Monday, 14 December 2015

I've Just Seen: Midnight (1939)

Midnight (1939)

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Ah, my favourite genre, the screwball comedy. I looking forward to this film; the cast is great, and it is written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, two of the best screenwriters in Hollywood's Golden Age. Well, I did enjoy the film, but found myself slightly underwhelmed.

The problem, I think, was the ending, which was rushed and included too many sudden switches. It did have a great start. Claudette Colbert (who has my eternal love for It Happened One Night) is fantastic as Eve Peabody, who meets the increasingly ridiculous situations with wry bafflement. She skips through the dialogue with ease. Don Ameche is quite gorgeous as Tibor Czerny (great name), the lowly taxi driver who takes a shine to our plucky heroine. John Barrymore and Mary Astor are also great, as Barrymore's George Flammerion hires Eve to steal his wife's lover away.

As it is with all screwball comedies, the plot twists itself around into increasingly absurd corners; the scene where Eve has convinced everyone else that Tibor suffers from a particular madness that means he makes up ridiculous stories is very funny. It feels almost blasphemous saying that the structure of the screenplay is a problem, as I love Wilder. It could be that Leisen didn't direct it well enough to make it work, it does feel rushed, which comes down to direction and editing. According to Wikipedia, Wilder disliked some of the changes Leisen made to the script, so I shall blame Leisen.

The lines are very witty and clever, and Colbert is at the top of her game, so it is certainly worth watching. I know I will see it again, with my expectations slightly lowered, which may render an even better response from me.

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