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Crime of Passion
lugonian26 May 2001
MIDNIGHT (Universal, 1934), directed by Chester Erskine, based on a stage play, is reproduced as such in this screen adaptation reportedly filmed and produced in New York City. Headed by Sidney Fox, in one of her final screen roles and last for Universal, she plays Stella, the daughter of Edward Weldon, a jury foreman (O.P. Heggie, the actor most famous today for his role as the blind hermit in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)) at a trial where a woman, Ethel Saxon (Helen Flint) is accused of murdering a man who betrayed her. Because Weldon is solely responsible for the verdict that convicts Saxon to be later executed at midnight in the electric chair, his personal life changes dramatically. Weldon is not only hounded by reporters after the trial, particularly one named Nolan (Henry Hull, the future WEREWOLF OF London also in 1935) who manages to be a guest at his home on the night of Saxon's execution, but he must stand firm with his decision regardless. Stella, who had become acquainted with a man at the trial named Garboni (Humphrey Bogart), becomes interested in him, unaware that he is a gangster, but learns about him later on in the story when she notices that he carries a gun. When Garboni finds himself having to be forced to leave town, Stella wants to go away with him, but he refuses to let her do so, but agrees on meeting her one last time before he goes. On the very night of Ethel Saxon's execution, Stella and Garboni have a farewell meeting in his car. As the switch is being pulled on Saxon, a gun shoots off on Garboni. Returning home to her father with the gun in her hand, Stella admits to shooting Garboni, which puts the old man into a real predicament as to what to do. Should he stand by his own merits and have his own daughter arrested for the crime, or find a way to violate the law and shield her?

Although the story premise is very interesting, especially the subject about a man who feels a murderer must pay the price, only to have his own daughter commit the same kind of crime of passion, MIDNIGHT fails to deliver mainly because of stiff, stagy production with not so convincing dialog. Under capable hands of a more suitable director, for instance, William Wyler, for example, MIDNIGHT might have worked as a tense and moving drama. Sidney Fox, who usually gives a satisfactory performance, seems to be the weakest link here, talking somewhat shaky at times for no reason. She's not very convincing, especially during her emotional scenes. Occasionally the camera shots moving at different angles keeps the pace moving, but not enough to hold one's interest at 73 minutes.

Other capable members of the cast include Margaret Wycherly as Mrs. Weldon; future director Richard Wholf as Stella's brother, Arthur; Lynne Overman and Katherine Wilson as Joe and Ada Biggers, tenants of the Weldon household; Granville Bates, Cora Witherspoon, Henry O'Neill, and Moffatt Johnston as a district attorney who is called to the Weldon home to solve the mystery to Garboni's murder.

To capitalize on the success of future film star Humphrey Bogart, MIDNIGHT was later reissued in 1946 as CALL IT MURDER with Bogey being given star billing, the very print available to video cassette and DVD. It's the former Blackhawk Video Company of Davenport, Iowa, that distributed the movie on videotape with it's original "Midnight" title, opening credits headed by SIdney Fox, O.P. Heggie and Henry Hill, with Bogart's name listed eighth in the cast, as initially presented in theaters in 1934.

MIDNIGHT will never be listed in Hollywood's Top Ten Best list, but it's worth viewing for being an early screen appearance of future superstar Humphrey Bogart or a rediscovery of Sidney Fox, whose movie career (mostly at Universal) lasted only three years. Fox and Bogart had worked together earlier in THE BAD SISTER (1931), which not only became Fox's movie debut, but the future two-time Academy Award winning actress, Bette Davis. (***)
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Early Bogart bit part
peter-cossey23 July 2005
This early Bogart movie is only available on DVD/video in a reissue print entitled "Call it Murder". This print lists Bogart above the title instead of 8th in the cast as in the original release, and was obviously resurrected to cash in on Bogart's post 1930's fame. He is adequate in a small part, but the film is a slow-moving filming of a 1930 play that is interesting enough as a moral melodrama, but also mercifully short. The interest lies in the sequences in the courtroom and death chamber, which eschew the stage-bound grouping, and ponderous delivery of the body of the film, and uses the camera in an imaginative and cinematic way. Worth a look as a 30's melodrama, but don't expect a Bogart movie.
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A find for connoisseurs; the unsophisticated may well pass
John Esche13 January 2009
MIDNIGHT (reissued by "Guaranteed Pictures" in 1947 as CALL IT MURDER with eighth billed Humphrey Bogart - now famous - elevated to top billing for his supporting role) was originally filmed at the Biograph Studios in Queens, New York, for Universal Pictures, based on a Theatre Guild production of the same name (but called IN THE MEANTIME during its tryout tour).

