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Star of Midnight

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Star of Midnight (1935) starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers
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review of Star of Midnight (1935) starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers

Movie review of Star of Midnight starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers, two of my favorite actors. In a murder mystery in the style of Powell’s famous “Thin Man” series. Very funny, very enjoyable, and strongly recommended!

Synopsis of Star of Midnight

New York lawyer and playboy Clay “Dal” Dalzell (William Powell) is visited by his old friend Tim Winthrop. Tim’s girlfriend Alice has mysteriously disappeared in Chicago, and whom he believes in now in New York City. There, she stars in the hit musical “Midnight” as Mary Smith, the masked star of the show.

Along with lovely Donna Mantin (Ginger Rogers), who has romantic designs on Dal, he attends a performance of “Midnight”. However, Mary Smith disappears in the middle of the show, seemingly when Tim Winthrop calls out her name.

Gossip columnist Tommy Tennant, a man whom Dal dislikes, has discovered a clue to the mystery. But before he can reveal it, Tommy is shot to death in Dal’s apartment. And Dal goes to the top of the police’s list of suspects. Inspector Doremus doesn’t believe Dal to be guilty, however. And he gives the resourceful lawyer the freedom to investigate on his own.

The trail leads Dal to a gangster, Kinland, who Dal tries to control with an incriminating piece of evidence. Also to an old flame, Jerry, a “gay divorcee” now wed to a wealthy man named Classon.

In time, Dal sets up a trap in a Greenwich Village apartment, pretending to have the missing Mary there and inviting each of the suspects to come find her. The killer indeed turns up — in a mask — putting Dal and Donna in grave danger.

Review of Star of Midnight

Fans of William Powell’s Thin Man series will find much to enjoy about the Star of Midnight.   In many ways, the film copies the successful formula of The Thin Man very successfully. For me one of the best parts of the film is the interaction between Powell and Rogers.   As a child, Ginger Rogers’ character publicly announced that she was going to marry the older Dal. And she hasn’t changed her mind.   It’s a very delightful undertone to the more serious murder mystery. Which includes Powell’s character being shot on the night of the murder.   The pace is quick, the mystery is intriguing, and the final revelation of the murderer fits all of the clues nicely. With the audience being able to guess who the murderer was …. Even if I guessed wrong.

Star of Midnight is a very enjoyable film, which is finally available on DVD. It’s also being rerun on Turner Classic Movies.

Trivia for Star of Midnight

  • William Powell has framed 8×10 photos of RKO actresses Irene Dunne and Ann Harding prominently displayed in his bedroom suite.
  • Early in the film, William Powell’s character says that people consider him “Charlie Chan, Philo Vance and the Saint all rolled into one”.  Powell previously played Philo Vance on four occasions.

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