Midnight (1939) is a screwball comedy following the adventures of Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert), an American showgirl penniless in Paris. It’s like the story of Cinderella, except a modern take with a wisecracking, gold digging girl who is more interesting than poor old Cinders.The film begins with Eve meeting cab driver Tibor Cznery (Don Ameche); they both feel a spark, but Eve runs away, afraid of what this connection might bring. She sneaks herself into high society by way of a fancy musical soiree, meeting Georges Flammarion (John Barrymore) who easily spots her as an imposter. This gives him the opportunity to use Eve for a silly plot: get rid of Jacques Picot, the man his wife, Helen (Mary Astor), is falling in love with. Acting like a wonderful fairy godmother, he gives Eve lavish amenities and money as long as she does her job. Meanwhile, Tibor is searching all of Paris for his potential girlfriend, using all the cab drivers in Paris as lookouts.What will become of all this silliness? More silliness!
This film shows the following tropes:
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Tidor and Eve. They are always bickering and bickering…
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: In a hilarious turn of events, the unmarried Eve and Tidor have a divorce, and during the legal proceedings, this happens.
- Brick Joke: Eve manages to get into a high society party, invitation only, with an old pawn card. The hostess, Stephanie, finds out there is an “Eve Peabody” that needs to be kicked out, and announces it to her guests. Eve, of course, doesn’t give in. Then comes this exchange:
- Georges: [Guests are filing out of Stephanie's musical soiree] Did you ever find that "Eve Peabody"?Stephanie: Finally. I had her thrown out. She was a horrible old woman. Roger found her in the powder room. Imagine! You know, she claimed to be the Archduchess of Mendola.
- Later, we hear from Stephanie again.Stephanie: [In a hat shop] Oh, dear! If ever a woman needed a new hat, it is I. I'm being SUED - for fifty thousand francs.Helene: [Shocked] No!Simone: By whom?Stephanie: By the Archduchess of Mendola. You know that creature I had thrown out last night? And I thought it was that "Eve Peabody"? Ha! It really WAS the Archduchess of Mendola.
- Comedy of Remarriage: Eve and Tidor aren’t exactly married, but the audience wants them to get back together as a couple.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Here’s where it gets screwbally: Eve has led everyone to believe that she is Baroness Cznery. Since she’s “married to “Baron” Tidor, she needs a divorce to marry Picot. The only problem is that Tidor and Eve aren’t even married. Somehow, they proceed with the divorce, fooling everyone, but Tidor manages to win Eve back. They then decide to get married, much to the bafflement of the judge that just divorced them. Screwball to the max, eh?
- Double Take: The judge does this when he hears that the recently divorced couple are going to get married.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Georges: The ground has just opened under our feet.Eve: Well... and me all set to jump for that tub of butter.George: We've landed in something, all right, but it's not butter.
- Gold Digger: Eve is a definite gold-digger.
- Eve: I landed a lord, almost.Tibor: Almost?Eve: Well, the family came between us. His mother came to my hotel and offered me a bribe.Tibor: You threw her out, I hope!Eve: How could I, with my hands full of money?
- She even tells Tibor why she won’t go any further with him:Eve: Listen. Back in New York, whenever I managed to crash a party full of luscious big-hearted millionaires, there was always sure to be some snub-faced kid in the orchestra playing traps. And so at four in the morning, when the wise girls were skipping off to Connecticut to marry those millionaires, I'd be with him in some nightspot learning tricks on the kettledrum. And he always had a nose like yours.
- It’s implied that Picot is a gold digger for Helen’s money. Could explain how he easily forgets/ignores her when Eve appears.
- Love at First Sight: Both Eve and Tidor experience this when they meet each other.
- Mask of Sanity: While at the Flammarion estate—under the guise of a married couple—, Tidor tries to make Eve leave, saying their child (there's no child) has measles. Quick thinking Eve, however, manages to fool everyone by pretending to talk to her daughter over the phone. She contrives the situation so well that everyone believes the child only has a heat rash. Unfortunately, this rousing lie falls apart when the servants say that the phones haven’t been working since the night before. In order to hide the lie, Eve tells everyone that she has to pretend she has a little girl, because Tidor, her fake Hungarian Baron/husband, is crazy and believes they do. Eve explains:
- Eve: When I married, I didn't realize that in the Czerny family there was a streak of... shall we say, eccentricity? And yet, I had warning. Why else should his grandfather have sent me, as an engagement present, one roller skate - covered with Thousand Island dressing?Jacques Picot: [Shocked] What?Georges: [who knows that this is all a lie] Of course, of course I'd forgotten! The Czerny's are all like that. You know, I met an old aunt - the Countess Antonia. I thought she was an Indian. It turned out, that she used paprika instead of face powder.
- Meet Cute: Where does lonely Eve in raining Paris do without any money? Hail a cab with a certain someone that is willing to take her from place to place, trying to help her find a job. All for free!
- Mistaken Identity: Eve purposely dons the identity of a Hungarian Baroness. Hilarity Ensues, of course.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Eve sports this when she first wakes up in the hotel.
- Phoney Call: Type A. Eve pretends to talk to her non-existent child.
- Rags to Riches: Well, Eve wasn’t exactly in rags while in her gorgeous, draping evening gown, but she was without a cent in the world, and then Godmother Georges lets her use his money for clothes and fancy cars. She even becomes a Baroness.
- Removing the Rival: How does Tidor get rid of a bunch of cab drivers from dancing with Eve? Pay a man to call a taxi, making all the drivers rush out the restaurant for some dough.
- Romantic False Lead: Picot. Every screwball comedy needs one. This time he’s not a boring oaf. Just a cad.
- Your Cheating Heart: Helen is cheating on Georges with Picot. In their first scene, Helen wipes away lipstick from his cheeks and lips.
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: This happens a lot between Eve and Tidor.
- Zany Scheme: In order to find Eve, Tidor collects a pool of money from the taxi drivers as an incentive for them to find her. Whoever does, wins the pool.