Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Star of Midnight (1935)

STAR OF MIDNIGHT is a romantic comedy-mystery in the tradition of THE THIN MAN, starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers.

Powell plays Dal, a sleuthing lawyer, ably assisted by his girlfriend Donna (Rogers). Donna has been in love with Dal since she was 10 and is determined to marry him, and Dal doesn't seem to mind the idea. In between debating their romantic future and mixing drinks, Dal and Donna have got to solve the mystery of the newspaper columnist who was shot and killed in Dal's own living room...

Rather like Nick Charles, Dal knows all sorts of "interesting" people, including gangster Jimmy Kinland (Paul Kelly) and Police Inspector Doremus (J. Farrell MacDonald). Gene Lockhart is Dal's butler (I never did quite figure out why he was acting so strangely). The cast also includes Ralph Morgan, Leslie Fenton, Russell Hopton, Vivien Oakland, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Paul Hurst, and George Chandler.

The mystery becomes extremely convoluted, but for me the real point of a film like this is enjoying the lead actors, and Powell and Rogers are an excellent team. It's a shame they didn't make more films together, as they have a good rapport and are an appealing couple. It's a very enjoyable 90 minutes, which fans of the lead actors won't want to miss. I can't believe I have only now caught up with it for the first time!

It's interesting to note that at this point Powell had only made one THIN MAN film; the next year he tried the "sleuthing couple" formula out again with Jean Arthur in THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD. STAR OF MIDNIGHT and THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD were both directed by Stephen Roberts. (MRS. BRADFORD was Roberts' last film; he passed away that year at the age of 40.) After these films, Powell and Myrna Loy then resumed their roles as Nick and Nora Charles in the first THIN MAN sequel, AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936).

At this point in Rogers' career, she was three films into her teaming with Fred Astaire, with their greatest films, TOP HAT (1935) and SWING TIME (1936), still ahead. Between them, Powell and Rogers had 16 combined films released in 1935 and 1936, which also included classics such as Powell's LIBELED LADY (1936), THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (1936), and MY MAN GODFREY (1936), and Rogers' ROBERTA (1935), FOLLOW THE FLEET (1936), and IN PERSON (1935). It's really rather remarkable they -- and the studios behind them -- could consistently maintain such a high level of quality while putting out so many films.

STAR OF MIDNIGHT is available on VHS. It has not had a DVD release. (Update: This film is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.)

It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is available on the TCM website.

Update: Here's more on the film from C.K. Dexter Haven at Hollywood Dreamland.


Blogger Missy said...

I've seen this movie a few times, but not in many years. I taped it the other day when it was on TCM, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet.


8:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I really liked it...hope you enjoy revisiting it for the first time in a while.

Best wishes,

8:49 AM  
Blogger C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Thanks for the plug!

I've been on a (largely unfulfilled) "Sleuthing Couples" kick lately and was pleased that TCM aired Star of Midnight. I need to buy a DVD recorder!

On a sleuthing note, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford is scheduled to air on TCM August 30 (10:15pm est)

3:54 AM  

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