The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) Poster

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An underrated comedy classic
SFMike21 December 1998
This film was an ongoing joke with Jack Benny as at the time of its release it took a flop at the box office. However, time has treated this comedy/fantasy well and if you give it a try you will find a truly original comic masterpiece. Here is a film with many 1990's themes...angels, the end of the world, great visual effects, sex, and slapstick comedy. Maybe it was a little ahead of its time. Great performances from Jack Benny, Alexis Smith, and Guy Kibbee as well as a memorable "Looney Tune" style score from the great Franz Waxman. Give this zany 1945 film a chance as you will be surprised how wild they could get back then and how funny and strange an "old" film can be.
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Just What Do They Put In That Paradise Coffee, Anyway?
gftbiloxi24 April 2005
In his long running radio and television show, Jack Benny often built jokes around THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT--a movie described as so awful that it put an end to his movie career. These jokes always got a laugh, but rumors of the film's failure were really only comic exaggeration; true, it had not been a major hit, but neither was it a major failure. And if Benny's film appearances were few and far between after 1945, this was more a matter of his incredibly popular radio and television series than with a lack of offers.

THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT is not a great film, but it is a very interesting one and quite often a very entertaining one. The story concerns a trumpet player (Benny) in love with a harpist (Alexis Smith)--who gets him a radio job on the "Paradise Coffee Program," which advertises a coffee that promises a gentle sleep and sweet dreams. And dream he does, but one would not call it sweet: he dreams he is an angel sent to earth to blow the trumpet that will destroy the world.

Although the script is a bit weak, it has some really great concepts. Heaven is a bureaucracy beset by an endless orchestra and a shortage of angel-power. Elevators take angels to earth, right to the lobby of a New York hotel--and tie up elevator traffic, much to the annoyance of guests. And fallen angels lie in wait to trip Ethanael up! The art direction is extremely fine, dribbling comic surrealism with tremendous flair. In perhaps the film's most memorable scene, Ethanael finds himself drowning in a gigantic cup of coffee. Paradise Coffee, no doubt! Benny, co-star Alexis Smith, and such memorable characters as Franklin Pangborn, Margaret Dumont, and Guy Kibbe perform the show with as much energy as they can muster, and at it's best the movie is hilariously over-the-top. The script lets them down once too often for comfort, but even so the whole thing makes for an entertaining show. Recommended as imaginative, often extremely clever fluff.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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Enjoyable lightweight fantasy
aromatic-24 January 2001
Jack Benny and a magnificent supporting cast help keep your interest in this lightweight, yet highly imaginative, fanciful comedy about an angel in charge of destroying the Earth. Lots of great sight gags and double entendres keep things going. Additionally, the script if rife with sadistic ironies reminiscent of O'Henry and Mark Twain. If you've never seen it, pull up the ottoman and enjoy.
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A Comedy Classic
arossen3 August 2002
If you have to watch one Jack Benny movie, this one would probably be the one to watch. As other reviewers have noted, this movie bombed at the box office after its release and Benny joked about this fact often in his monologues. Even though it was poorly received at the time it came out, its stands up better now. Its best when watched not just as a comedy but as a parable that has timeless themes, that are not just relevant to the 1940's.

Good versus evil, greed versus generosity, heaven versus life on earth. The "fish out of water" sequences where Jack Benny, as an angel, struggles to adjust to the realities of life on earth, are also very funny and timeless. All that and Jack Benny's warm and funny screen presence make this an appealing picture.
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a lesser-known film of the forties, but definitely worth your time
ajdagreat12 January 2002
Having just seen this film, I wondered why it's so unknown. I also wondered by why it was a flop at the box office. After all, much of the movie is brilliant: I love how Heaven is set up much like an office building, and all the times Athanael shows how unfamiliar he is with earthly customs (the scene in the restaurant is the best). There's a little romance, but not too much - it would get in the way of the jokes! This classic is definitely worth a watch.
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Not as bad as trumpeted...
Doylenf28 October 2003
How can any comedy with Jack Benny and a supporting cast that includes Margaret Dumont, Reginald Gardiner, John Alexander, Allyn Joslyn, Ethel Griffies, Mike Mazurki, Franklin Pangborn and Guy Kibbe be that bad???

