Middle of the Night


1h 58m 1959
Middle of the Night

Brief Synopsis

A widowed businessman courts a younger woman who works for him.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1959; Los Angeles opening: 24 Jun 1959
Production Company
Sudan Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; New York City, New York, United States; Ossining--Campfire Club, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Middle of the Night by Paddy Chayefsky, as presented on Broadway by Joshua Logan (8 Feb 1956), which was based on Chayefsky's teleplay of the same name on Philco Television Playhouse (NBC, 19 Sep 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

Overwhelmed by melancholy because of her recent divorce, young Betty Preisser, a receptionist and part-time model for a New York clothing manufacturer, leaves work early, taking a contract she is typing to finish at home. Later that afternoon, Jerry Kingsley, one of the owners of the garment company, stops by the apartment Betty shares with her mother, Mrs. Mueller, and sister, Alice Mueller, to pick up the finished contract. The middle-aged Jerry, lonely and bereft since the death of his wife two years earlier, feels compassion toward Betty, who over the course of the afternoon tells him about her loveless marriage with her musician ex-husband George and her indecision about his desire to reconcile with her. Jerry, who has a twenty-five-year-old daughter, fatherly advises her to stop feeling sorry for herself and make her own decisions. That night, over dinner with his daughter Lillian and spinster sister Evelyn, Jerry frequently mentions Betty's beauty. Evelyn, who is overly possessive of her brother, with whom she lives, archly comments on Jerry's repeated references to Betty. The following day after work, Jerry summons up his courage to invite Betty to dinner. When Jerry returns home in an upbeat mood to dress for dinner, Lillian, who is more devoted to her father than her husband Jack, is intrigued by Jerry's sudden interest in a woman. Betty and Jerry begin to date, but after several weeks, Betty announces that they should stop seeing each other because Jerry is her boss. His vanity punctured, Jerry asks if the difference in their ages is the real reason she wants to end their relationship. When Jerry declares that he has fallen in love with Betty, she warns him that she is incapable of loving anyone. Jerry, who has to return to the factory to mark some patterns, asks Betty to join him. As she hovers over his shoulder in the cutting room, Jerry embraces her and she returns his passion. With the holidays approaching, a newly invigorated Jerry asks Betty to go the mountains with him for the weekend. On the drive there, Jerry suggests that they get married, alarming Betty, who begins to babble hysterically. After calming down, Betty finally admits that she loves Jerry. At the lodge on New Year's Eve, the other guests assume that Jerry and Betty are married. Exhilarated by the thought, Jerry gets drunk and boasts about his young wife, then passes out later in the cabin. On the drive home, Betty worries about the reaction of Jerry's family to their pending marriage. Betty's mother, who considers all men to be "bums," is vehemently opposed to the idea of her daughter marrying an older man. Consequently, when Jerry stops by to pick up Betty for a date, Mrs. Mueller chides him for being a "dirty old man." The next day at the factory, Jerry informs his partner, Walter Lockman, that he is marrying Betty. The womanizing Walter, who has been trapped in a loveless marriage for thirty years, encourages the union, then confides to Jerry that although he was impotent, he felt compelled to have a series of flings because his life is so empty. After Jerry ebulliently informs Lillian, Jack and Evelyn about his impending marriage, Evelyn, indignant at the thought of her brother marrying a twenty-four year old, calls Jerry an old fool and Betty a fortune hunter. Fearing that Betty will displace her in Jerry's life, Evelyn then storms out of the room and slams the door. When Jerry tries to explain his decision to Lillian, Lillian terms their relationship neurotic and unsuitable for a sound marriage. Only Jack, happy for Jerry's newly found happiness, congratulates him on his upcoming marriage, prompting Lillian to lash out at her husband. Suddenly stern, Jerry tells Evelyn to arrange a formal dinner at which he intends to introduce Betty to the family. Deciding that her father needs her more than her husband, Lillian decides to cancel the vacation that she and Jack had been planning, infuriating Jack, who charges that Lillian's entire life has been devoted to her father. At the family dinner, and later at an office celebration of their engagement, Jerry seems strangely distant and moody. The next day, after work, Jerry takes Betty to a nightclub. When a friend of her ex-husband says hello to Betty, Jerry becomes jealous. After Jerry drives Betty home in silence, they begin to argue, and Betty jumps out of the car and slams the door. Upon entering her apartment, Betty finds George waiting to see her. Once her mother and sister discreetly excuse themselves, George, who has just returned from a stint in Las Vegas, begs her to come back to him. Although Betty feels a strong physical attraction for George, she pushes him away, but finally succumbs to her desire. The following morning, Betty arranges to meet Jerry in the park where she confesses that although she made love to George, it meant nothing to her. Betrayed and humiliated, Jerry declares he never wants to see her again and leaves. Upon returning to his apartment, Jerry informs Evelyn that the marriage has been called off. As Jerry slumps into his chair, Lockman's panicked wife calls to inform Jerry that her husband has just phoned from a hotel and announced that he plans to commit suicide. Hurrying to the hotel, Jerry finds that Lockman has taken an overdose of pills, but will survive. Lockman's act of desperation forces Jerry to realize that Betty has awakened his passion to live. Jerry proceeds to Betty's apartment and rings the doorbell, and when she opens the door, they embrace.