While the stage production disappointed the critics and was not extended beyond its initial subscription run (48 perf., December 29, 1930 - Feb. 1931 at the Guild Theatre), Claire and Paul Sifton's examination of the flaws in the idea that "the law is the law" regardless of justice or tempering with mercy was interesting enough to justify Universal's committing a cast from the top of their second tier to turning out a decent "programmer" to fill the demand for films to keep the screens they controlled occupied between their major releases and training stars in the making (like Bogart and Sidney Fox).

The original play concerned the foreman of a jury, a man named Edward Weldon (O.P. Heggie on screen), which had condemned a woman for the murder of a man who was leaving her - only to find, two acts later, his daughter (Fox) in a similar situation.

Director Chester Erskine (at the start of a career which would see well remembered work on such "A" releases as THE EGG AND I, ALL MY SONS and ANDROCLES AND THE LION, working as director, writer and producer for another 40 years), while unable to produce the figurative "silk purse" out of a possible "sow's ear" of a melodrama, opened up the play, originally set only in the Weldon living room, with excellent - and given the period, surprisingly sophisticated - crosscutting between the condemned woman, the daughter's developing affair and the moral quandary around the Weldon himself.

If the 30's structure of the argument may strike many as dated today, and the "deus ex machina" solution to one of Weldon's problems too pat to be genuinely satisfying, they probably are - but the elder Weldon's overly strict, unbending interpretation of his moral and civic obligations is hardly unknown today as an excuse for lack of thought or bigotry. A remake with more "modern" technique might indeed be well received, but the implicit melodrama would be just as blatant.

While Humphrey Bogart's role is a relatively small one (although it is woven through most of the film), it makes for legitimately fascinating viewing as a transitional role for the handsome actor who had been playing stage juveniles. He had had 15 Broadway roles in the 12 years - and 9 films in the three years - before making this film, but would only have two more Broadway credits afterward (but 66 films). His Gar Boni in MIDNIGHT is very well done in a more modern style than many around him (see the similar effect the young Helen Hayes achieved with the same then "fresh" realistic style in 1932's FAREWELL TO ARMS) before finding the "world weary" persona that won career-making acclaim for his "Duke Mantee" opposite Leslie Howard on Broadway and screen just two years later.

It may be of some interest that on stage, the supporting role of Arthur Weldon (played in the film by future director Richard Whorf) was created by actor/playwright Clifford Odets.

Finding a good print of MIDNIGHT or even CALL IT MURDER may not be easy, but the search may be worth it. Don't expect a polished "modern" film, and shallow film buffs who don't appreciate history or context will probably hate it, but true film connoisseurs shouldn't miss this one for what IS there.
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Friends in High places.
bkoganbing7 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Midnight was a film shot in New York by a whole bunch of Broadway players who had nothing else to do during afternoons when there were no matinees. By coincidence nearly the whole cast went on to Hollywood and appeared in productions better than this.

O.P. Heggie plays the foreman of a jury that convicted a woman of first degree murder, thereby advancing the career of the District Attorney. On the night that the convicted woman is to die, in fact at the stroke of midnight, Heggie's daughter, Sidney Fox, kills her gangster boyfriend Humphrey Bogart who's running out on her.

It's a crime of passion, just like the one that Heggie and the jury he led convicted that other woman for. I don't want to spoil the ending of this film if you're interested in seeing it. Let us just say that a District Attorney is a good friend to have.

Fans of Humphrey Bogart will of course want to see this. Right after this Bogey appeared in The Petrified Forest on Broadway and came to Hollywood to do the film version. The rest is history, but if Bogey hadn't scored such a hit in The Petrified Forest, Midnight might well have been his screen epitaph.

