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Midnight [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Francis Lederer, Mary Astor
  • Directors: Mitchell Leisen
  • Writers: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Edwin Justus Mayer, Franz Schulz
  • Producers: Arthur Hornblow Jr., William LeBaron
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Universal Studios Ho
  • VHS Release Date: March 28, 1995
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303382975
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,888 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A Parisian dancer (Colbert) works her way into French high society by posing as a Hungarian countess. Asked by a wealthy noble to lure a gigolo away from his wife, she soon is given some nice rewards, all the while loved from afar by a cab driver who knows her true identity.


Although Hollywood's golden year of 1939 is best remembered for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, it was also a banner year for sophisticated screen comedy, and Mitchell Leisen's Midnight is a deliciously prime example. Screenwriters Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were in peak form when they concocted this smooth confection about Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert), an American showgirl in Paris who is out of work, money, and luck when a handsome cabbie (Don Ameche) offers to drive her around the City of Light to search for employment as a nightclub chanteuse. Nobody's hiring, but Eve has a better plan: posing as a Hungarian countess, she smuggles her way into Parisian high society and suddenly finds herself in the lap of luxury, commissioned by a wealthy aristocrat (John Barrymore) to seduce a French playboy (Francis Lederer) away from Barrymore's not-so-loyal wife (Mary Astor). While Eve is living it up at the Ritz Hotel and enjoying trips to Versailles, Ameche's on a mission to find her and declare his true love.

Class distinction, infidelity, false identity... these were daring ingredients for a 1939 comedy, and Midnight (a casebook display of Paramount's shimmering studio style of the '30s) is as fresh today as it was when first released. The silky perfection of the Wilder-Brackett screenplay is expertly served by Leisen (a director who deserves ranking with Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges), and Colbert is merely the brightest star in a flawless cast of screwball veterans. Poking fun at the elite was a Wilder-Brackett specialty, and Barrymore is particularly savvy to the material, giving a performance that's simultaneously sly, desperate, and hilariously inspired. The plot is so elegantly executed that Midnight makes most comedies of later decades look pale in comparison. Gone are the days, it seems, when sophistication, wit, and good taste were an integral part of Hollywood comedy. Midnight offers all of those qualities in abundance, making it a perfect antidote to the crudeness that dominates mainstream comedy at the turn of the millennium. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

If you like old romantic comedies a la Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, etc., I highly recommend this movie.
J. Norberg
I won't say much more so you can watch and enjoy this movie without spoilers; suffice it to say that the rest of the film shows how everything works out.
Matthew G. Sherwin
Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, Mary Astor, and John Barrymore give great performances and are well complimented by the rest the cast.
C. A. Luster