Photo Collections

Middle of the Night - Movie Posters
Middle of the Night - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Middle Of The Night (1959) - Everybody Starts Dropping Dead Credits having navigated in through Manhattan's garment district, meeting Kim Novak as receptionist "Betty," Fredric March as boss "Jerry," Ruby Bond, Lou Gilbert and Albert Dekker his crew, Delbert Mann directing from Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay, in Middle Of The Night, 1959.
Middle Of The Night (1959) - Like It Was A Gas Chamber Widowed garment-firm boss Jerry (Fredric March) drops by the Upper East Side apartment where part-time receptionist and model Betty (Kim Novak) has just finished a typing job she brought home from work, in Middle Of The Night, 1959, from a Paddy Chayefsky screenplay.
Middle Of The Night (1959) - Really In Love Widower Manhattan apparel executive Jerry (Fredric March) not chatting but negotiating with divorced employee Betty (Kim Novak) about their romantic prospects, exactly as you'd expect in a Paddy Chayefsky script from his own play, in Middle Of The Night, 1959, directed by Delbert Mann.
Middle Of The Night (1959) - Don't Kick Him In The Shins Scene in which we finally meet the mother (Glenda Farrell) and young sister (Jan Norris), along with friend Marilyn (Lee Grant), of divorcee` Betty (Kim Novak), who's marrying her boss Jerry (Fredric March), in Middle Of The Night, 1959, written by Paddy Chayefsky.
Middle Of The Night (1959) - One Of Our Little Talks In the screenplay from his own play, Paddy Chayefsky here gives the leads a break as Lillian (Joan Copeland), daughter of widowed Jerry, seems not quite tuned in to the concerns of her own husband Jack (Martin Balsam), in Middle Of The Night, 1959, starring Fredric March and Kim Novak.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1959; Los Angeles opening: 24 Jun 1959
Production Company
Sudan Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; New York City, New York, United States; Ossining--Campfire Club, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Middle of the Night by Paddy Chayefsky, as presented on Broadway by Joshua Logan (8 Feb 1956), which was based on Chayefsky's teleplay of the same name on Philco Television Playhouse (NBC, 19 Sep 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

Middle of the Night


Before it irrevocably went the Vast Wasteland route, while it was still discovering what it could be, while it still faced America with hope and aspiration, TV was filling pop and middlebrow culture with refreshing new energies. Hollywood sensed them and lost little time glomming onto them. TV was the launching pad for the likes of Sidney Lumet, John Frankenheimer and especially the writing-directing team of Paddy Chayefsky and Delbert Mann. In Marty (1955), The Bachelor Party (1956) and Middle of the Night (1959), they triangulated what was soon, and ever afterward, to be recalled with a mix of ruefulness and nostalgia as TV's Golden Age.