What a horrible thought.
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Law or Mercy
camiela1 August 1998
Interesting film that explores the outcome of a murder trial on the jury formant and his family. A drama unfolds in the jury formans house on the night of the execution with surprising results for the legalistic jury forman who swayed the jurys verdict. Also interesting because the film features a very young Humphrey Bogart in a small role. The only disapointment is that Bogart didnt have more screen time. A better than average early message movie.
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Morality Tale, Or Noir?
abbyart12 December 2005
One must judge this movie along-side its contemporaries. It is an outstanding example of the numerous "women with law problems" pictures of the Thirties. It avoids the sentimentality and masochistic suffering that the female lead predictably, and monotonously undergoes. Instead of a simple morality tale, with the focus on a single character's torment, we are presented with one of the earliest examples of Noir that I know, complete with dark despair, pessimism, and cynicism. The Law, in-laws, ambitious DAs, insensitive fourflushers and amoral bourgeois relatives, and an ambiguously moral reporter all serve to subvert the movie's latent sentimentality and cause us to question our moral bearings. Bogart is excellent in his brief role, but it is ridiculous to judge this movie by his screen time. All the acting is excellent (save Ms. Fox?) and the casting superb. The direction is inventive, especially considering the confining main set, with many startling close-ups, camera angles, and tableaux. Consider this movie in terms of the original "Chicago" (the play, 1927), its remake as the movie Roxie Hart (W. Wellman, 1942) and "Chicago," 2002. You'll see it has a lot to add to this theme, and is worthy of consideration in its own right.
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"...It's out of my hands, I was a mere instrument of the law."
classicsoncall27 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It was somewhat comical to see the full screen opening credit given Humphrey Bogart in this re-release version from Guaranteed Pictures. One of the mainstays of the public domain bargain bin, "Call It Murder" provides an early look at the future star in a limited role, which in retrospect could have been played by virtually anyone.

Bogey's character is a minor hood named Gar Boni, caught in a predicament that requires him to leave town after getting involved with the daughter of a jury foreman. We don't find out much about his circumstances but they must be grim, an accomplice responds to Gar's penchant for baseball by asking - "Hey kid, they got any bulletproof grandstands out there?"

Throughout the trial, Stella Weldon (Sidney Fox) finds herself at odds with her father's role; he was able to steer the jury to find Ethel Saxon (Helen Flint) guilty of murder by virtue of pre-meditation. The entire film is used to explore Weldon's (O.P. Heggie) resolve with the verdict in the face of public disapproval and mounting controversy over Saxon's execution. It provides the set up for his own daughter's circumstances when she pulls the trigger on Gar, a case of the jilted lover lashing out. Did she have time to think about what she would do, or was it an instinctive crime of passion?

Overall, the film could have used better pacing, there were moments that seemed to drag incessantly. I was intrigued though by an interesting use of camera angles in a scene where Gar's departure from Stella is reflected in a mirror at the bottom of the staircase in the Weldon home. The picture might also have gotten more mileage out of the device of cutting between scenes of Weldon's conscience bound pacing with that of the doomed Saxon in her prison cell. The idea was a good one but was buried too quickly to make the point it could have.

In it's way, the movie is a viable pre-cursor to the noir films of the following decade, it's dark and brooding, with the female lead encountering desperation as her payoff, whether or not D.A. Plunkett (Moffat Johnston) succeeds in digging her out of a mess. Her father meanwhile is left to wrestle his own conscience over the quandary of whether justice for one ought to be the basis of justice for all. An interesting moral dilemma as well as a legal one, the story works to confound us all if faced with the same situation.
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Interesting for the time.
mark czuba12 October 2000
Humphrey Bogart plays Garboni a gangster involved with the daughter of a jury foreman who helped convict a women of shooting the man who betrayed her. The pressure that falls upon this man and those around him makes the films story. This film is interesting for two reasons it explores guilt from two different perspectives on two different people giving the audience a wide range of emotions and consequences of dealing with the murder. Secondly it features Bogart in a small role, that should have been given more screen time. Bogart was still relatively unknown to the movie going public at the time it was made, of course he has a part that can be categorized as a 'heavy' a role he would fill many times until Maltese Falcon, where he would break through and finally play a lead role that did not require him to be a gangster.
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Worth watching for more than just early Bogart
Ray Papa2 July 2004
I have recently watched this film again. This time I realized that there is a lot in the movie besides just seeing Bogart in one of his early films. This movie makes a very strong statement about capital punishment. Equally as strong is its statement on who you know if you want to beat a rap. The whole movie takes place during a few hours before the scheduled execution of a woman who killed her lover who was going to leave her. Except for the beginning court scenes, and prison scenes, and a couple of scenes where Bogart is in a room somewhere, and when he and Sidney Fox are in his car, the movie takes place at the home of the jury foreman who found the woman guilty. A news reporter gets into the house with a radio and a surprise at the end so that the public can witness what it's like for that foreman as the scheduled execution time approaches. What you may think is a surprise ending really isn't the end at all. Keep watching for the twist involving the district attorney who has his eye on the governorship. This film, like Bogart and Huston's Beat The Devil, is in the public domain.
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So bad it's funny
sacca799 March 2006
Film instructors should use this movie as an example of what not to do. The acting and the directing are simply awful. The filming itself is actually kind of interesting, with some dramatic use of lighting. But with a plodding plot, incredibly long reaction (or lack of reaction) shots, and truly bad acting, this is one to watch with silly friends in a silly mood. It's too bad, too, because the basic story line is somewhat compelling.

