniel is brought into the lavish chambers of The Chief (Guy Kibbee), who has a job for our hapless hero. It seems that The Front Office, dissatisfied with the state of things on planet Earth ("just a six-day job"), has decided to destroy the tiny globe. Athaniel is to go down to New York City and blow his trumpet at midnight, thereby heralding the end of the world. Unfortunately he botches the job and remains stuck on earth as a "fallen angel" along with previous Heavenly dropouts Osidro (Allyn Joslyn) and and Doremus (John Alexander). Having persuaded The Chief to give Athaniel a second chance, Elizabeth herself comes to Earth to make sure that her sweetheart successfully completes his mission. Alas, the impoverished Athaniel has used his precious trumpet to pay for a meal, thereby setting off a chain reaction of comic complications, culminating with a Harold Lloyd-like climax wherein Athaniel is but one of six people precariously dangling from a skyscraper ledge. Evidence exists that the "dream" framework and slapstick finale of Horn Blows at Midnight were last-minute additions: A 1949 radio version of the Sam Hellman-James V. Kern screenplay is quite different, with a more sentimental and "meaningful" finale. Whatever the case, the screen version of Horn Blows at Midnight delivers plenty of laughs for Benny fans and casual viewers alike. Alas, the film proved a box-office disappointment, which was injurious for Benny's film career but a boon to his radio and TV shows, which thrived on derisive Horn Blows at Midnight jokes for the next two decades!
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Horn Blows at Midnight was released in 1945, the year that atomic weapons destroyed two cities in Japan, and the year that saw an end to 30 years of conflict that had twice required U.S. intervention. Perhaps this is why audiences weren't interested in buying tickets to an end-of-the-world farce. Or perhaps audiences were tired of the lightweight fantasy-comedies that had flourished during the war years. Whatever the reason, the movie's star, Jack Benny, turned failure into an asset, spending the next three decades building a comic legend about the film's failure. While not at the level of Benny's work in To Be or Not To Be (few films are), The Horn Blows at Midnight is an enjoyable romp. Director Raoul Walsh was a no-frills style studio hand, capable of some sophistication in action films or dramas but largely impatient with the subtleties of comedy. In keeping with Walsh's strengths as a director, The Horn Blows at Midnight is best in its broadest moments, such as the skyscraper finale. While it may lack the texture of a top-rank classic, it's a solid, entertaining film.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/12/2013
  • UPC: 883316879368
  • Original Release: 1945
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Pan & Scan
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:18:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 6,019

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack Benny Athanael
Alexis Smith Elizabeth
Guy Kibbee The Chief/Radio director
Margaret Dumont Miss Rodholder/Mme. Traviata
Allyn Joslyn Osidro/Second trumpeter
Dolores Moran Fran Blackstone/Violinist
Reginald Gardiner Archie Dexter/Composer
John Alexander Doremus
Franklin Pangborn Sloan/Radio engineer
Ethel Griffies Lady Stover
Paul Harvey Hotel manager
Truman Bradley Radio announcer
Mike Mazurki Bass player/Humphrey
John Brown Lew
Murray Alper Tony
Pat O'Moore Clerk
Monte Blue
Emma Dunn
Isobel Elsom
Henry Morgan
Harry Rosenthal
Jack J. Ford
Robert Blake Junior
Oliver Blake Heavenly photographer
James Burke Cop
Jack Norton Drunk
Francis Pierlot Heavenly personnel manager
Technical Credits
Raoul Walsh Director
Milo Anderson Costumes/Costume Designer
Lawrence W. Butler Special Effects
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Mark Hellinger Producer
Sam Hellman Screenwriter
Sidney Hickox Cinematographer
Stan Jones Sound/Sound Designer
James Kern Screenwriter
Irene Morra Editor
Hugh Reticker Jr. Art Director
Carl Stalling Score Composer
Clarence I. Steensen Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Perc Westmore Makeup
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