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HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT, THE (director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: Sam Hellman/James V. Kern/based on an idea by Aubrey Wisberg; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Irene Morra; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Jack Benny (Athanael), Alexis Smith (Elizabeth), Dolores Moran (Fran), Allyn Joslyn (Osidro), John Alexander (Doremus), Reginald Gardiner (Archie Dexter), Guy Kibbee (The Chief), Franklin Pangborn (Sloan, radio engineer), Mike Mazurki (Humphrey, goon), Paul Harvey (Hotel manager), Margaret Dumont (Miss Rodholder), John Brown (Pulpinsky, waiter), Bobby Blake (Pulpinsky’s young son), Ethel Griffies (Lady Stover); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mark Hellinger; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1945)
“So-so fantasy screwball comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the box office turkey that Jack Benny made famous on his 1950’s radio and TV shows as the film that ruined his movie career. Raoul Walsh (“Battle Cry”/”The Naked and the Dead”/”The Lawless Breed”) directs this so-so fantasy screwball comedy; it’s the type of material he was not best suited for, as the sight gags are stiffly executed and the jokes are lacking wit. It’s based on an idea by Aubrey Wisberg and written by Sam Hellman and James V. Kern.

Athanael (Jack Benny) is a trumpet player in a band playing live on a New York City radio station who falls asleep during a commercial break for Paradise coffee and dreams that he’s an archangel sent by the chief angel (Guy Kibbee) at the urging of his heavenly girlfriend Elizabeth (Alexis Smith), the Chief’s secretary, to descend to earth to blow his horn at midnight, signaling by playing four notes that it’s Judgment Day. Athanael misses his cue when he instead saves the life of Fran (Dolores Moran), a depressed cigarette-girl attempting to leap from the roof of the Universe Hotel. Athanael is then distracted by two fallen angels who have become attracted to earthly living and have become crooks, Osidro (Allyn Joslyn) and Doremus (John Alexander), who pay for their fall by getting hourly twinges. The baddie fallen angels hire smoothie gangster Archie Dexter (Reginald Gardiner) to take back the trumpet from Athanael, who is now helped by the arrival of Elizabeth after she got the Chief to give her boy a second chance. It winds down with Benny doing a Harold Lloyd imitation, as he dangles from the ledge of the New York City hotel. It ends as Benny wakes up from his dream and all the heavenly figures from his dream reappear as those on the radio show.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”