Bogart only has a minor role, but turns in the best performance of the lot. We bought the video for about two bucks, and we're not sorry. We kept it. It's just too funny not to.
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Dated, very early Bogart
blanche-210 September 2007
This film was originally called "Midnight." In a noir set that I have, it's titled "Call it Murder" and Humphrey Bogart is top-billed. Originally he was listed as 8th in the cast, as he really doesn't have that much to do. It's of interest because of his presence - he plays a criminal, but he's a young leading man here - but otherwise, there isn't much to recommend it.

Why this is in a film noir set is beyond me. It's a melodrama (based on a play) that moves like an iceberg. The acting is stilted, as is the dialogue. The plot centers around a jury foreman (O.P. Heggie) whose jury has sent a young woman to the electric chair, and she is due to die that evening. People are begging him to stop the execution. This is my first problem. What can he do other than say there was a miscount? Anyway, he stands by his decision. When his own daughter (Sidney Fox) lands in the same predicament, claiming she killed her lover, Gar Boni (Bogart), one wonders how resolute he will be then. Pretty resolute. Ready to send her up the river, which I think is totally unrealistic behavior.

All this doesn't add up to much, but it's always a treat to see Bogart, and especially interesting at such an early point in his magnificent career. He's quite good. In fact, he's the only one who doesn't have huge pauses between his sentences and speaks in a decent rhythm. The director really didn't pace this movie too well. It's early days for talkies, and many actors were still adjusting their technique from stage to film.

An oldie, but unfortunately, not a goodie.
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Who was Sidney Fox???
kidboots15 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Obviously any Broadway play was good enough to turn into a movie in the early thirties - even a flop!!! It was also obvious that when the film was first released Henry Hull, O.P. Heggie and Sidney Fox were the stars. In my copy Humphrey Bogart is given star status, even though his role is just a supporting one. Who was Sidney Fox?? Sidney Fox was a petite brunette who in her first film "Bad Sister" (1931) was predicted to be the "sister" who was going places - Bette Davis played the "good" sister. (Humphrey Bogart also had a role in that movie as well). Unfortunately she didn't and only made 14 films. She had just married Charles Beahan and "Midnight" was supposed to be her "comeback" film but she only made two more and her last, "Down to Their Last Yacht" (1934), was supposed to be one of the worst musicals ever made.

"Midnight" is the story of a righteous juror whose moral high ground comes back to haunt him. Edward Weldon (O.P. Heggie) is the head juror at the trial of Ethel Saxon (Helen Flint) and a question he asks - "did you take the money before or after you killed him" - seals her fate.

On the night of her execution, Weldon, who has been pilloried in the press for his unbending attitude, is determined to stay home - so he doesn't have to face the waiting newspapermen at his door. His son-in-law Joe (Lynne Overman) has made a bargain with a reporter who wants to take a photo of Weldon's face at midnight - the time Saxon is to be executed. Meanwhile, Stella (Sidney Fox) has met Gar Boni (Humphrey Bogart) at the trial and has been having an affair with him. Gar means the world to Stella, but to Gar, Stella is just a pleasant diversion - he is about to leave town and he doesn't intend to take her with him. Stella, who has seemed jumpy all through the movie, comes home confessing she has killed Gar. The reporter, Nolan, (Henry Hull) is the voice of conscience and reason throughout the film. The movie seems to sit on the fence as far as opinions about capital punishment go. I like one reviewer's opinion that it moves like an iceberg - I completely agree. The film ends quite tidily, with no question mark against anyone's values.