With its intimate scale, TV was made for the small naturalistic moments that were meat and drink to Chayefsky. His characters were resolutely mundane. No small part of his success on early TV stemmed from the fact that much of his audience could identify with them, saw themselves and pieces of their lives in his realistically detailed dramas. Middle of the Night was the one that should have flopped, largely because it took a great actor – Fredric March – and miscast him as a lonely but still vigorous 56-year-old widower and NYC garment center lifer not yet ready to call it quits.

The word "distinguished" almost automatically follows mention of March's name, although one of his strengths was that, while sometimes stagy, he was never showy. He moved easily between Broadway and Hollywood, sometimes alongside his actress wife, Florence Eldridge, won Oscars® for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Kudos for Death of a Salesman (1951) lay behind him and praise forInherit the Wind (1960) ahead. First offered the stage role by Arthur Miller, his neighbor in Connecticut, March turned it down – it went to Lee J. Cobb – but didn't make the same mistake twice when it was filmed. Yet more than Willy Loman was in Salesman, Jerry Kingsley is specifically Jewish, and March, inescapably, was not. In an ethnicity-blurring Hollywood copout typical of the period, the film de-emphasized Jerry's Jewishness.

Against the odds, though, March makes it work and is touching as Kingsley. Also overcoming odds, and flying in the face of the preponderance of reviews denigrating her acting abilities, is Kim Novak, as the 24-year-old receptionist, Betty, in Jerry's busy frock factory (showroom in front, pattern-making and cutting tables in back) off Seventh Avenue. He falls for her, for the promise of continued vitality and love he hopes he's not kidding himself about seeing in her. She, coming out of a bad marriage to a musician her own age, finds his maturity, decency, emotional solidity and, yes, bank balance, reassuring, while not untouched by his obvious passion for her. As everyone connected to them wrings their hands and expresses misgivings, the question is whether they can make a May-December match-up work. In a sense the film, too, is about beating the odds.

And finding the courage to risk. Jerry and Betty have misgivings, too. One of the reasons Middle of the Night works so well is Mann's way, having learned from TV's tight framing, of letting faces tell the story. He finds ways to let March's weathered but strong visage say as much with introspective facial expressions as Chayefsky's script does with words. Chayefsky had such an ear for the vernacular music of New York that he was sometimes seduced by his own siren songs, sometimes let the speeches run too long. Here his capacity for discipline is more evident. Lines are more honed. The characters speak in italicized ways. Their pronouncements come close to captions, beacons leading us through the story.

But we do begin to slowly believe that we're watching love trying to find the courage to take shape in the old man and the young woman by their reaction shots to what they realize they're beginning to feel. March does a lot by fixing his gaze on a future that lies beyond what's happening in the here and now of the frame. He rejects his married daughter's attempt to play matchmaker with a string of widows genteelly on the make. He just fixes his eyes beyond them, his gaze saying all that needs to be said about looking past the boundaries of the future being served up to him. When March speaks such lines as "I'm 56 years old, my life is coming to an end, everybody's in the hospital or retired," or "I'm 56 years old, I come home, I'm tired, I want to go to bed," they seem almost redundant. March has located Jerry's psychic and emotional world and ushered us into it.

Apart from what by today's terms seems anachronistic in a 56-year-old man buying into his world's assessment of him as ancient, March persuades us that one of the things Jerry's gaze is fixed on as he stares into the distance, is death. He's as unsmiling as he is, this still-vital man, because he sees the rest of his life as brief and bleak. In his business partnership with Albert Dekker's Lockman, we gather that the extroverted, blustery Lockman is the outside man and that Jerry is the inside man, keeping the place going while the other partner goes out and schmoozes the world. Lockman works hard, in a crude, blowhard way, to sustain the image of himself as a ladies' man with a string of what he refers to as "tootsies." Still, there's something in the spectacle of Lockman grabbing at life that gets to Jerry.

