I'm not obsessed with Claudette Colbert -- it's coincidence that I found lovely images of the actress two weeks in a row. I noticed that today was character actor Francis Lederer's birthday, and that reminded me of Midnight, one of my favorite films (which stars Colbert), and one thing led to another.

When Lederer died in 2000, he was over 100 years old. He played Louise Brooks' young love interest in the German film Pandora's Box in 1929, and started making American movies in the mid-1930s. Lederer's part in Midnight as a debonair playboy was typical of his early Hollywood roles. In the early 1950s he switched mainly to guest-star spots on television shows. Eventually he retired from acting on the large and small screens, and helped start a school for acting -- a friend of mine, after hearing how much I liked Midnight, once remarked that she'd taken classes with Lederer when she was growing up.

Midnight is a slight, sweet, witty Thirties comedy that I accidentally caught on cable one afternoon a dozen years ago and have liked ever since. The 1939 film was directed by Mitchell Leisen, a master of frothy filmmaking, and written by the incomparable team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. This riff on the Cinderella story has one of my favorite lines, ever: "From the moment you looked at me, I had an idea you had an idea." Colbert, a golddigger stranded in Paris, says that to John Barrymore (in one of his last roles), a millionaire willing to strike an odd deal to save his marriage. Mary Astor plays Barrymore's erring wife, Hedda Hopper has a small role as a society hostess, and Monty Woolley pops in briefly as a French judge. And did I mention Don Ameche as a Czech cab driver? Sadly, Midnight isn't available on DVD, so you'll have to catch it on cable yourself if you want to enjoy this charming little film.

[Image found on Classic Movie Favorites, which contains many lovely stills from Colbert's early movies.]
categories Features, Cinematical