Margaret Wycherley, one of Hollywood's greatest character actresses (she played James Cagney's mother in "White Heat" (1949)) didn't have much to do as Weldon's wife.
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She should have gotten herself a better lawyer
sol121821 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
(There are Spoilers) " Call it Murder" is an overly sanctimonious film about how the justice system works only for the rich and well connected among us. As for those of us who're just barley making it in this cold cruel and unjust world tough luck and take whatever you can get, or not get, from the system if your to stand trail before it. This is what happens to housewife Ethel Saxton, Helen Flint, who was convicted for the murder of her philandering husband and is to be executed by the state at the stroke of "Midnight"; Which is the original title of the movie.

As the minutes tick away until Ethel is strapped into the electric chair an unruly crowd assembles in front of the home of the jury foreman Edward Weldon, O.P Heggie, who was instrumental in convicting Ethel of first degree murder. Inside Weldon's house newsman Noland, Hery Hull, had got Weldon's sleazy son in-law Joe Bigger, Lynne Overman, to secretly help him install a radio broadcasting system to broadcast the reaction of Weldon and his family members as soon as the news of Ethel's execution is made public on the radio.

Weldon's free spirited and ultra, or bleeding heart, liberal daughter Stella, Sidney Fox, always felt that Ethel Saxton was innocent in the murder of her husband since it was an crime of passion not premeditated murder. Stella is very much against what he father did in sending Ethel to the electric chair who's so strict in his views of law and order that he, in the way he talks, would even send a family member to death if in fact the law justifies it. By the time the movie ends Weldon would in fact get his chance to prove if his actions matches his words with his beloved daughter finding herself in the same situation that poor and condemned Ethel faces now with death just minutes away!

***SPOILERS*** The film is about as convoluted as it can get in showing us how those like the well connected Edward Weldon can grease the wheels of justice to have things come out in his, or his family's, favor. With Weldon's daughter Stella openly admitting her responsibility for the murder of her hoodlum boyfriend Gan Boni, Humphrey Bogart, Weldon gets his good friend and city District Attorney Plunkett, Moffat Johnston, to make her change her mind with his usual shyster like double-talk and brain twisting psychological explanations that no one, not even Pluckett, could quite fully understand! This is the same Plunkett who's hair splitting and full of hot air shyster tactics, in reverse, sent the poor and knowing one one in high places, like Edward Weldon, Ethel Saxton straight to the Sing Sing electric chair!

Even though future Hollywood superstar Humphrey Bogart was given top billing in the Video Tape release version of "Midnight", which was called "Call it Murder", his biggest contribution to the film was getting himself shot and killed off camera. Were in fact never shown who exactly rubbed Bogart, or Gar Boni, out but made to think that it was his girlfriend, whom he just dumped, Stella Weldon who did it. It's after Plunkett's long and confusing explanation of what were the circumstances that lead to Gar Boni's murder that you, as well as Stella and everyone else in the movie, aren't quite sure who did Gar Boni in! It may have even been the luckless Ethel Saxton who, despite being executed at the exact moment of Gar Boni's murder, somehow from beyond her grave, or the city morgue, got to him!
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The Law IsThe Law
sddavis6329 December 2008
Humphrey Bogart receives top billing in this film, which is somewhat surprising since he actually isn't in the movie all that much. He plays a man named Gar Boni, boyfriend of a woman (Sidney Fox) whose father (O.P. Heggie) was the foreman of a jury that convicted a woman of murder and had her sentenced to death. On the night the woman is due to be executed, the family gathers with friends who all try to convince Weldon (the father) that he should intervene to prevent the execution. (How a jury foreman would intervene at this late date is never answered.) He refuses, only to have his daughter stumble into the house, announcing that she's killed Gar. Weldon then has to decide whether to protect her or turn her over to the law.