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By PonyExpress on July 26, 2000
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Directed by Mitchell Leisen(unjustly forgotten helmer of many wonderful "golden age" films-and former designer for DeMille),written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett at their wittiest, and starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, Mary Astor and an incomparable John Barrymore-well, it's even better than it sounds. Beautifully polished and mounted production. Definitely a very adult "screwball" comedy with loads of innuendo, brilliantly played. I've seen this both on TV and in a theatre, and judging from audience reaction, every one of them loved it. This is one of those titles you can show to people who've usually little interest in "old" movies-and convert them!
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2003
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
MIDNIGHT is the greatest classic Hollywood comedy that almost no one has seen. Why this isn't better known is a bit of a mystery. The film is well directed, well scripted, well acted, and well produced. The film is directed by Mitchell Leisen, who has been unjustly forgotten for the misfortune of having directed a series of extremely fine films based on screenplays by two writers who would later become famous directors in their own right: Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges. But Leisen put his own distinctive touch on the films he directed, and that is nowhere truer than this superb film. Nonetheless, the screenplay is superb, by one of the greatest writers of comedies in the history of cinema, Billy Wilder. Although he had been in Hollywood for a while, this was the first screenplay in which he truly hit his stride, the first in a series of stellar scripts (including NINOTCHKA for Lubitsch, ARISE MY LOVE and HOLD BACK THE DAWN for Leisen, and BALL OF FIRE for Howard Hawks) that led to his own shot at directing. Charles Brackett worked with Wilder as usual, Wilder functioning as the story originator and gagman, and Brackett cleaning up the Germanicisms cluttering Wilder's sentences. The cast is superb, with Claudette Colbert turning in one of her greatest performances as a young woman determined to capture a rich husband, but who instead inconveniently gets involved with a Parisian cab driver. Don Ameche was never better than in this film playing that Parisian cab driver. Mary Astor, who was extremely pregnant during filming, is her usual superb self, while the rest of the cast is littered with talented veteran character actors. The most bittersweet performance is the simultaneous hysterical and tragic performance by John Barrymore as a drunken dissipated nobleman.Read more ›
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
High stepping, leggy American chorus girl, Eve Peabody, played by the lovely Claudette Colbert at her zenith, lands in Paris of the nineteen thirties dead broke with only the gold lame evening gown on her back. She meets a handsome cabbie, played by the dashing Don Ameche, who is smitten with her. She disappears on him and ends up at a society fete, where she adopts the cabbie's surname and poses as a Hungarian baroness.
There, she meets a wealthy couple, deliciously played by John Barrymore and Mary Astor. Ms. Astor has been smitten by a French playboy, played by the very handsome Francis Lederer, who appears to be smitten by the baroness. Barrymore knows that she is not a baroness, but keeps quiet. He treats her to a taste of luxury and then hires her to play the role she adopted, so as to make sure his wife's budding romance is nipped in the bud. As the baroness, she is to lure Lederer away from Astor, saving their marriage in the process.
In the interim, our smitten cabbie has enlisted all the cabbies in Paris to help find Ms. Peabody. He manages to track her down at yet another society fete, where he arrives dressed in a tux and is announced as her husband, the baron. Meanwhile, the wealthy and handsome playboy has declared his intentions towards the baroness. Let the games begin! What will the baroness do? Will she remain with the "baron"? Will she marry the wealthy French playboy? Watch the film and find out.
Look for lots of lively, fast paced dialogue. The performances are wonderful, and the dialogue is often witty. This is a reminder of the golden era of hollywood films. It is an absolutely delightful and zany romantic comedy.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Fernando Silva on January 20, 2003
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This is one of the most sophisticated and funny comedies I've seen in my whole life, thanks to one of the wittiest screenplays ever (by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, et al), deft direction by Mitchell Leisen, expertly paced, with a top cast, the best costumes, very elegant sets, etc.
Claudette Colbert is wisecracking chorus girl Eve Peabody (later Baroness Czerny), stranded in Paris, who is befriended by taxi driver Tibor Czerny (played by Don Ameche, in one of his best roles) and ends rubbing elbows with the "smart-set", with unexpected results. For those who have watched Anatole Litvak's "Tovarich" (1937) on TCM, starring Colbert and Charles Boyer, it has a similar premise, but the other way round, because in the latter Colbert, a Russian Grand Duchess who belongs to that country's Royal Family, pretends to be a maid.
The cast is full of excellent players: John Barrymore who impersonates with great skill, Monsieur Flammarion, a role somehow reminiscent of the one he played in "Twentieth Century" opposite Carole Lombard, but in a much "understated" manner. Mary Astor, as his unfaithful wife is rightly "stiff-upper-lip", high class and disdainful. Francis Lederer is very good as her lover, Jacques Picot, who falls under the spell of Colbert's charms. Rex O'Malley is Astor's wisecracking friend, Marcel Renard.
This movie has definitely the trademark "Paramount Look" and the great settings recreate Paris very well. There are many very funny scenes, especially those at the soirée offered by pretentious socialité Hedda Hopper and the party that takes place at the Flammarion Residence in Versailles, where all the guests dance "La Conga". Unforgettable.
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Topic From this Discussion
MIDNIGHT (1939) is not a color film, and thank God nobody colorized it for DVD release. Hope this helps.
W. Shriver
Jul 2, 2008 by William Shriver |  See all 3 posts
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