Time and again, it's March's (and Novak's, and Mann's) ability to make us feel the story taking place in an inner landscape of fears being grappled with that gives Middle of the Night its potency. Not that the outside world is neglected. All that needs to be said about the respective worlds each is coming from is made emblematic by Novak's shabby flat in a brownstone next door to a Bodega Latina. It contrasts with March's comfortable Central Park West apartment, with its chintz-covered sofa, its mahogany end tables and that epitome of mid-century Manhattan moderne, the sunburst clock above the mantel. Blocks apart geographically, a world apart economically and socially.

Not that Novak's Betty needs a class divide to push the buttons on her insecurities. Ever since Columbia's Harry Cohn launched her, critics repeatedly wrote that Novak's looks far outstripped her acting abilities. In role after role, she seemed tentative, in over her head. But in Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock realized that the uncertainty she radiated would be a tremendous asset in the character of a woman being remade to fit male fantasies projected onto her by Hitchcock and his surrogate in the film, Jimmy Stewart. Mann saw it, too. Novak's Betty is touching because she convinces us she's vulnerable, an insecure woman who doesn't know what she wants, much less how to get it.

Jerry's fears, his jealousy of every young man who comes into Betty's vision, potentially displacing him, are countered by Betty's low self-esteem. At one point, Chayefsky has Betty tell Jerry: "If you weren't such a decent man, you'd probably make out better with me." Her ex, who isn't such a decent man, despite a surprisingly ingratiating, cliché-avoiding performance by Lee Philips, reappears and pushes her into a one-nighter. It's enough to jolt the fragile Jerry-Betty join. As they agonize, apart and together on a park bench, Chayefsky makes each honest enough to acknowledge that a break-up would also carry with it a certain relief, an exchange of exposure and emotional risk for a scuttling back to safe, loveless harbors.

Chayefsky's script ups the ante by surrounding each with nay-sayers. In Jerry's case, it's his possessive sister (Edith Meiser) and even more possessive married daughter (Joan Copeland), whose alarm over Jerry falling for a younger woman is countered by a punchy worm-turns speech from her hitherto conciliatory husband, delivered in perfect emotional pitch by a young Martin Balsam. Betty, meanwhile, is undermined by her crass mother and sister (Glenda Farrell, Jan Norris). Both try to push her back to her ex, to a marriage in which Betty tells Jerry she felt she was marching into a gas chamber every night at 11. The supporting roles, as was so often the case, are nothing but plusses. Balsam, Philips and two other actors (Betty Walker, Effie Afton) came from the successful Broadway stage version of 1956, starring Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. It followed the 1954 TV original with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint.

But you don't watch Middle of the Night for anything but the main event, the involving struggle of two people against their fears, insecurities, backslidings and all the other roadblocks between them and going for it, the "it," of course, being love, as it always would be beneath the gruff, punchy chat from the long-simmering typewriter of that old romantic, Chayefsky.

Producer: George Justin
Director: Delbert Mann
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky (screenplay and play)
Cinematography: Joseph C. Brun
Art Direction: Edward S. Haworth
Music: George Bassman, Joseph Harnell (uncredited)
Film Editing: Carl Lerner
Cast: Fredric March (Jerry Kingsley), Kim Novak (Betty Preisser), Glenda Farrell (Mrs. Mueller), Albert Dekker (Walter Lockman), Martin Balsam (Jack), Lee Grant (Marilyn), Lee Philips (George Preisser), Edith Meiser (Evelyn Kingsley), Joan Copeland (Lillian), Betty Walker (Rosalind Neiman), Lou Gilbert (Sherman), Rudy Bond (Gould).
BW-117m. Letterboxed.

by Jay Carr

REFERENCES:
IMDb
The Films of Fredric March, by Lawrence J. Quirk, The Citadel Press
A World on Film: Criticism and Comment, by Stanley Kauffmann, Harper & Row
Middle Of The Night

