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Midnight [Import USA Zone 1]
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Written by Academy Award winners Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, Midnight has been hailed as 'just about the best comedy ever caught by the camera from the Golden Age of Hollywood!' Academy Award winners Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore simply light up the screen. The fun begins when a penniless showgirl (Colbert) impersonates a Hungarian Countess and, with the help of an aristocrat (Barrymore), quickly adapts herself to her new lifestyle. But can she stop herself from falling in love with yet another poor man (Ameche)? --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition DVD.
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The screenplay is if a kind that we no longer see, and was the result of a huge influx of European talent in the 1930s escaping the political situation in Europe. So many great films directed by Lubitsch and Wilder and others put an enormously European twist to love and romance, and in no film is this more true than this one: an adventurous woman trying to scale the social ladder by snaring a man, a gigolo seducing another man's wife, the husband scheming to reclaim his wife with the help of the would-be adventurous, and meanwhile a poor cabbie trying to find the woman he loves. Delicious stuff, and it is a credit to Leisen and the largely non-European cast that they pull the whole thing off so believably. In this film, at least, he manages a European elegance and sophistication that would have done Lubitsch proud.
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.
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.
This should be an essential for any fan of classic screwball comedies. I think the innocuous name, "Midnight," makes it easy to overlook and perhaps difficult to find.
Colbert is obviously in her element here, as an unpretentious, down-on-her luck American in Hollywood's Paris who transforms into the "Baroness Czerny" and cons the Parisian elite. Don Ameche plays the Hungarian taxi driver (who sounds like he's from Pittsburgh) who pursues her. All of the characters are superb, and the script is one of the best. John Barrymore is hysterical as the kindly husband trying to win back his wife. The scene over the phone when he's imitating the baby is priceless.
The screenplay to this movie can't be praised enough. It has the kind of social satire and romantic comedy that survives for generations. See this classic. You won't regret it.