Midnight (1934): Chester Erskine’s Drama, Sidney Fox, O.P. Heggie, Henry Hull, Margaret Wycherly, and Bogart

Chester Erskine directed Midnight, a drama starring Sidney Fox, O.P. Heggie, Henry Hull and Margaret Wycherly.

Midnight
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DVD cover with Bogart’s name elevated

It was based on a Theatre Guild play of the same name by Paul and Claire Sifton.

Produced for Universal, the film was shot on modest budget of $50,000 at Thomas Edison Studios, which producer-director Erskine had re-opened specifically for the shoot.

Humphrey Bogart had a supporting role, that od a gangster boyfriend, and was credited eighth in the cast

The film was re-released as Call It Murder by Screen Guild Productions (Guaranteed Pictures) in 1949 after Bogart became a star. He was then given top billing, though he appears in few scenes and credited eighth in the original release.

The tale begins at the murder trial of Ethel Saxon, a woman who shot her lover in a crime of passion. During the trial, Edward Weldon, the jury foreman, asks the defendant a question that ultimately leads to a guilty verdict and a death sentence for her.

The rest of film takes place on the evening of the execution, in the Weldon home. Edward is dealing with the consequences of his role as foreman. Friends have come to the house to support the family. An unscrupulous journalist who has bribed Weldon’s son in law is also in attendance.

Weldon’s daughter Stella is upset by the departure of her gangster boyfriend Gar Boni (Bogart), whom she met during the trial.

The evening ends at midnight, in which three scenes are cross cut: the switch is pulled at the death house, a gun is fired in Boni’s parked car, and a photo is taken of Edward Weldon’s reaction.

Stella returns home, under the impression that she has shot Gar Boni. Weldon, torn between love for his daughter and his strong belief about the rule of law, asks the district attorney to come to the house.

Cast
Sidney Fox … Stella Weldon
O.P. Heggie … Edward Weldon
Henry Hull … Nolan
Margaret Wycherly … Mrs. Weldon
Lynne Overman … Joe Biggers (as Lynn Overman)
Katherine Wilson … Ada Biggers
Richard Whorf … Arthur Weldon
Humphrey Bogart … Gar Boni
Granville Bates … Henry McGrath
Cora Witherspoon … Elizabeth McGrath
Moffat Johnston … Dist. Atty. Plunkett
Henry O’Neill … Ingersoll (as Henry O’Neil)

Credits:

Produced, written, directed by Chester Erskine
Cinematography William O. Steiner, George Webber
Edited by Leo Zochling

Production company: All Star Productions

Distributed by Universal

Release date: March 7, 1934

Running time: 76 minutes