Middle of the Night

Before it irrevocably went the Vast Wasteland route, while it was still discovering what it could be, while it still faced America with hope and aspiration, TV was filling pop and middlebrow culture with refreshing new energies. Hollywood sensed them and lost little time glomming onto them. TV was the launching pad for the likes of Sidney Lumet, John Frankenheimer and especially the writing-directing team of Paddy Chayefsky and Delbert Mann. In Marty (1955), The Bachelor Party (1956) and Middle of the Night (1959), they triangulated what was soon, and ever afterward, to be recalled with a mix of ruefulness and nostalgia as TV's Golden Age. With its intimate scale, TV was made for the small naturalistic moments that were meat and drink to Chayefsky. His characters were resolutely mundane. No small part of his success on early TV stemmed from the fact that much of his audience could identify with them, saw themselves and pieces of their lives in his realistically detailed dramas. Middle of the Night was the one that should have flopped, largely because it took a great actor – Fredric March – and miscast him as a lonely but still vigorous 56-year-old widower and NYC garment center lifer not yet ready to call it quits. The word "distinguished" almost automatically follows mention of March's name, although one of his strengths was that, while sometimes stagy, he was never showy. He moved easily between Broadway and Hollywood, sometimes alongside his actress wife, Florence Eldridge, won Oscars® for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Kudos for Death of a Salesman (1951) lay behind him and praise forInherit the Wind (1960) ahead. First offered the stage role by Arthur Miller, his neighbor in Connecticut, March turned it down – it went to Lee J. Cobb – but didn't make the same mistake twice when it was filmed. Yet more than Willy Loman was in Salesman, Jerry Kingsley is specifically Jewish, and March, inescapably, was not. In an ethnicity-blurring Hollywood copout typical of the period, the film de-emphasized Jerry's Jewishness. Against the odds, though, March makes it work and is touching as Kingsley. Also overcoming odds, and flying in the face of the preponderance of reviews denigrating her acting abilities, is Kim Novak, as the 24-year-old receptionist, Betty, in Jerry's busy frock factory (showroom in front, pattern-making and cutting tables in back) off Seventh Avenue. He falls for her, for the promise of continued vitality and love he hopes he's not kidding himself about seeing in her. She, coming out of a bad marriage to a musician her own age, finds his maturity, decency, emotional solidity and, yes, bank balance, reassuring, while not untouched by his obvious passion for her. As everyone connected to them wrings their hands and expresses misgivings, the question is whether they can make a May-December match-up work. In a sense the film, too, is about beating the odds. And finding the courage to risk. Jerry and Betty have misgivings, too. One of the reasons Middle of the Night works so well is Mann's way, having learned from TV's tight framing, of letting faces tell the story. He finds ways to let March's weathered but strong visage say as much with introspective facial expressions as Chayefsky's script does with words. Chayefsky had such an ear for the vernacular music of New York that he was sometimes seduced by his own siren songs, sometimes let the speeches run too long. Here his capacity for discipline is more evident. Lines are more honed. The characters speak in italicized ways. Their pronouncements come close to captions, beacons leading us through the story. But we do begin to slowly believe that we're watching love trying to find the courage to take shape in the old man and the young woman by their reaction shots to what they realize they're beginning to feel. March does a lot by fixing his gaze on a future that lies beyond what's happening in the here and now of the frame. He rejects his married daughter's attempt to play matchmaker with a string of widows genteelly on the make. He just fixes his eyes beyond them, his gaze saying all that needs to be said about looking past the boundaries of the future being served up to him. When March speaks such lines as "I'm 56 years old, my life is coming to an end, everybody's in the hospital or retired," or "I'm 56 years old, I come home, I'm tired, I want to go to bed," they seem almost redundant. March has located Jerry's psychic and emotional world and ushered us into it. Apart from what by today's terms seems anachronistic in a 56-year-old man buying into his world's assessment of him as ancient, March persuades us that one of the things Jerry's gaze is fixed on as he stares into the distance, is death. He's as unsmiling as he is, this