All things considered this movie hasn't aged particularly well. The acting is mediocre and the story of Weldon's daughter killing Gar on the same night the woman Weldon's jury convicted is to be executed is just too neat and tidy and contrived. No doubt this deserves some credit for tackling a controversial subject, and the movie seems to be an early example of advocating leniency for women who kill men who are unkind to them. Still, simply tackling a difficult subject isn't enough to make a bad movie into a good one. Fans of Bogart will be both interested and disappointed in this one: interested because it represents a look at one of his very early roles and disappointed because it's such a limited one. The other disappointment, of course, will be that this is really such a poor movie. 3/10
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overwrought and cheap
MartinHafer10 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a prime example of false advertising if you look at the video cover pictured here on IMDb as well as on the different cover of the version I watched. BOTH prominently feature Humphrey Bogart on the cover, yet he is only in the movie a couple minutes and says very little in the film. His only real purpose in the film is to be a murder victim! So, unless you are a die-hard Bogey fan who wants to see all his films, pass on this one.

Now as to the plot, it is completely ridiculous and overdone---with incredibly overwrought performances by nearly all. It is obvious when watching this film that it was produced by a 3rd-rate studio--it has "poverty row" written all over it. It's at best a time passer.
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Ethel Saxton Dies Tonight!
utgard1417 June 2017
Somewhat stagy drama about a jury foreman (O.P. Heggie) who's very strict on law & order convicting a woman of murder and sending her to the chair. Everyone seems to be upset with the juror, including the press and his family. Of note today only because Humphrey Bogart's in it. Unfortunately he has a small part. It's not a bad film of its kind. Heggie is certainly a quality actor. Top-billed Sidney Fox plays his daughter, whose story is where Bogie fits into things. The rest of the cast is okay, with Henry Hull being the most remarkable. It's a movie that obviously has points to make about capital punishment and the legal system not being fair for all. But it's a bit creaky and drags and kind of falls on its face in the final act. Worth a look for Bogart completists. Also of interest to O.P. Heggie and Henry Hull buffs. If there aren't any, there should be!
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Very good and thoughtful stage play on film
Michael Morrison19 January 2017
Capital punishment is questioned, indirectly, by "Midnight," as is whether "the law" is or even can be applied equally. Or should be.

"Midnight" is a stage play, and director tricks tried to make it into a motion picture, not entirely successfully.

Director Chester Erskine, billed here as Erskin, used a lot of gimmicky camera angles, including mirror shots and fast cuts, and actually intruded on the drama of the situations.

This is not "a Humphrey Bogart movie." Bogey plays a pivotal but lesser character -- and in my opinion gives one of his best performances. He was not stiff or stilted and his speech was clear. All in all, an excellent performance.

Who really is the star? Lovely Sidney Fox becomes the center of attention late in the film, but O.P. Heggie is the focus earlier.

He plays the father of her character, and father-in-law of the character played by that excellent Lynne Overman, here Lynn. His character brings into the bosom of the family a character, a breed of person in 2016 and 2017 generally reviled, and deservedly: a reporter.

Startling to me was Henry Hull, who plays that reporter and who apparently did not age well, because here he is young and good looking, and I didn't even recognize him at first. Henry Hull became simply better and better as his career ran on, and he was usually just outstanding.

In "Midnight" most of the characters are fairly equal. Each has important lines and actions.

But even more important than the people is what they say and what they are dealing with: Heggie's character was foreman of a jury that found the defendant guilty, and she is sentenced to death.

Whether she does die, whether she should have been found guilty, whether she should have even been sentenced to the chair are all considered. And thus the movie, despite its datedness, is still timely.

There are several versions at YouTube. I have watched only one so don't know if one is better than another, but I do recommend you try to watch "Midnight."