Well, it's easy to see why this one just fell short of the mark. The script is a hodgepodge about a trumpeter who must redeem himself by returning to earth on a special mission. His girlfriend is played by the lovely Alexis Smith who shows a flair for light comedy in this caper.

Relying on a succession of sight gags to keep things moving, it's all done in brisk screwball/fantasy style under Raoul Walsh's direction. You can spot the youthful Bobby Blake in the park sequence as the boy who won't give up Benny's trumpet.

The heavenly sequences are done with a certain style that is missing in the earthbound adventures--but the uneven film is not nearly as bad as Benny claimed it to be.
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My favorite Jack Benny film.
leimeter26 January 2000
A funny and friendly fantasy from the forties; it shows Jack Benny at his comedic best. The writing is witty and the supporting cast is wonderful. The scene which shows the cast dangling precariously, and hilariously, above Times Square is worth the price of a ticket.
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Those Happy Days of Victory
thurberdrawing22 October 2006
I saw this one New Year's night on TV when I was about eleven. The second time I saw it was last night when it was on cable. It was true to my memory. Jack Benny WAS stuck in a giant coffee cup and it WAS an extremely funny movie. The coffee cup gag is one of the most surreal things I've ever seen in a movie from Hollywood's golden age. Imagine a Tex Avery cartoon done in live action and you'll get an idea of the visual. Jack Benny really does look as if he's being filmed in a mechanized coffee cup/coffee pot/coffee spoon structure. It's incredible. Harold Lloyd would have been hard-pressed to match this scene. This scene itself makes this movie well worth watching. The mood of the movie is happy and bouncy as only movies made between 1945 and 1949 are. There must have been some optimism informing Hollywood's imagination as the Second World War wound down. Movies between then and the beginning of the Korean War practically burst with a sense of victory. THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT works as a testimony to a time when America felt itself riding on top of the world. There are other sight gags taking advantage of vertiginous views. People dangle from the ledge of buildings throughout. This is directed by the man who directed HIGH SIERRA, THE ROARING TWENTIES and a few other classics. The dialogue is very much like radio comedy. Jack Benny was, of course, a radio comic. The scene in the diner would have played quite well, if not even a bit better, on radio. I find it significant that a few years after this movie came out, Benny performed in a radio version of it. Others have commented on the fact that he turned this movie's relative box-office failure into a running joke which lasted the rest of his career. Benny's shtick demanded that he exaggerate negative qualities: He deliberately played violin off-key to highlight his radio persona's vanity; He pretended to feud with Fred Allen, when in reality there was no hostility between them. Both comedians boosted their ratings with their supposed feud. He was only playing his part by making people think THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT was the cinematic equivalent of his violin-playing. Not only was it up to Hollywood's standard comedic levels of that time, it surpassed them. Perhaps my familiarity with old-time radio makes me more partial to this movie than the average viewer. I am surprised, nevertheless, that many people find THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT a little pointless. The visuals are amazing, the dialogue is snappy and the music is great. You'll hear a tune which sounds a bit like the Looney Tunes theme. There's a reason for this. Carl Stalling was one of the people who worked on the music, and he worked on many Warner Brothers cartoons. If you like comedy you'll enjoy this movie.
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The perfect comedy! See why it was called "Hollywood's Golden Age" ...
Hup234!14 April 2000
... and see how Hollywood somehow lost the knack to do this sort of screen chemistry, a pity.

But here it is, the picture that Jack Benny loved to joke about; yet it's really a terrific comedy, a rollicking "laff-riot" as the marquees used to shout out in front of the great movie palaces.

There's no wasted film here; the gags just keep on coming, and they roll along so quickly that you'll scarcely have time to ponder the subtleties. See it, and see it again to catch those missed subtleties, and a chance to wallow in its great 1940s art deco sets, swing music and costuming.

Don't miss the original "Heavenly Symphony" by the Great Orchestra And Choir In The Sky, and a quick gag cameo by flute-player John Garfield.

Mine is one of the many "10" votes on the IMDb ratings list, reinforced by my seeing "Horn" again yesterday and remembering (though I never forgot) just how great a film comedy it is, and how Hollywood used to know how to make us laugh.
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Did Chuck Jones write this script???
Gavno30 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
That title isn't meant to be a put-down... considering that Carl Stalling of the Termite Terrace cartooning unit at Warner Brothers did some of the music, and the sound effects track used a LOT of stuff from Bugs Bunny cartoons, I think it's a fair question.

