The best screwball comedy you’ve never heard of

Pauline Kael claimed she never watched a movie more than once — a remarkable bit of restraint. We, on the other hand, can’t stop going back to the Turner Classic library for yet another viewing of The Philadelphia Story. Browsing the DVD offerings from Hollywood’s Golden Age can make one feel like the spoiled kid flipping through a baseball card collection: “Got it, got it . . . ”

Midnight (available on DVD 4/22) is a “need it.” Released in 1939, this screwball gem has all the elements — penniless showgirl arrives in Paris and gets mistaken for a baroness — to make for an instant classic, even now, 70 years after the fact. Claudette Colbert sparkles in the lead, but it’s the men who get all the long-overdue laughs. John Barrymore (rumored to be reading from cue cards) is a bug-eyed wonder when saying nothing at all, and Don Ameche proves there’s life before Cocoon.

With its sharp, fast-paced dialogue, by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, Midnight may just (with apologies to Ms. Kael) require several delightful viewings.

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