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Unsung movie classic "Midnight"


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#1 dirac

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 02:50 PM

Well, unsung by me, anyway. I saw this only recently, and since it's not one of the better known Thirties comedies I thought I would plug it here – I was charmed. The movie has one of those 1930s dream casts performing in Paramount's High International style – Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche (yes, I know, but he's not bad here, really), John Barrymore (looking desiccated, but still able to perform miracles with an inflection and a raised eyebrow), and Mary Astor, batting Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder's lines back and forth like tennis champs. Colbert is an unemployed chorus girl wandering the streets of Paris in a gold lamι evening gown, Ameche is the Hungarian taxi driver who picks her up, Mary Astor is Barrymore's unfaithful wife. I can't account for it's not being better known – maybe because its director, Mitchell Leisen, is not famous. Anyway, check it out – you won't be sorry.



Also noted: On television, Joan Crawford month on Turner Classic Movies is wrapping up this coming Thursday. This week's offerings provide an orgy of camp: Mildred Pierce (Joan sacrifices her marriage for love of daughter Ann Blyth); Humoresque (Joan sacrifices her life for love of musical genius John Garfield); Possessed (Joan sacrifices her sanity for love of architect Van Heflin. From memory: "Why don't you love me like that? I'm a lot nicer than a girder.") If you're in the mood....

#2 BW

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 03:42 PM

I've always loved Claudette Colbert - "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable is a great one too. :cool:I do remember "Midnight" but haven't seen it since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Yes, Don Ameche was quite good and very funny.

My childhood in New York was punctuated regularly by Million Dollar Movie which I believe was on every afternoon... Joan Crawford, ah yes...used to get her confused with Victor Mature all the time - must have been the chin...or was it the shoulder pads? ;) Which reminds me, there is an exhibit right now, or was, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC that is devoted to a famous clothing designer, whose name escapes me at the moment, and Joan C. often wore his creations.:)

#3 dirac

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 04:01 PM

That would be Adrian. None of his creations will be on display Thursday night, unfortunately, because those movies are post-MGM Crawford. He dressed Crawford, Shearer, and Garbo when those ladies were jostling for position as Queens of the Lot during the Thirties.



I never thought of Joan and Victor Mature, but you're absolutely right. She wasn't always like that, though. One of the interesting things about retrospectives of this kind is seeing how different she was way back when -- a fetching little flapper in the 20s, then this saucy chit flirting with John Barrymore in "Grand Hotel" -- it's too bad.

#4 BW

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 07:11 PM

Adrian it is!

I do recall seeing Joan C. in her earlier days, but most of my memories are of her when she was a bit tougher looking...and I have to admit that "Mommy Dearest" does come to mind, at times.:) I think I'll stick with Claudette Colbert! :)

#5 Ed Waffle

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Posted 26 August 2002 - 10:12 PM

A few notes on my favorite period of U.S. movies:

Joan Crawford--"Rain" from 1932 is quite a movie. It is (I think) from just before the Hayes Office clamped down and Joan, as the prostitute Sadie Thompson, is perfect. The tape I have seen is very dark--but she shines through.

Claudette Colbert--"It Happened One Night" is truly a classic. And it was her 23rd or 24th feature.

Don't forget Irene Dunne, who made two hilarious screwball comedies with Cary Grant, "My Favorite Wife" and "The Awful Truth."

My all time favorite, though, is Barbara Stanwyck, who could do anything. American Movie Classics used to run "Stan-week" in which they would show many of her movies during a week. She was not only great in film noir ("The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers", "Double Indemnity") but great in screwball comedies.

She starred opposite two leading men who were not know as comic actors in two very funny movies: "The Lady Eve" with Henry Fonda and "Ball of Fire" (as Sugarpuss O'Shea!) with Gary Cooper.

A great book to consult or read at leisure (or both) is "The Runaway Bride: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1930s" by Elizabeth Kendall, who many will recognize as a dance writer of significant gifts.

#6 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 05:05 AM

well let me put in for my vote for a favorite of the 30s, which is frank capra's lady for a day, starring may robson as apple annie and warren william as dave the dude (he of the sonorous voice and roman profile). robson is incredible in this movie, playing for at least some of the time against type altogether (she was katharine hepburn's aunt in 'bringing up baby', the typical society matron type). it was remade later by capra with bette davis as 'a pocketful of miracles' but i much prefer the earlier film. it is also an example of absolutely gorgeous black and white photography. a real tear jerker and yet a great comedy . you should check out the lyrics to the song dave the dude's girlfriend sings at the beginning of the film!

#7 dirac

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 04:49 PM

Early Capra is definitely better Capra. I'm always reminded of the late Pauline Kael's remark about him (this is from memory and not word-perfect): "Nobody can combine drama, comedy, and sentiment the way Capra can, but if anyone should learn, kill him." I miss you, Ms. Kael.

#8 sidwich

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Posted 04 September 2002 - 08:53 AM

Yes, "Midnight" is a great movie. I think Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett did the screenplay, and it shows. There are some seriously priceless lines in it, and you really can't beat John Barrymore, even when he was really down in the dumps. "On the Twentieth Century," anyone?

Claudette was a really wonderful actress. I've always kind of wondered what "All About Eve" would have been like if she'd done it instead of Bette Davis (she was the first choice). The versatility of some of the great actresses was really something.

One of my favorite screwballs is still "Theodora Goes Wild" with Irene Dunne (get your mind out of the gutter). Can be hard to find, but it still shows up from time to time. There are so many wonderful lesser known ones, "Love Crazy" with William Powell and Myrna Loy, "Remember the Night" with Barbara Stanwyck, so many great ones with Jean Arthur... Sigh.

#9 liebs

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Posted 07 September 2002 - 11:33 AM

I'm currently reading "Fast Talking Dames," a profile of these stars and their screwball comedies as social history. You might want to check it out, as I read I want to see all of the movies that I missed or haven't seen in years.
Midnight is one of my favorites as is Palm Beach Story.

#10 dirac

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Posted 09 September 2002 - 04:32 PM

Sounds like an interesting read. I just came across mention of Preston Sturges, the director of The Palm Beach Story, in Peter Kurth's recent bio of Isadora Duncan. His mother, Mary Desti, was a great friend of Isadora's. Sturges' father was a Chicago businessman, but Mary was bored with Chicago and made a deal with her husband whereby she spent six months of every year in Europe, with young Preston tagging along. Kurth says he modeled the tangled affairs of the principals in The Palm Beach Story after the romantic imbroglios of his mother's bohemian friends. Must have been an interesting upbringing.


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