A FAR better movie than Jack Benny claimed (for years afterward he did jokes about the film, wondering why he didn't get an Oscar), THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT is simply a cartoon for adult audiences, staged with human beings instead of animated drawings. It uses all of the basic tools of a cartoon... an outlandish situation, a suspension of belief in reality, and a total disregard for physics and natural law.

A lot of posters here criticize the movie for not being funnier. It IS funny, very much so... but it's a much more laid back and understated humor than we see in today's films. Remember, film audiences in 1945 were not expecting to see something out of PORKIES or ANIMAL HOUSE; their tastes were a lot different than ours. This isn't a comedic style that beats you over the head; it's a platform that lets the considerable comedic talent employed show off it's best schtick... Margaret Dumont playing her trademark Upper Class Lady (as Mme. Traviata, the opera singer) and looking completely ridiculous in that role with her choice of music... Reginald Gardener using his facial expressiveness to indicate extreme pain at the mutilation of his music... Benny doing his stand-up jokes... and Franklin Pangborn, "The Master of the Slow Burn", displaying his best move again and again all thru the movie.

There IS over the top craziness here tho, in the final dream sequence where the battle for possession of the trumpet takes place. In good WB cartoon style they saved the insanity for the end of the picture. The cartoon sound effects show up in profusion here, and Stalling's cartoon musical scoring comes to the fore; THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE being played in perfect Termite Terrace style to indicate drunkenness gets it's point across perfectly.

It's a FAR better movie than Benny ever let on in his radio show patter; he should have been PROUD of it, and I suspect that actually he secretly WAS.
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Benny himself lampooned this film
bkoganbing25 May 2016
Even though I cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around the concept of a coffee that puts you to sleep Jack Benny's The Horn Blows At Midnight is not as bad as the reputation it has. A reputation by the way that Benny himself gave the film. It was a running gag on his radio and television show that Benny forsook movie making because of the bad reviews the film received.

Seeing it today it's not as bad as all that, in fact it has a few funny moments. Benny is a trumpeter in a radio studio orchestra and he falls asleep during the announcer's commercial for Paradise Coffee, the coffee that makes you sleep. In his dream Benny becomes an angel playing trumpet in a heavenly orchestra, larger than anything Leonard Bernstein ever directed. He gets an assignment from one of the bosses Guy Kibbee to blow his heavenly trumpet at midnight to signal the utter destruction of a minor planet the natives call Earth.

Needless to say Benny bungles the job and the film is his effort to complete his assignment. Kibbee's not pleased and he sends Alexis Smith down from heaven to babysit Jack. Later on Kibbee himself shows up. There are a couple of fallen angels played by Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander who like the life they've got on earth now. And there's Reginald Gardiner who's a musician and a society burglar with his assistant Dolores Moran who Benny interrupts mid crime and a host of other familiar movie faces which in itself is reason enough to watch The Horn Blows At Midnight.

Jack plays some tribute to Harold Lloyd with some stunts at the climax involving some great height. There's a gag involving a human pendulum that was later used with other familiar faces in It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Jack also becomes rocket man at one point, clearly copying Bob Hope being shot out of a cannon in The Road To Zanzibar.

Don't believe the hype about The Horn Blows At Midnight, you might actually like it.
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Skip the Movie, Hear the Radio Show
winter2460121 January 2010
This movie is very mediocre. Jack Benny isn't used nearly as well as he could be, and the script is very weak. I can't stand any movie that uses the "it was just a dream" cheat to get the hero out of a difficult situation, and this one does it very poorly. We're told at the beginning of the movie it's a dream, and I quickly lost interest from that point onward.

On the other hand, Jack Benny made a 1-hour radio version of this movie for The Ford Theater in 1949. That version isn't great; it's like most comedy from that era that hasn't worn as well as those from earlier or later time periods. However, it has a better script, and it is NOT a dream! More importantly, whoever did the update was able to come up with a pretty good ending for a story that sets up an impossible situation (destroying the world isn't typically considered a good ending in a comedy). The radio version's ending was very timely for 1949, and a little sad listening to it today.

