Cast & Crew
Abigail Trent Budell, a wealthy resident of Philadelphia and a generous patron of the arts, hopes to launch the singing career of her young granddaughter Prudence by introducing her to friend and noted musical conductor José Iturbi. Jose auditions Prudence for an upcoming opera and compliments her singing voice, but when he criticizes her style, she angrily storms out of the house. Abigail, whose own mother denied her the opportunity to sing professionally when she was young, is determined to help Prudence realize her dreams. To do so, Abigail finances the construction of an opera house in Philadelphia, and hires Jose to direct the new company. While Abigail begins a radio campaign to publicize the new concert hall, Jose casts Prudence in the company's first opera, opposite tenor Signor Guido Russino Betelli. During rehearsals, Jose realizes that Prudence has trouble looking directly at Betelli when she is singing to him, and tries to solve the problem through coaching. The coaching proves ineffective, however, as Prudence rejects Jose's instructions and complains that Betelli is too fat to look at. A short time later, Prudence meets Johnny Donnetti, a handsome former New York opera star who left the stage to become a truck driver for Artie Geoffrey Glenson's trucking company. While a romance blossoms between Johnny and Prudence, Jose discovers Johnny's singing abilities and introduces him at one of the concerts. After winning a standing ovation from the audience, Johnny is invited to join the company and sing with Prudence and Betelli. Complications soon arise, however, when Betelli objects to the presence of another tenor in the program and tears up his contract. Betelli's departure pleases most of the company, especially Prudence, who immediately asks Jose to replace Betelli with Johnny. Jose grants her request, but Prudence's hope of a continuing romance with Johnny is soon dashed when she discovers that Johnny intends to marry his former sweetheart Mary. Unaware that Johnny is not in love with Mary and that his marriage proposal was a result of a misunderstanding, Prudence grows increasingly despondent and her performance begins to suffer. Confusion ensues when Johnny quits the opera mistakenly believing that Abigail hired him to marry Prudence. Desperate to fill Johnny's role, Jose recalls Betelli, but is disappointed to find that Prudence is still unable to look at him when she sings. Things look bad for the opera until Mary overhears Johnny tell Jose that he does not love his fiancée, and he breaks off the engagement. The success of the opera is ensured only moments before its opening, when Betelli is tricked into quitting, and Johnny agrees to go on in his place. Prudence is delighted to see Johnny back, and the two celebrate their reunion with a kiss.
J. Carrol Naish
Jerry Lascoe Jr.
Patty Kate Johnston
Edoardo Di Capua
Gene De Paul
A. Lindsley Lane
Francesco Maria Piave
Gioacchino Antonio Rossini
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Edwin B. Willis
That Midnight Kiss
Lanza had grown up listening to Enrico Caruso's operatic recordings. He was studying voice when World War II broke out, and he kept singing as a member of the all-military ensemble touring the nation in Winged Victory. When the show hit Los Angeles, actress Irene Manning spotted him and recommended him for a contract at Warner Bros., but studio head Jack Warner couldn't see past Lanza's 250 pound weight and passed on the tenor. Instead, he made his movie debut as an unbilled chorus member in the Winged Victory 1944 film adaptation. After the war, Lanza landed a recording contract and a wife, children and a new exercise/diet routine soon followed. The latter helped him catch MGM head Louis B. Mayer's eye at a Hollywood Bowl concert. Mayer signed him to a $750 a week contract and set out to find the right vehicle for his screen debut.
There was never any choice as to who would produce Lanza's films. Joseph Pasternak had come to MGM in 1942 after a string of hits with child soprano Deanna Durbin. Initially he was brought on to help develop MGM's own junior-league soprano, Kathryn Grayson. At her urging, he used their films together to popularize the classics. Although he never hit the artistic heights of MGM's top musical producer, Arthur Freed, Pasternak created a pastiche style that was immensely popular, mixing lighter and more recognizable classical numbers with popular music, including guest appearances by the era's top big bands, radio stars and recording artists.
For Lanza's screen debut, Pasternak created a romanticized version of the singer's own early career. Grayson plays an aspiring singer who discovers the musical truck driver, falls for him and gets him a job with the opera company funded by her grandmother (Ethel Barrymore). When the company's star tenor walks out in a huff, it's little surprise that Lanza is the only one who can take his place and scores a triumph singing opposite the woman he loves. The paper-thin plot provided an excuse for a collection of classical favorites, including arias from Rigoletto, Cavelleria Rusticana, Aida and L'Elisir D'Amore. For those who weren't interested in classical singing, the film also marked the last MGM outing for classical pianist Jose Iturbi, who plays himself as the opera company's conductor and takes time out to solo on Liszt's Piano Concerto and join his sister Amparo for Chopin's Revolutionary Etude.
Adding to the film's cultural appeal was Barrymore's presence as Grayson's grandmother. Mayer had signed the stage legend a year earlier, hoping that her presence would lend prestige to the studio's films. He even featured her prominently at the studio's many charity events. That Midnight Kiss was only her second film under contract. After playing a Russian countess in the period drama The Great Sinner (1949), she finally got the full MGM glamour treatment, complete with lacquered hair, a Helen Rose wardrobe and glorious Technicolor. The role even bore a passing resemblance to her own life. Just as her character had dreamed of being an opera singer in her youth, Barrymore had originally hoped to become a concert pianist before being drawn into the family business. Ironically, she had shot to stardom in the 1901 Broadway production of Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, playing an opera singer.
That Midnight Kiss and Lanza scored a huge hit with audiences. The studio rewarded him with a $10,000 bonus and more tailor-made vehicles, all of them produced by Pasternak. He rewarded them with temperamental outbursts, weight problems and continued box office success. Although his career was cut short by his early death, he did more than any other singer to popularize opera. His recordings continue to be in demand, with more than 50 million records sold to date.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Bruce Manning, Tamara Hovey.
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Preston Ames
Music: Charles Previn
Cast: Kathryn Grayson (Prudence Budell), Jose Iturbi (Himself), Ethel Barrymore (Abigail Budell), Mario Lanza (Johnny Donnetti), Keenan Wynn (Artie Glenson), J. Carrol Naish (Papa Donnetti), Jules Munshin (Michael Pemberton), Thomas Gomez (Guido Bertelli), Marjorie Reynolds (Mary), Arthur Treacher (Hutchins), Amparo Iturbi (Herself).
C-98m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
That Midnight Kiss
The film's world premiere was held in Philadelphia, PA to honor Philadelphia native Mario Lanza (1921-1959), who made his motion picture debut in That Midnight Kiss. Lanza, who had appeared on the concert stage both prior to and after his service in the armed forces during World War II, made several popular musical films for M-G-M during the early 1950s. His recordings of operatic and popular music selections were also very successful. His best-known role was that of Enrico Caruso in the 1951 M-G-M film The Great Caruso. According to biographical sources, Lanza's career was damaged by a chronic weight problem as well as alcoholism. In 1959, while in Rome, Italy, Lanza suffered a heart attack and died at age thirty-eight. According to M-G-M publicity material, Patty Kate Johnston, the infant who appeared in That Midnight Kiss with Kathryn Grayson in a park sequence, was Grayson's newborn daughter.