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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

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A visiting city reporter's assignment suddenly revolves around the murder trial of a local millionaire, whom he befriends.



(book), (screenplay)
4,940 ( 255)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... John Kelso
... Jim Williams
... Sonny Seiler
... Minerva
... Billy Hanson
... Mandy Nicholls
... Joe Odom
... Chablis Deveau (as The Lady Chablis)
Dorothy Loudon ... Serena Dawes
... Margaret Williams
... Betty Harty
... Luther Driggers
... Henry Skerridge
... Detective Boone
... Finley Largent


This panoramic tale of Savannah's eccentricities focuses on a murder and the subsequent trial of Jim Williams: self made man, art collector, antiques dealer, bon vivant and semi-closeted homosexual. John Kelso a magazine reporter finds himself in Savannah amid the beautiful architecture and odd doings to write a feature on one of William's famous Christmas parties. He is intrigued by Williams from the start, but his curiosity is piqued when he meets Jim's violent, young and sexy lover, Billy. Later that night, Billy is dead, and Kelso stays on to cover the murder trial. Along the way he encounters the irrepressible Lady Chablis, a drag queen commedienne, Sonny Seiler, lawyer to Williams, whose famous dog UGA is the official mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs, an odd man who keeps flies attached to mini leashes on his lapels and threatens daily to poison the water supply, the Married Ladies Card Club, and Minerva, a spiritualist. Between being Jim's buddy, cuddling up to a torch singer, ... Written by Teresa B. O'Donnell <sun.moon.stars@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Welcome to Savannah, Georgia. A City Of Hot Nights And Cold Blooded Murder.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and brief violence | See all certifications »





Release Date:

21 November 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Medianoche en el jardín del bien y del mal  »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,233,658, 23 November 1997, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$25,078,937, 15 February 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


At one point, both Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson were vying to topline the project. See more »


When John cannot start his car, he's sitting in it with the door open. As he jumps out of his car to get in the carriage he leaves the door open. When the car is shown again the door is closed. See more »


[first lines]
Minerva: Quit eye balling me, Flavius. I knew you when you was a two bit hustler on Bull Street.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing disclaimer: This film is based upon John Berendt's book "MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL". Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization. See more »


References Basic Instinct (1992) See more »


Written by Johnny Mercer and David Raksin
Performed by Kevin Mahogany
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
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User Reviews

Very entertaining account of a set of Savannah whackos. Give it a whirl
29 May 2010 | by See all my reviews

In his review of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Roger Ebert writes that you would probably enjoy the film more if you haven't previously read John Berendt's book on which it is based. Well, I haven't read Berendt's book and must report that I rather enjoyed the film. It reminded me of the observation (and I have tracked that down to first being said by Mark Twain, but it might well have been someone else before him) that it's 'a good story well told'. And at the end of the day you can't really ask for more than that. Well, of course you can, but you run the risk of being rather greedy. With Midnight, Clint Eastwood has made a film which is intriguing and entertaining. Admittedly, to do so he has had to adapt Berendt's account of mysterious murder and a very colourful gang of people living in Savannah, Georgia, which has upset purist, but, as I said, I hadn't read the original book, and so I would never have known had I not read other reviews. I always feel filmmakers have an inalienable right to make a film 'based on' rather than 'of' a book because, in essence, they are creating a new piece of art (one hopes) rather than simply transferring a story from one medium to another. Clint Eastwood has made good use of that right and, pertinently, hasn't abused it. So, for example, criticism that he has boiled down the unprecedented four trial antique dealer Jim Williams faced on the charge of murdering a male hustler into one can be countered by observing that including four trials in his film would have meant making a very different film indeed and boiling it down to one (and altering crucial details to do so) makes admirable sense. Those of us who haven't read Berendt's book do not feel short-changed, and the film still stands steadily on its own two feet. The writer portrayed by John Cusack (intended to represent Berendt although he is called Kelso in the film) is the only fictional character, and the rest are all real, which must have presented Eastwood with something close to a legal nightmare in that none of the characters could be portrayed in a bad light or else they might sue for libel. The film also introduces a romance between Kelso and Mandy (who was real but who didn't fall in love with the Kelso character) which in retrospect has absolutely nothing to do with the core of the story. But it does provide a pleasant dimension to the film in as far as Kelso is rather likable and so is Mandy so why not pair them off. There was absolutely no reason to do so, except to add a little love interest to the film, but there again there was absolutely no reason not to: it doesn't in the slightest detract from the film, so what the hell. Lady Chablis, the real-life drag queen of portrays himself - herself? - is something of a tour de force. Yet again there is a longish scene when she turns up at a middle-class black prom to which (for some reason not made clear) Kelso has been invited and proceeds to scandalise him which doesn't advance the story very much. It seems more intent on showcasing Lady Chablis' outrageousness, but as it's very entertaining, I feel Eastwood can be forgiven including it. To sum up: Midnight is an entertaining account of a series of whackos in Savannah, Georgia, an intriguing murder story and has many good performances, not least from Kevin Spacey as the gay antiques dealer and Cusack as the writer. If you have read Berendt's highly praised book, you might well be disappointed. If, like me, you haven't you won't be. Give it a whirl and you'll find you won't regret having done so.

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