If you want to hear it, the radio version is relatively easy to locate on the internet. Just search for "The Horn Blows at Midnight" and "Ford Theater", and you should be able to find multiple sites with the mp3.
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A coffee lover's nightmare
bernie-5026 March 2007
In a dream Nathaniel (Jack Benny) an angle (just one of the masses of angles in a seemingly endless angelic orchestra) is honored by The Chef (Monte Blue) with a unique job of removing a planet (Earth) that destruction is the only redemption. This task requires the horn of Gabriel to be blown at midnight to Harold the destruction. Naturally two fallen angels recognizing the inevitable try to distract Nathaniel. Will he succeed or become a fallen angel himself? Will the angel Elizabeth (Alexis Smith) that got him his chance have to save him?

This is the movie that I think off when some one mentions Jack Benny. I especially liked the eating scene. You can see it again in some of the inexpensive pizza chains. However the whole movie was well done. Watch poor detective, Franklin Pangborn who asks if the elevator goes up forever and gets is answer. Just watching the trumpet traveling around make you want to jump in the movie and grab it. Other scenes make you want to put on your water wings.

Watching this is enough to give you the twinges.
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Almost Apocalypse
Mike-7649 February 2001
Athaniel is an angel sent down to Earth to play the first four notes of the death march at midnight ( or something similar ) which will start the destruction of the world. He doesn't play the notes because he is saving a girl from committing suicide. However the head angel gives him one more chance, but the next day he loses his horn, is abducted by gangsters in the pay of two fallen angels, and has to recover his horn from a bunch of schoolboys. Decent comedy, which Jack Benny really made fun of throughout the rest of his radio and throughout his TV show. Its really just stays as a screwball comedy, which I don't think the cast and script were well suited for. Notice Margaret Dumont as the soprano in the film. Rating 7 out of 10.
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Love movies, but don't know much about the oldies?
Irie21226 July 2009
Raoul Walsh has made better movies, starting with "Regeneration" (filmed on location in Lower Manhattan slums in 1915), but this whimsical comedy, set in heaven and New York City, has two worthy qualities: First: The comedy works, especially the wisecracks (Cop: "Are you looking for trouble, Bud?" Angel: "No, I'm looking for Junior Pulplinsky.") Second: Forget Jack Benny and check out at the supporting cast.

