Horn Blows at Midnight, The (1945)

“You’re driving me right into the hot girdle business!”

Synopsis:
A trumpeter (Jack Benny) on a late-night-radio show falls asleep and dreams he is an angel named Athaneael sent on a special mission by his supervisor (Guy McKibbee) to destroy the planet Earth. Benny is foiled in his first attempt by two fallen angels (Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander) who have enlisted the help of a racketeer (Reginald Gardiner) and his girlfriend (Dolores Moran) to prevent him from blowing his horn at midnight; but Athanael’s loyal girlfriend (Alexis Smith) comes down to Earth to help give him a second chance.

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Review:
Raoul Walsh directed this quirky fantasy tale which travels in unexpected directions from beginning to end — starting with Benny’s original character falling asleep during an advertisement for a somniferous coffee (!?), and continuing through his outlandishly slapstick adventures as an angel attempting to blow his darn horn at midnight while encountering endless Earthly obstacles. Buxomy blonde Moran is surprisingly amusing as a “cigarette girl” who’s primarily interested in pleasing her sleazy boyfriend (Gardiner); she effectively distracts Benny, though not in the way one might expect. Indeed, Benny’s character is such a genuinely good-hearted fellow — his name is a variation on Nathanael, which means “gift from God” — that we can’t help cheering him on despite his sincere intention to blow up the Earth; instead, we’re simply grateful he has such a loyal and stoically plucky girlfriend literally waiting in the wings to help him out.

Note: This film was primarily infamous as the flop Benny loved to self-flagellate over; too bad, as it doesn’t deserve that reputation.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine art design and special effects

  • Alexis Smith as Elizabeth

Must See?
Yes, as a unique outing. Listed as a Cult Movie and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Horn Blows at Midnight, The (1945)”

  1. Not must-see.

    Raoul Walsh directed about 120 feature films but we don’t really find comedies among them – war films, westerns, gangster flicks, and the like but not comedy. Taking one on here, we can see Walsh’s confident, competent direction – and often an appropriately light touch – but nothing particularly hilarious results.

    The script for this film is not all that witty or clever (sometimes it’s a bit forced) but it does have a certain old-fashioned charm. It’s a shame that it also feels as though it were sort of thrown together; it’s set up to have a cockeyed logic (that in itself is fine) but at times it feels sloppy.

    That said, the cast does its best under the circumstances. It’s true that it’s not an embarrassment but it falls short of being inspired.

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