Remember it's a set piece. There are no car chases, no beheadings, no explosions, just a serious drama, beautifully performed.
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An utter misstep by the producer and director
mmipyle7 November 2016
I was in a Bogart mood last night, so I put in a film I've not watched in twenty-five years, at least. I recently bought "Midnight" (1934) (and the original title!) from Grapevine because it's the original release print and not the re-release under the title "Call It Murder" (1947), a print that has been circulating forever in the market. I'd never seen an original print. Trust me, original or re-release, this All Star Pictures produced/Universal Pictures release needs mouth to mouth resuscitation to be watched today. It's got a really superb cast, but they had to have made this one for the money alone. Why else would any of them - INCLUDING THE DIRECTOR!!!!!! - have allowed the credits to misspell their names?? The director, Chester Erskine, shows up nearly immediately as Chester Erskin; then the cast begins and Lynne Overman has his first name spelled without the final "e", too; next is Moffat Johnston as Moffat Johnson; and lastly the well-known character actor Henry O'Neill shows up missing the final "l" in his last name. I guess 'eetl' cost a tad too much to add... Anyway, the premise for this film is decent, but very, very depressing. In some ways, that's the point. A jury for a crime of passion gives the woman who committed the crime the death sentence instead of letting her off. We watch the clock (and all the events that happen with several characters) tick away until the midnight when the execution happens. The foreman of the jury, played by O. P. Heggie, claimed that it was murder because of a technicality based in a question he himself is allowed to ask the "guilty" woman, played by Helen Flint. A lot of people outside of the court don't agree after the verdict is read in court. We see all of this played out against the time to the execution. O. P. Heggie's daughter, and the first name in the cast, is played by Sidney Fox (an actress who is allowed to be called one because she was allowed to be called one - period). She falls - in the meantime - for small time hoodlum, Gar Boni, played by Humphrey Bogart. Others in this cast include Henry Hull (who plays a really sneaky newspaperman), Margaret Wycherly (she was Cagney's "Ma" in "White Heat" - and here she's actually a nice-looking older woman instead of the crone she so often played), Granville Bates, Cora Witherspoon, Katherine Wilson, and actor and future director Richard Whorf. The biggest problem with this film besides direction was a lack of creativity in producing it on film. It's definitely the kind of thing that belongs almost exclusively on stage - or a half-hour TV show during the 1950's, done live. The editing is non-existent. Time back and forth could have been done, rather than the stagnant linear movement forward which drags on and on and on. Thankfully, after a full 76 minutes, the program ends. By the way, Bogie himself has some razzmatazz in his voice, but even he's boring... Molasses that isn't sweet isn't sweet, people. Best thing in the picture is Lynne Overman. That's not surprising. He's always rich in character. Here he's a shiftless, no-good husband of Katherine Wilson who'd rather be rolling dice or the like. I know, who's Katherine Wilson? I don't know, either, so quit asking!
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Dreadful despite Bogart...
MikeMagi13 November 2015
Every movie star is entitled to one true clunker. This one is Humphrey Bogart's. Although he gets star billing in the re-release, he has only a few scenes before he is bumped off, possibly by the sweet, innocent lass on whom he's been cheating. But is she really guilty? Or is her confession the result of some sort of psychobabble? Her father might find out but he's too busy jabbering -- and over-acting. It's up to the DA to solve the mystery or at least end a seemingly endless stream of dim-witted dialogue. Even though "Call it Murder" was adapted from a stage play, nobody thought of throwing in even a few exteriors. At least Bogart survived. And Lynne Overman, easily the best of his co-stars, had a fine career as a character actor. Watch it for curiosity value. And be grateful that this fiasco didn't kill Bogart's career before it took off.
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Boy, does this stink
iguana200128 August 2002
OK, it's one of Bogart's early ones. But he's hardly in it at all! He's just fine when he's there, but the rest of the movie is slow and boring and poorly shot. Not to mention the acting. Looks like a very low-grade B, which it most probably was. Don't bother.
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Call it a waste of time...for a curio peep at a pre-stardom Bogie only.
Gary Brumburgh9 January 2005
Based on an original Theater Guild production entitled "Midnight" (which is what the title of this movie was upon its initial release; it was later re-issued as "Call It Murder"), the interesting though far-fetched premise has a staunch, law-abiding jury foreman (O.P. Heggie) who once swayed a jury into giving a woman (Helen Flint) the death penalty for killing her boyfriend in an act of passion, now finding the same scenario rearing its ugly head in his own personal life. Unfortunately, this piece of hokum (which desires to call itself film-noir but I beg to differ) is woefully melodramatic and never finds any kind of selling point or payoff. What could have been a strong examination on the subject of capital punishment simply dissolves into a superficial piece of claptrap with indifferent directing, bad production values, overbaked acting, and a movie that moves at a snail's pace. As most of the proceedings happen in the home of the foreman, the whole movie has the claustrophobic feel of a staged play.