This film is one of the best 78 minutes an aspiring film buff could watch to see a collection of great character actors from the 1930s and 1940s: Allyn Joslyn, Reginald Gardner, Guy Kibbee, Margaret Dumont, Dudley Dickerson, Ethel Griffies, Mike Mazurky, James Burke, the under-used blonde dish Dolores Moran, and the endlessly imitable Franklin Pangborn. Oh, yes, and 12-year-old Robert Blake as Junior Pulplinsky.
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Radio Days Comic
whpratt126 March 2006
Jack Benny. (Athanael) was a great star in the Radio Days and whenever he made a film in the 40's it usually wound up being a Big BOMB. Well, in this film, I think Benny did a great job of performing as an angel who played a wicked Horn. His girl friend angel, Alexis Smith,(Elizabeth), adored Athanael despite his ability to be rather dumb about the things of this world and needed her guidance in making decisions. There are many classic veteran actors in this film which all give a great supporting role. Alexis Smith was very beautiful in this picture and at the height of her career and gave an outstanding performance along with one of the great Comedians who entertained people during the horrible War Years and gave them something to Laugh at and enjoy. If you like a great classic picture, this is a very good film to sit back and go back in TIME.
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Jack Benny and cast provide many funny moments in The Horn Blows at Midnight
tavm15 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After 30 years of just seeing the ending involving that giant coffee pot that Jack Benny ends up in for whatever reason, I finally watched the whole thing on YouTube. Brother, this was quite hilarious as the picture kept going to various lengths to depict how Benny has to blow his horn (actually, trumpet) by midnight so the world will...oh, watch it if you want to know. Not only does he have to deal with a couple of fallen angels, however, he also has to contend with the hotel manager (Franklin Pangborn at his fussy best), some bodyguards, and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Alexis Smith) especially after he saves a sexy cigarette girl (Delores Moran). There's also a funny small part from Maragaret Dumont, an interesting role for a kid named Bobby Blake (later becoming Robert Blake), and some pieces of Carl Stalling's music with a little bit of Raymond Scott thrown in at the sequence I mentioned at the beginning. Really, The Horn Blows at Midnight may not be one of the greatest comedies ever made, but it sure is still very entertaining to watch for something made so long ago. So yeah, that's a recommendation.
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THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT (Raoul Walsh, 1945) ***
Bunuel19763 January 2009
Angels were an all-too-familiar sight on movie screens during World War II and perhaps audiences had had enough of it by the time this film came along; this is the only valid reason I can think of to explain its resounding box office failure (that resulted in Benny's premature bowing out of the movies) because, otherwise, it's one of his most enjoyable outings. In fact, it's quite an original and delightful comedy-fantasy about Benny (playing a second-grade angel and trumpet player) securing an important assignment (being sent to blow up sinful Planet Earth with his horn at the stroke of midnight) through the machinations of his girlfriend (Alexis Smith) who's secretary to the Chief (Guy Kibbee). Needless to say, he bungles the job when he decides to play Good Samaritan and save a fetching would-be suicide (Dolores Moran) from jumping off the roof of a hotel wherein reside an assortment of colorful characters: smooth-talking crook Reginald Gardiner and his dim-witted bodyguard Mike Mazurki, carousing fallen angels Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander (hilariously suffering an hourly "twinge" for defecting to Earth!) and flustered hotel detective Franklin Pangborn – most of whom, as the appointed hour draws near, end up dangling from the hotel rooftop in the film's wacky climax. Benny spent the rest of his radio and TV career making fun of this movie but, as I said, its maligned reputation is highly undeserved if you ask me!
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An errant angel with a lethal horn nearly blows his chance
kikaidar3 June 2000
In spite of a long standing reputation for being an awful film (in no little part due to Jack Benny, himself, making it an ongoing joke in the years to follow its release). HORN is no worse than the great majority of the lightweight comedies fashioned in the 1930s-1950s.

The action begins at the rehearsal of a radio station band. One particular musician, Benny, is particularly inept, blowing wrong notes and eventually allowing himself to be soothed into a daze by the announcer's cooing plaudits of the show's sponsor's coffee.

The action shifts to Heaven, where the harried Chief (Guy Kibbee) receives the assignment to demolish the Earth, which has been particularly troublesome of late. The task involves sending an angel armed with Gabriel's horn to Earth, where, at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, he'll play a simple melody which will end everything. At least for the locals on the small, irksome world.

When his secretary Elizabeth (Alexis Smith) suggests novice angel junior class Athanael (Benny) for the task, the Chief is horrified. Athanael, it seems, routinely fumbles any task he's given. Still, a little angelic coaxing works wonders. Athanael is assigned the chore and sent to Earth.

He arrives in one of the elevators of a major New York hotel (much to the confusion of the hotel manager (Paul Harvey), who will be unable to understand this cage's ongoing disappearances throughout the film.

In the lobby, Athanael runs into trouble almost instantly. He's been warned of Fallen Angels -- angels who were sent to Earth on similar tasks, but who got swept up in the nightlife and failed to return to Heaven. Two such reprobates (twins fro two musicians who had given Benny woe in the prologue), Osidro (Allyn Joslyn) and Doremus (John Alexander) spot him and realize why he's there. They decided to coax him away from his assignment by enlisting the assistance of a vamp (Dolores Moran) and offering him some small nook in their Earthly business concerns.

When it seems that Athanael is wavering, Elizabeth gains permission to go to Earth and try to guide him through completing his assignment. She arrives and is instantly recognized by the Fallen Angels.

Athanael promptly loses the horn as collateral against a huge meal he can't actually pay for, and the rest of the film concerns his trying to trace it to its new locale and recover it before the stroke of midnight.

The ending is a madhouse, with everyone on the hotel's roof, alternately trying to stop Athanael and save their own lives as they sway out over the distant streets below.

