Tuesday, March 06, 2012

That Midnight Kiss (1949)

I grew up on Mario Lanza records (my dad loved listening to him), but strangely, I've never seen any movies with him. Well, after catching this clip of him singing one of the greatest and most exciting tenor arias of all time, I wanted to see more. You see, very few tenors can actually sing this aria well, and to my great surprise, Mario Lanza is one of them. (This is a short version of the aria, cutting out the best part of it, but what is there is fun.) When Lanza sings straight, he really is good. When he starts scooping up to his notes and getting schmaltzy, well, it's harder for me to listen to.

So, on to That Midnight Kiss, which was Lanza's screen debut. It's light-weight, cheesy but sweet, fluff. It made me smile; it made me roll my eyes. Lanza co-stars with Kathryn Grayson, whose soprano voice is a bit of an acquired taste, and a bit ear-piercing on those super high notes they insist she hit. Plot was slight, but that was just fine. It didn't need plot. Lanza plays a truck-driving opera singer who is overheard by Grayson and given a chance to replace a famous (but obnoxious) tenor in their new opera house. There's minor romantic complications that inexplicably get resolved simply by seeing each other again. Very Hollywood. I have no idea what the title has to do with the movie. And, they spend the whole opera rehearsing Lucia Di Lammermoor only to perform something else (non-operatic) in the finale. Um, okay then. Glad you guys worked so hard on that duet!

Ignoring all that, what made this one fun was the cast. Jose Iturbi (as himself) gets the funniest parts, as does Keenan Wynn and Jules Munshin. Ethel Barrymore is under-used, but always a presence in any movie she's in. The two leads are fine, with Lanza earnest and likeable in his screen debut. There's a few opera arias sung for me to enjoy.

So, not one I'd want to own, but I'm definitely glad I saw it.


  1. Hehe.. Feeling very much like you about Kathryn Grayson's singing voice.. (I really like her though - just those very high tones..)

    I love the supporting cast of this film! (Well.. I am almost always more interested in the supporting characters..) Glad you enjoyed this film! And: Thank you for this very nice and funny review!

    Have a lovely day!

    P.S. Sorry for my lack of comments lately - I am still following with much enthusiasm!

  2. I prefer Grayson when she sings popular songs to opera, but I also like her as an actress. Love her in "Show Boat," in particular. The supporting cast was really outstanding in this movie! They're all such great actors. They really carried the film.

    No worries! I don't comment as nearly often as I'd like on blogs I enjoy. See you around!

  3. Okay, first of all, I see you figured out how to add the "films reviewed" page. Yay!!

    I have never seen a Mario Lanza film either, and I, too, remember my parents having some of his records. I don't remember ever listening to them, but I can picture them in their record collection. (Isn't it amazing the things that stay in long-term memory?)

    I struggle with Kathryn Grayson's voice as well.

    1. Yep, thanks so much for your help on how to set up pages! Didn't know I could do that.

      I just also bought this 5-CD set of Mario Lanza songs/opera, and it's so weird to listen to the songs, because I'll hit certain ones that are SOOOOO familiar because they were on those old records, but I haven't heard them in 30 years. It's like this weird deja-vu feeling. "Drink, Drink, Drink" is one I realize now was a childhood favorite of mine!