still-vital man, because he sees the rest of his life as brief and bleak. In his business partnership with Albert Dekker's Lockman, we gather that the extroverted, blustery Lockman is the outside man and that Jerry is the inside man, keeping the place going while the other partner goes out and schmoozes the world. Lockman works hard, in a crude, blowhard way, to sustain the image of himself as a ladies' man with a string of what he refers to as "tootsies." Still, there's something in the spectacle of Lockman grabbing at life that gets to Jerry. Time and again, it's March's (and Novak's, and Mann's) ability to make us feel the story taking place in an inner landscape of fears being grappled with that gives Middle of the Night its potency. Not that the outside world is neglected. All that needs to be said about the respective worlds each is coming from is made emblematic by Novak's shabby flat in a brownstone next door to a Bodega Latina. It contrasts with March's comfortable Central Park West apartment, with its chintz-covered sofa, its mahogany end tables and that epitome of mid-century Manhattan moderne, the sunburst clock above the mantel. Blocks apart geographically, a world apart economically and socially. Not that Novak's Betty needs a class divide to push the buttons on her insecurities. Ever since Columbia's Harry Cohn launched her, critics repeatedly wrote that Novak's looks far outstripped her acting abilities. In role after role, she seemed tentative, in over her head. But in Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock realized that the uncertainty she radiated would be a tremendous asset in the character of a woman being remade to fit male fantasies projected onto her by Hitchcock and his surrogate in the film, Jimmy Stewart. Mann saw it, too. Novak's Betty is touching because she convinces us she's vulnerable, an insecure woman who doesn't know what she wants, much less how to get it. Jerry's fears, his jealousy of every young man who comes into Betty's vision, potentially displacing him, are countered by Betty's low self-esteem. At one point, Chayefsky has Betty tell Jerry: "If you weren't such a decent man, you'd probably make out better with me." Her ex, who isn't such a decent man, despite a surprisingly ingratiating, cliché-avoiding performance by Lee Philips, reappears and pushes her into a one-nighter. It's enough to jolt the fragile Jerry-Betty join. As they agonize, apart and together on a park bench, Chayefsky makes each honest enough to acknowledge that a break-up would also carry with it a certain relief, an exchange of exposure and emotional risk for a scuttling back to safe, loveless harbors. Chayefsky's script ups the ante by surrounding each with nay-sayers. In Jerry's case, it's his possessive sister (Edith Meiser) and even more possessive married daughter (Joan Copeland), whose alarm over Jerry falling for a younger woman is countered by a punchy worm-turns speech from her hitherto conciliatory husband, delivered in perfect emotional pitch by a young Martin Balsam. Betty, meanwhile, is undermined by her crass mother and sister (Glenda Farrell, Jan Norris). Both try to push her back to her ex, to a marriage in which Betty tells Jerry she felt she was marching into a gas chamber every night at 11. The supporting roles, as was so often the case, are nothing but plusses. Balsam, Philips and two other actors (Betty Walker, Effie Afton) came from the successful Broadway stage version of 1956, starring Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. It followed the 1954 TV original with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint. But you don't watch Middle of the Night for anything but the main event, the involving struggle of two people against their fears, insecurities, backslidings and all the other roadblocks between them and going for it, the "it," of course, being love, as it always would be beneath the gruff, punchy chat from the long-simmering typewriter of that old romantic, Chayefsky. Producer: George Justin Director: Delbert Mann Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky (screenplay and play) Cinematography: Joseph C. Brun Art Direction: Edward S. Haworth Music: George Bassman, Joseph Harnell (uncredited) Film Editing: Carl Lerner Cast: Fredric March (Jerry Kingsley), Kim Novak (Betty Preisser), Glenda Farrell (Mrs. Mueller), Albert Dekker (Walter Lockman), Martin Balsam (Jack), Lee Grant (Marilyn), Lee Philips (George Preisser), Edith Meiser (Evelyn Kingsley), Joan Copeland (Lillian), Betty Walker (Rosalind Neiman), Lou Gilbert (Sherman), Rudy Bond (Gould). BW-117m. Letterboxed. by Jay Carr REFERENCES: IMDb The Films of Fredric March, by Lawrence J. Quirk, The Citadel Press A World on Film: Criticism and Comment, by Stanley Kauffmann, Harper & Row