Benny then awakens in the studio, when his chair tips back and he falls from the bandstand. It was all a dream.
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Wish they still made movies like this!
sdrodrian1 July 2006
I love this movie (as well as all Jack Benny movies, few as they are). It's tight, taught, fast-paced (in fact, it becomes quite hilariously frantic in the end). The gimmicks of fantasy are quite innovative and the storyline is consistent beginning to end (with never a dull moment). The performances are delicious from a cast one cannot equal in today's (almost exclusively SNL) paucity of Lovable character actors (Rob Schneider excluded).

Wish it were on DVD, AND colorized (which apparently is something not worth doing any longer, now that "the anti-colorization Nazis" seem to have won): It not that they don't wish to see it colorized (which I can respect), but that they do not wish ME to see it colorized--which is incomprehensibly selfish of them!
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Unique and far underrated film with Jack Benny
vincentlynch-moonoi9 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's very interesting to read the reviews here about this film. Clearly, some of our reviewers "get it" and "get" Jack Benny. A few do not. And then there's the reputation this film has -- that it was a flop at the box office. Well, okay, but when it was released may have been a factor -- during the darkest days of World War II, immediately following the death of FDR. And what was it's main film competition at the time? "Carousel"! And of course, part of it's negative reputation is due to Jack Benny's own joking about it for years on his television show. It was his last film during a time when he soared to new popularity on radio and then television.

When you read more recent reviews by professional critics, you find they are often quite kind to this film. Leonard Maltin, for example, wrote that the film is "broad" and "funny".

I have always enjoyed this film. The first test it passes for me is that it is different. Some comedies you can get mixed up with other comedies. Not "The Horn Blows At Midnight". It's unique.

Second, the entire cast is rather pleasing. I'm not sure that Jack Benny was ideal for film. In "George Washington Slept Here", he was too sarcastic, for example. But here, he's pleasant enough...and you can almost imagine him as a not too with-it angel bungling his job. As much as Red Skelton and Bob Hope can tickle my funny bone, they would have been all wrong for this film. No, Benny was ideal for the story.

Then there's Alexis Smith in one of my favorite films with her. She's been better...and not. She's very pleasing here.

The supporting actors are terrific. Guy Kibbee is perfect as the "boss" angel, Reginald Gardiner is perfect as the thief (and he's not always one of my favorites), and Franklin Pangborn is great as the house detective (and a master of the slow burn). And, as defrocked angels -- Allyn Joslen and John Alexander (another character actor I'm usually not enthralled with, but who does very nicely here). There are others you'll recognize, as well, and they all do exactly what they need to do.

And the climactic scene -- Benny getting flushed into the coffee ad machine -- is truly a classic, and one that I never forgot after seeing it as a kid. It still makes me laugh out loud. ANd it's that rare time that you'll Jack Benny doing physical comedy. And, I wonder, did Stanley Kramer watch this scene before he filmed "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"? Highly recommended for the fantasy sequences, as well as the period atmosphere that is so clearly outlined here. A heckuva unique comedy!
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The Real Reason this Movie Bombed at the Box Office
Dejael26 August 2007
This film is often maligned in the critical press as being so bad that it was a terrible bomb (and was facetiously by Benny himself in his later radio and TV career, as the biggest bomb of his career. He was using it for comedy, playing it for laughs.)

However, it was not a bomb at all, and was a modest success when first released in April 1945.

The real reason this movie bombed at the box office was timing. It was released right at the end of World War 2, after Hitler had ravaged almost all of Europe, and Japan had made a colossal mess out of the South Pacific, and then WE nuked TWO of their cities to stop them!

People then were very sensitive about issues like life and death, Heaven and Hell, even in a comedy context, in America. Almost every family had lost someone near and dear to them in the War, and they didn't want to be reminded of these kinds of things even in a Hollywood movie, at least for a few years until STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN (1947) in beautiful Technicolor starring David Niven and Kim Hunter proved that the postwar era had begun.

If only WB had waited until the fall of 1945 to release this, it would have fared much better at the box office and with movie critics far and wide, and given Jack Benny something to be proud of, instead of a long-running gag in his later years.

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"Am I really a fallen angel?"
classicsoncall16 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Jack Benny probably could have cut himself some slack over this picture, after all, it was all virtually a dream sequence so none of it had to make any sense. And if his acting was less than exemplary - dream sequence! He looked older than thirty nine - dream sequence! You see, it's easy to blame it all on the dream sequence business.