As mentioned in other reviews posted, the package re-issued "Call It Murder" spotlights Humphrey Bogart as the star, but his part is at best a featured role. However, even in this secondary bit of casting, he easily outshines and outclasses the rest of the principals. Bogie, in his pre-stardom days, plays Gar Boni, a gangster about to go on the lam, who takes up with the jury foreman's daughter (Sidney Fox) and unknowingly ignites the deja vu proceedings.

The movie sags and wilts any time Bogie isn't on screen. It also shows why he was a star in the making. His brief scenes, in which he both comes on to the girl and then gives her the brush off, are indicative of the style and 'stuff' that would make him a legend.

However, there is simply nothing else to recommend. A tormented stentorian O.P. Heggie (later the hermit in "Bride of Frankenstein") gets to grandstand outrageously on his , and poor quivery-voiced Sydney Fox as his daughter and Bogie's overly smitten girlfriend falls into the sea of melodrama hook line and sinker. On a sad note, this proved to be one of Fox's last ingénue roles. Her career quickly disintegrated and she eventually committed suicide. The rest of the cast fails to register or inspire one way or the other.

The movie goes from bad to worse when it takes a highly implausible Perry Mason-like twist at the end right in the living room. Well, suffice it to say, its all for naught. What might have been a better way to go would have been to throw out the script and focus instead on a Helen Flint's Death Row dame a la Susan Hayward in "I Want to Live." It might have made for better viewing.
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One for Bogie completists!
JohnHowardReid15 April 2015
Midnight (1933) opens promisingly with the camera lovingly panning across numerous faces in a courtroom before settling on a nice close-up of Humphrey Bogart. Unfortunately, from here on, our interest takes a gradual nosedive – especially when we discover that Bogie's big climactic scene is not going to be played on camera at all but simply reported to us by Miss Sidney Fox. True, it's not Sidney's fault that Bogie is wasted, but she herself is rather colorless in this one – and at least one of the two directors bypasses Sidney altogether and allows stagey O.P. Heggie to collar the limelight. But it's Helen Flint's movie. In the small but vital role of the condemned murderess, she is utterly convincing. Available on a superb Image DVD. Incidentally, this is a 1933 production. The movie was produced independently and shown to various distributors before being picked up by Universal in 1933; and Universal was mostly interested because they had Fox under contract. Universal applied for the copyright in 1933, and said copyright was granted to Universal on January 2, 1934.
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"She went out in a blaze of glory . . . "
cricket crockett18 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
. . . says one character in regard to "Ethel Saxton," whose electrocution is the focus of MIDNIGHT. Perhaps not since Thomas Edison's popular flick, ELECTROCUTING AN ELEPHANT (1903; the pachyderm in question was Topsy, America's favorite African animal at the time), has electricity been so entertaining. (Just take a gander at the 10 goggle-eyed all-male witnesses licking their chops in Ol' Sparky's chamber moments before Ethel--who, like Topsy, got a bum rap--blazes away.) Obviously, if revived on a pay-per-view basis, public executions could be a huge new source of government revenue. As one of the French generals says during PATHS OF GLORY (1957), there's nothing like death by firing squad for public morale (even if the human sacrifices are Random Selectees of Society's Best, as is the case in GLORY). Since the Red States have virtually exhausted their supplies of lethal injection drugs, more cinematic electrocutions, hangings, and possibly the guillotine could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, while setting ratings records. When push comes to shove, the dad in MIDNIGHT has no problem in tossing his own daughter under the wheels of justice, not unlike every Red State taxpayer who sleeps easy at night no matter now many guiltless people (and\or family members) the Innocence Project proves they've gratuitously had a hand in rubbing out. After all, you cannot make an omelet without cracking a few eggs, and every egg has parents.
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Waiting for the Remake
Glesener14 September 2001
Clever but slow in development. Would love to see David Mamet re-work the script and direct a remake without the Hollywood ending, possibly leaving us hanging as to Edward Weldon's choice and Stella Weldon's fate. Also, the Ethel Saxon character should be more completely and sympathetically developed.
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Defective Transfer
Scaarge15 July 1999
This film is hard to judge on its own merits. Because of a bad mastering job, the sound is out of sync and the whole film is like the botched premier scene in Singin In The Rain. This makes it somewhat hilarious but difficult to enjoy in and of itself.
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