Classic Film Guide

Midnight Mary (1933) - full review!

Directed by William Wellman, with a screenplay by Gene Markey and Kathryn Scola that was based on a story by Anita Loos, this slightly above average pre-code crime drama features a radiant Loretta Young in the title role, as Mary Martin. While it doesn't exactly sizzle with risqué dialogue, the film does contain some suggestive scenes. The story is told in flashback with Mary, on trial for murder (Frank Conroy plays the District Attorney), awaiting the verdict, remembering her fated life while she sits with a court clerk (Charley Grapewin). Her mother died when she was very young, she'd been seduced by gangster Leo Darcy (Ricardo Cortez) in her teens; unable to find gainful employment and with limited options, she'd become part of the underworld as his moll along with her best friend Bunny ‘Bun’ (Una Merkel), who'd fallen in with Darcy's partner in crime Angelo Ricci (Warren Hymer). Harold Huber and Sandy Roth play Puggy and Blimp, two other members of Darcy's gang. Mary feels guilty for her involvement, and even drops her $50 share of a crime in a Salvation Army ‘plate’.

During a high class robbery, Mary meets the son of a wealthy man, lawyer Thomas Mannering Jr. (Franchot Tone), who helps her escape capture by the police and then, attracted to her, he funds her transition into a working girl and typist within his offices, which includes Sam Travers (Andy Devine) and the lecherous Mr. Tindle (Ivan Simpson). Robert Greig (uncredited) plays Tom's butler, Potter. Once the transition is complete, Mary and Tom begin dating but unfortunately for her, Charlie (Robert Emmett O'Connor), the cop that was injured in the aforementioned robbery recognizes her while the couple is eating Chinese food one evening. Wanting to protect Tom from scandal, Mary convinces Charlie to take her in and leave the wealthy lawyer alone; she then pretends that she'd been conning Tom and playing him for a sucker. When she refuses to rat out Darcy and his gang, Mary has to serve several years in prison for her part in the crime; during this time, Tom marries someone he'd grown up with, the former Barbara Loring (Martha Sleeper).

When Mary has served her sentence, again unable to find work, she rejoins Darcy and his gang. Now in her early twenties, she's treated like a queen with a butler (Halliwell Hobbes) and a maid (Louise Beavers, uncredited). One night, while out on the town, Mary and Darcy et al bump into Tom and a fight between the two ensues. Their scuffle is interrupted by other patrons of the establishment, who separate them. An angry Darcy pursues what he thinks is Tom and his wife, but was really Sam, who is then killed while Mary had gone to Tom's home to warn him. When she returns to Darcy's, Mary tells him she'd been with Bunny. Darcy then learns of his mistake, that Tom is still alive, and begins to leave to finish the job. Mary then seduces him into staying until Angelo arrives and announces that he's a father, that he'd taken Bunny to the hospital the night before to have their baby. Darcy is enraged at Mary that, despite her protestations, she really cares for Tom. He starts to leave again when Mary shoots and kills him, hence the trial. The jury brings in a guilty verdict but, before sentencing, Tom enters and approaches the bench offering new evidence, that he too is guilty and that he loves Mary. She'd refuse to give her motive for killing Darcy to protect Tom and keep secret her love for him. The closing scene has these two lovers, happy to be together again, in a cell awaiting their new trial as one.

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