The Horn Blows at Midnight [DVD]
2013, Warner Archive Collection
Original Release: 1945, Warner Bros. Pictures
Buy the DVD
There was a time when I once thought I’d never see a Jack Benny movie. Luckily, pretty much anything and everything makes its way onto DVD at some time or another and movies that were once $100+ on VHS are now $15 on DVD. As I mentioned in my review of The Meanest Man in the World, it’s a good time to be a Jack Benny fan. While his first movie appearance was in 1930 and his last in 1967, Jack really only dabbled in feature films. Benny chose to devote most of his energy to his radio show, and later his TV show, but from the late-1930’s to mid-1940’s he was able to deliver a handful of enjoyable comedies that are now finally back in print on video for anyone to enjoy. Turner Classic Movies has shown the movie over the years but they would do so at such odd late hours that I had never been able to watch it.
In the grand scheme of things, The Horn Blows at Midnight is an obscure film. In regards to Benny fans, the movie is pretty famous (or infamous) as after its release and failure at the box office, film’s disappointing display at the box office (though it did turn a small profit) and mediocre reviews became a running gag for years to come on Jack’s radio & TV shows. Benny would often make jokes that The Horn Blows at Midnight killed his movie career and that it was a terrible movie. I don’t think that’s entirely correct. While it was the last film to star Jack Benny (he would only make film cameos from here on out), I’m certain he could’ve secured more starring roles if he wished. He was probably discouraged from doing so since this film did not fare so well.
Odd thing is, despite the film not being a success in theaters, The Horn Blows at Midnight would be re-enacted on radio and television with Benny again assuming the leading role.
The truth is the movie is not awful. I actually liked it. It’s your typical 1940’s screwball comedy. Jack plays a trumpet player in a radio show orchestra who ends up having a dream that that he’s Athanael, an trumpet-playing angel sent down to destroy earth by playing his trumpet at midnight. God has given up on earth, you see. That’s kind of dark but Benny’s sweet-natured and naive Athanael helps to provide the laughs as he’s forced to deal with thieves, lusty women, angry hotel managers, fallen angels and restaurant bills.
Speaking of lusty women, I’m surprised even an angel could resist the advances of the gorgeous Dolores Moran!
Alexis Smith co-stars as the angel Elizabeth and is portrayed as a girlfriend of sorts for Athanael. Throughout her career, Smith would co-star with other Hollywood big names such as Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Paul Neuman, Kirk Douglas and Cary Grant.
The Horn Blows at Midnight is an entertaining film. It is essential viewing for Jack Benny fans to see what all the fuss was about and I recommend it to anyone who likes screwball comedies from the Golden Age of Hollywood.