Thursday, January 17, 2013

Worth Watching: Midnight (1939)

Title: Midnight
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Language: English
Rating: Not rated

Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert) is a quick-thinking American gold-digger who arrives in Paris on a rainy night, penniless but wearing an evening gown. She's picked up at the train station by a gruff taxi driver, Tibor Czerny (Don Ameche), and the two drive around the city and stop to have some food.

Claudette Colbert and John Barrymore plotting in Midnight

Though they're attracted to each other, Eve can't imagine getting involved with a taxi driver, so she flees his cab and crashes a late night recital attended by upper class notables including George Flammarion (John Barrymore), his wife, Helene (Mary Astor), and his wife's lover, Jacques Picot (Francis Lederer). Eve passes herself off as a noblewoman, and the only one who sees through her guise is George, who offers her money to break up his wife's affair by luring Jacques away. So Eve finds herself in a dilemma - should she marry Jacques, the wealthy playboy, or tenacious Tibor, who's been searching for her ever since she disappeared from his cab?

Claudette Colbert as Eve Peabody in Midnight

Colbert is charming and funny, and gives her character a hard edge too, as Eve tries to focus on the intrigue she's involved in and not get sentimental about anyone. The filmmakers seem determined that she and Tibor get together, but there are moments of troubled reflection on her part. Eve tells Tibor that her parents' marriage soured over money issues. And she can't imagine keeping house all day long as Tibor drives around in his taxi. Their conflicting outlooks on life are a real issue, but because this is a light-hearted comedy any concerns are swept away. They'll have their happily ever after even if it kills them.

The ending wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be (some parts of it made me cringe). You know how I wish the movie would have ended? With Eve and George teaming up as con artists and infiltrating royal palaces and embassies across Europe. I really liked the dynamic between Colbert and John Barrymore as co-conspirators.

Claudette Colbert and John Barrymore plotting in Midnight

Barrymore's performance in Midnight is deranged. The gears in his head are whirring a few seconds out of sync with everyone else's. He comes across as bored, rich, and off his rocker. In short, he's delightful.

John Barrymore and Mary Astor in Midnight

He and Colbert are the highlights of this movie (along with Rex O'Malley playing Marcel, Helene's witty and effete confidant). The dialogue is funny, the characters play off of each other well, and even though Tibor and Eve's romance was problematic and didn't move me much, at least the comedy side in this comedy-romance was entertaining.

*All images link back to their source (Flixster Community).