For Reel

Midnight (1939)
August 4, 2015, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mitchell Leisen
5 Stars
MidnightDirector Mitchell Leisen first came to Hollywood as an art director and costume designer, a fact that can often be seen in his opulent productions which showcase the glamorous art deco sets and elegant gowns that Paramount became known for. He also had a distinct outsider’s perspective–many of his films involve those on the outside looking in, from Carole Lombard’s aspiring gold-digger in Hands Across the Table to Barbara Stanwyck’s shoplifter with a heart of gold in Remember the Night. Midnight, then, feels like a quintessential Leisen picture, one with both a plain but decidedly chic aesthetic and driven by the relationships between characters from conflicting worlds. One can’t underestimate the screenplay of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, which might not be as politically poignant as other comedies of the time but shows a remarkable understanding of how relationships in screwball comedies work. The picture turns into a frantic game of one-upmanship, where the goal of each member of the central couple (Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche) is to dig themselves out of the hole their partner has put them in. This conceit both capitalizes on the romantic sparring that occupies these pictures and suggests how romance is formed and strengthened through the chaos of such comedies.

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