The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD


Sony remasters its top Kim Novak gems for this nicely appointed disc set, a collection graced with the presence of the legendary actress herself. This is indeed a unique occasion, as the wisely privacy-minded Ms. Novak has made very few personal appearances since retiring from the screen. We've known her only through her glamorous film roles and not through a publicity smokescreen or a history of self-promotion. The result is that the captivating star of great pictures like Vertigo still retains the power to fire our imaginations. A potent 1950s sex symbol, Novak is a class act all the way.

The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell).

The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future.

Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful.

It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another.

Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective.

The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here.

Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role.

Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl.

This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department.

The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals.

The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged.

1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them.

Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes.

Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil.

In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket.

1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance?

Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf.

Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films.

Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass.

On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'!

The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes.

Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward.

For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD

Sony remasters its top Kim Novak gems for this nicely appointed disc set, a collection graced with the presence of the legendary actress herself. This is indeed a unique occasion, as the wisely privacy-minded Ms. Novak has made very few personal appearances since retiring from the screen. We've known her only through her glamorous film roles and not through a publicity smokescreen or a history of self-promotion. The result is that the captivating star of great pictures like Vertigo still retains the power to fire our imaginations. A potent 1950s sex symbol, Novak is a class act all the way. The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell). The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future. Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful. It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another. Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective. The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here. Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role. Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl. This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department. The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals. The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged. 1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them. Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes. Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil. In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket. 1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance? Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf. Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films. Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass. On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'! The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes. Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward. For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening and closing onscreen cast credits differ in order. In the onscreen credits, all the character names are rendered only in lowercase letters. Although the film's credits state that Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay was based on his play presented on Broadway, Chayefsky's play was originally performed as a one-hour NBC television drama on the Philco Television Playhouse on September 19, 1954. The teleplay was directed by Delbert Mann and starred Eva Marie Saint and E. G. Marshall. According to February 1956 Variety news items, Warner Bros., M-G-M, Twentieth Century-Fox and Hall Wallis Productions all bid on the film rights to Chayefsky's new Broadway play. The Variety review commented that Chayefsky's screenplay "delete[d] or at least [made] uncertain the fact that some of his characters are Jewish."
       A March 1956 Daily Variety news item added that when Columbia bought the rights, the studio intended the film to star either Spencer Tracy, Ernest Borgnine or James Cagney. A March 1957 Daily Variety news item noted that Milton Perlman was initially to produce the film. According to a November 1958 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter, Jean Simmons was considered for the role of "Betty."
       Publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library note that the lodge scene was shot at the Campfire Club near Ossining, New York, with interiors filmed at the Gold Medal Studios, Bronx, New York. Publicity materials add that Lionel Kaplan, the film's technical advisor, was a partner in the Kaplan Bros. garment firm in New York. Betty Walker and Martin Balsam reprised their Broadway roles of "The widow" and "Jack." Effie Afton and Lee Philips also appeared in the Broadway production. Middle of the Night was the official U.S. entry at the Cannes Film Festival and was also named as one of the best pictures of the year by the National Board of Review.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Released in United States 1995

Shown at the Museum of Modern Art (Screen Plays: From Broadway to Hollywood, 1920-1966) in New York City on October 7 and October 9, 1995.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Released in United States 1995 (Shown at the Museum of Modern Art (Screen Plays: From Broadway to Hollywood, 1920-1966) in New York City on October 7 and October 9, 1995.)

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1959 National Board of Review.