Usually it's this type of picture that irritates me but this time you know it's a dream right up front so you can go along with the premise. The writers put together some clever gimmicks like the hourly twinges endured by Osidro (Allyn Joslyn) and Doremus (John Alexander), along with Slippy Tompkins' Tomcats and Tarzola the Rocket Man. The hotel elevator business was kind of a neat touch too.

OK, so it's not Oscar material but who expected that? I always liked jack Benny as a performer, even though I prefer his variety show format and TV sketches. As a member of the Third Phalanx, Fifteenth Cohort, he did a reasonable enough job here to garner a few chuckles. All the rest of it - well, dream sequence.
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Benny blows a bum note
laurencetuccori5 August 2012
Comedian Jack Benny spent the second half of his long career poking fun at this film, disparaging it at every opportunity and mocking his performance in it.

For the longest time I believed this was just a joke and that the film wasn't nearly as bad as Jack made it out to be.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT is possibly the most ill-advised project Benny ever signed up for, and I say that as a die-hard Benny fan and proud owner of every episode of his radio show.

He plays Athaneal, third trumpet player in a radio orchestra, who falls asleep during a broadcast and dreams that he's an angel sent to Earth to blow the last trumpet, signaling the end of the world, at exactly midnight. But a couple of fallen angels, who'd previously failed to do the job, are determined to stop him. Confusion ensues as the inept Athaneal attempts to complete his mission, oblivious to the deceitful wiles of his opponents.

Given the premise, the fine supporting cast (Reginald Gardner, Franklin Pangborn, Alexis Smith, Margaret Dumont,Guy Kibbee, Mike Mazurki) and veteran director Raoul Walsh at the helm, this should have been a surefire hit. So why does the entire project fall flat on its face?

There's several reasons.

The script is terrible,the supporting cast is wasted and the comedy is lame in the extreme. Neither of the credited screenplay writers demonstrate the slightest talent for writing comedy above a fifth grade level, and it's directed with a complete absence of style. An overwhelming sense of desperation pervades every scene involving bits of business that might very - very - loosely be termed comedy, and the story's climax is so crudely constructed as to be downright embarrassing.

On their own these failings cripple the film, but what really sabotages any chance of success for THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT is the casting or - more accurately - the miscasting of Jack Benny.

By 1945 Benny's character was firmly established in the American psyche thanks to his long running and immensely popular radio show. As far as the public was concerned Benny was vain, penny pinching, petty, frequently exasperated and eternally 39 years old. He was a consummate comedian who didn't tell jokes but allowed himself more often than not to be the butt of jokes set up by the talented cast of characters he surrounded himself with on his weekly show. He could get a bigger laugh out of his patented pause than any punchline, and he was - despite his many apparent character flaws - universally loved by radio audiences.

THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT takes advantage of exactly none of these traits, choosing instead to have Benny play a thinly sketched character who looks like Jack Benny but doesn't resemble him at all. There's nothing in the part of Athaneal that contemporary audiences could identify with, and nothing in this new Benny character that's funny enough to elicit a laugh either. Why have him be a trumpeter when he was universally known as a (very bad) violin player is a mystery.

The sum total of these misjudgments is a film that's a major disappointment.I'm not surprised that Benny mocked it for the rest of his days. What else could he do? He had to have recognised it was an incredible career misstep and one which he was lucky to recover from because he didn't depend on films to sustain his popularity.

Had his radio show writers been similarly dumb enough to tamper with a winning formula we probably wouldn't remember him today as one of the greats of American comedy.

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Horn Blows At Midnight-Failed Blast from the Past **
edwagreen16 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Absolutely inane film starring Jack Benny as a trumpet player who dreams that he has been sent down to earth to end it by blowing on his trumpet.

The writing here is absolutely ridiculous as the film turns mostly into a slap-stick farce, with all sorts of silly situations created by Benny and his cohorts.

Watch for Ethel Griffies, of all people, to briefly kick up her heels. Franklin Pangborn, with his usual sneers, provides some comedy relief, and Reginald Gardiner is just too Reginald Gardiner to play a villain here.

Alexis Smith is wasted as Benny's fellow angel,and Mike Mazursky is his usual heavy-handed henchman.

Margaret Dumont's comic gifts are also wasted here, as she appears briefly in two scenes.
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