Favorite things about… Midnight (1939)

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(Image via Doctor Macro)

The favorite film:
Midnight, a 1939 screwball comedy directed by Mitchell Leisen

The synopsis:
Arriving in Paris with no money and no place to stay, Eve Peabody tries to get a job as a club singer with the help of taxi driver Tibor Czerny. When none of the clubs will hire her, she sneaks into a charity concert, where she catches the attention of Georges Flammarion. Knowing she could use some some financial security, Georges offers to pay Eve and help her hook a rich husband if she’ll woo the handsome Jacques Picot away from Georges’ wife.

The cast:
Claudette Colbert as Eve Peabody/Baroness Czerny
Don Ameche as Tibor Czerny
John Barrymore as Georges Flammarion
Mary Astor as Helene Flammarion
Francis Lederer as Jacques Picot

Fun facts:

  • The film was written by the stellar screenwriting team of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. It was their second screenplay together, and they would continue to collaborate after Wilder began directing.
  • Wilder and director Mitchell Leisen apparently despised one another. Wilder didn’t like the fact that Leisen didn’t always follow the script word-for-word. TCM reports that working with Leisen was one of the things that inspired Wilder to direct his own films!
  • There were reportedly plenty of problems on set. Barrymore couldn’t remember his lines and had to use cue cards. Mary Astor was pregnant and had to be shot only from certain angles to hide the fact. Claudette Colbert was insecure about her nose and insisted on never being shot from the right side. (All of this according to TCM’s article on the film, by Brian Cady.) All that shows on screen, however, is an airy and delightful comedy!
  • Claudette Colbert’s gowns were designed by Irene, who also designed Colbert’s gowns for 1943’s No Time for Love.
  • Barbara Stanwyck was considered for the role of Eve Peabody, but scheduling conflicts stopped her from taking part in the film. Early reports also had Marlene Dietrich pegged for the role, with Fritz Lang to direct. (As much as I love Stanwyck and Dietrich, I’m happy about the way it turned out. Claudette Colbert is perfect in the role.)
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(Image via Doctor Macro)

Favorite things/quotes:

  • Eve sleeping on the train in her sparkling evening gown
  • Eve, seeing Paris when she wakes up: “From here it looks an awful lot like a rainy night in Kokomo, Indiana.”
  • Tibor’s face lighting up when he sees Eve for the first time, and their banter about her penniless predicament
  • Eve, after being rejected from all of the clubs: “I guess mine is strictly a bathtub voice.”
  • Eve, when Tibor offers to buy her a cheap dinner: “Oh, I know! This is the pumpkin coach and you’re the fairy godmother!”
  • Tibor, on his taxi-driving, bank-account-free lifestyle: “Three handkerchiefs, two shirts, one tie… no worries.”
  • Georges’ face when Eve takes off her shoe, and again when her pawn ticket is discovered
  • Jacques: “It’s difficult to concentrate on cards, sometimes.”
    Eve: “Naturally, when you’re worrying about the future of the ostrich plume.”
  • Eve being frightened by her own reflection in the fancy hotel room
  • Tibor setting up a monetary reward and organized search effort to track down Eve
  • Eve, to Georges, after realizing he knows her secret: “From the moment you looked at me I had an idea you had an idea.”
  • Georges’ scheme to get Jacques away from his wife by getting the mysterious “Baroness” to win him over and steal him away
  • Georges: “Jacques’ family makes a very superior income, from a very inferior champagne. You could do much worse!”
  • Tibor learning about the “Baroness”
  • Helene’s reaction when Jacques says he’s in love with the Baroness
  • Helene: “Maybe her hair’s dyed! Maybe she’s poisoned three husbands!”
  • All of the taxis honking outside of the hotel to help Tibor get the scoop about where Eve went
  • Marcel: “Let’s have a lovely scandal.”
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(Image via The Blonde at the Film)

  • Tibor showing up as the “Baron”
  • Tibor, faking a story about the last man who tried to steal Eve away from him: “Poor fellow, he’s dead now. Heaven forgive me!”
  • That scene of Tibor and Eve admitting they’re right for each other, while Eve insists that it could never work long-term. FEELS. The chemistry between Ameche and Colbert is so great!
  • Georges pretending to be Tibor’s mom — and then, Tibor and Eve’s fake daughter, Francie — on the phone. This scene is a riot and leaves me falling off the couch every time I watch the film. “Dada, dada, dada!”
  • Eve: “Poor little daddykins, oh, was he so worried? Aww.”
  • Eve’s story about Tibor’s crazy family (a single roller skate covered in thousand island dressing as a gift; fake children; spells of delusion)
  • Tibor sharing the truth, and no one believing him, since Eve already convinced them that he’s delusional
  • Georges: “It’s amazing how little one has to explain to a man in love.”
  • Tibor, to Eve: “You’re in a fine mess! You’ve gotta get a divorce from a man you aren’t even married to!”
  • Judge: “Go home with your unfortunate husband, young woman, and get it out of your head that you can ever get rid of this man. EVER!”
  • Eve and Tibor telling the judge who just preceded over their divorce trial that they’re going to the license office to get married
  • And they lived happily ever after (while the judge stood bewildered!)
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10 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Midnight (1939)

    • It’s such a fun one! And underrated, I think. I never hear anyone talk about it, but for me it’s on par with screwball greats like The Awful Truth. I never tire of re-watching it!

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        • I’m not sure I could pick one favorite! Maybe a list of ten, if I spent a few months thinking very hard about it haha. Libeled Lady, Midnight, and The Awful Truth would all be in there. Undoubtedly, screwball is my favorite type of film to watch, which makes the choice far too difficult!

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