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Film / Star of Midnight

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Star of Midnight is a 1935 film directed by Stephen Roberts.

Clay Dalzell aka "Dal" (William Powell) is a wealthy New York City lawyer, whose life is so awesome that his biggest problem is young, gorgeous Donna Mantin (Ginger Rogers) pestering him to marry her. Into Dal's cozy existence comes old friend Tim Winthrop. A year ago, in Chicago, Tim fell in love with a woman named Alice, but Alice rather abruptly disappeared, leaving Tim with only a goodbye note. Tim is still looking for her, has a hunch that she's in New York, and hopes that Dal can help him.

Dal and Donna and Tim go see a musical show, "Midnight", starring a mysterious actress named Mary Smith who insists on wearing a mask. Mask or no mask, Tim recognizes his Alice, but Alice/Mary flees the theater after he calls out to her from the audience. Back in his swanky penthouse, Dal is approached by gossip columnist Tommy Tennant, who knows some things about the elusive Mary Smith and wants to get more details from Dal. Right as he's about to spill some secrets, Tennant is shot and killed by an intruder. With the police suspicious of him, Dal is left to find out the real killer.


  • Acme Products: Inspector Doremus of the NYPD is introduced reading an advertisement for "Acme Arch Supporters". He has problems with his feet.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Inspector Doremus and his sidekick Sgt. Cleary are looking for the man who called out "Alice!" to Mary Smith in the theater. As they are leaving Dal's apartment, they see the man himself, Tim Winthrop, enter.
    Doremus: See that guy?
    Cleary: Yeah?
    Doremus: He's going to have arch trouble in a couple of years, walking on his heels like that.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: More excusable than most instances of this trope. The killer throws the gun into the living room, whereupon Dal, who thinks the killer may still be there, picks it up.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Dal, annoyed at other people approaching him to solve their little mysteries, says "My friends seem to think I'm a combination of Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, and the Sphinx all rolled into one." William Powell actually did play Philo Vance in four movies.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Not only does Tim correctly guess that Alice is in New York instead of, say, anywhere else, he winds up attending the musical show she is starring in.
  • "Dear John" Letter: All poor Tim got was a telegram from Alice telling him that she was leaving and not to look for her.
  • Distant Prologue: A prologue in which Alice leaves a crestfallen Tim, before jumping a year to the main story.
  • The Faceless: Alice/Mary is briefly glimpsed from behind in the prologue, when she's getting into the cab. And that's the only time she's seen in the whole movie, despite being discussed throughout.
  • Hand of Death: A gloved hand sticks a gun out from a doorway, shoots Tennant dead, and apparently grazes Dal in the butt with a second shot.
  • His Name Is...: Tennant is in the process of explaining a "double cross" regarding the person looking for Mary, saying "This guy was pretending to—", when he's shot and killed.
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: This film imitated The Thin Man right down to recycling a joke from that film. After Dal orders a martini at a bar, Donna shows up. He orders a second martini, only for her to say "I'll take the same, two martinis."
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Dal observes that a painting in his apartment is badly askew, and not flush with the wall either. He takes it down and finds behind it a bug the size and shape of a soup bowl.
  • Kinky Spanking: Alluded to. When Donna is being particularly stubborn, Dal says that he ought to spank her. Amazingly for a 1935 movie, she promptly sticks her bottom out at him. But instead of spanking her, he kicks her.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: After Donna sticks her posterior out at Dal and invites him to spank her, instead he kicks her in the butt. She gets revenge later, doing the same to him.
  • Repetitive Audio Glitch: Dal fools the killer into thinking Mary Smith is in the room by playing a record of her singing "Midnight". The ruse goes awry when the record starts to skip.
  • Running Gag: Inspector Doremus spends the whole movie complaining about his feet and fallen arches.
  • Shot in the Ass: Where Dal got shot by the same gunman who killed Tennant, although he doesn't want to admit it. When Donna asks if he's ok, his butler Swayne says "He was shot in the—", only for Dal to quickly interrupt and say "Hip".
  • Wife Husbandry: It seems that Donna is the daughter of one of Dal's colleagues, and he's known her since she was 10. Now that she's grown up, she's determined to get Dal to marry her. (Ginger Rogers was in fact 19 years younger than William Powell.)