Midnight is a 1939 screwball comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche. It is a wonderful movie and one of the most purely entertaining films of the decade.
It is about an unemployed showgirl stranded in Paris. She accidentally enters the high society and is set up by a millionaire to break up his wife’s affair with another man. Meanwhile, she is pursued by a taxi driver who is very much in love with her. Yes, this premise does sound convoluted, but it is complicated in a positive manner in that fine and endearing style of the genre. The whole premise of a girl accidentally entering aristocratic life is very intriguing and it brought many fantastic scenarios and great humor to the table.
The character development is awesome and the reason why Midnight works so well along with its terrific humor. Eve Peabody is so damn likable and such a fun woman with an endearing sense of adventure and humor. Tibor Czerny can be a bit annoying at times with him yelling too much, but I still liked him for the most part and the relationship between the two is really well established. Georges Flammarion is interesting and likable as well and the relationship between him and his wife Helen leads to many moving moments here. Jacque is a typical character, but he serves the plot and The Judge is such a great introduction near the end and his old-fashioned ideals and manners perfectly clash against the crazy and ridiculous behavior of our main characters.
The acting is absolutely fantastic. I still found Don Ameche’s acting a bit weak at times just like I did in ‘Heaven Can Wait‘, but he is mostly good and is very handsome to look at. John Barrymore is terrific in his subtle performance and Mary Astor is also really good. But this is Claudette Colbert’s show and she delivers! She steals every scene she is in and she gave an absolutely remarkable performance that is one of her best. I loved her facial expressions and they brought a lot of charm and humor to the table and she is perfectly cast in this role as well. She is one of the strongest points in Midnight, there is no doubt about that.
The highlights here are definitely that whole third act which is just hilarious and so crazy, but inherently sweet as well. It is also a perfect ending for this movie without any cheese or lame emotion whatsoever. The whole movie is slick and suave. Some other great scenes have to be those in which Eve puts the endless charade in order to stay in cover. Also, those first scenes where she starts pretending and especially the moments in the hotel are priceless.
Midnight admittedly has some problems which is the reason why it is far from a perfect screwball comedy, but is still one of the better and most entertaining examples of the genre. The directing from Mitchell Leisen is pretty weak and I could only imagine what another, more capable director would have done with this great material. Also, some of the humorous scenes are played out for too much time and there is too much yelling involved. And the first act could have been more memorable plus it can get a bit too convoluted and hard to buy at times, but the reason why that isn’t such a big flaw here is that the tone is so comedic and ridiculous that it is evident that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously which is great.
Midnight is very well paced and is incredibly involving. It is entertaining from beginning to end. The tone is great as thankfully romance doesn’t take away from comedy too much. The script is just fantastic with very well thought out scenarios and the dialogue is expectedly fast, clever, funny and always fascinating. The film is very memorable and it has a lot of heart without ever being corny. And the humor is terrific and the biggest reason to see the film. Everything here is funny from the characters to their behavior to the ridiculous scenarios they end up in. There are many laugh out loud moments to be had with this movie and I laughed hard so many times and held a smile for the entirety of the running time because of that great mix of charm and hilarity that only screwball comedies can offer. In a ridiculously good year that is 1939, this film really does stack well against the other classics and is such a pleasant surprise.