Lady at Midnight (1948)

US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Richard Sale Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Richard Denning, Frances Rafferty, Lora Lee Michel, Ralph Dunn, Nana Bryant, Jack Searle, Harlan Warde, Claudia Drake, Ben Welden, Sid Melton, Pierre Watkin, William Gould, Rodney Bell.

One night Ellen Eve Wiggins née McPhail (Rafferty) is woken by a neighbor’s dog barking, then hears footsteps in the hall; after some effort she persuades radio newscaster husband Peter (Denning) that they should go check their insufferably cute infant adopted daughter Bettina “Tina” (Michel). Tina tells them she was visited by a sad-looking lady who talked about the fact of Tina’s adoption. The parents think Tina just had a dream.

Next day they’re called to see John Featherstone (Watkin) of the adoption agency, who informs them he suspects the legality of the adoption may be challenged on the grounds that Ellen could possible have been underage when the documents were signed.

After Pete and Ellen discover the mysterious midnight visitor was oil heiress Amanda “Mandy” Forsythe, found murdered the next morning, Pete hires PI Al Garrity (Dunn), an addict of horserace betting, to help sort things out. It proves Tina’s mother was not showgirl Carolyn Sugar (Drake), as stated on the adoption papers, but the murdered Amanda, who changed her will a few days before her death to make Tina her sole beneficiary. It seems the chief architect of the fraudulent attempt to have Tina’s adoption annulled is Amanda’s punk brother Freddy (Searle) . . . except he, though he hardly realizes it, is really the puppet of the shared Wiggins and Forsythe family lawyer Ross Atherton (Warde).

Lady at Midnight 1948 The cops question Peter (Richare Denning) and Ellen Wiggins (Frances Rafferty)

The cops question Peter (Richare Denning) and Ellen Wiggins (Frances Rafferty).

Despite the potentially cloying scenes where moppet Tina and wrinkled Al declare undying love for each other, this is a surprisingly entertaining movie. One oddity is that the adult Wigginses seem prepared to leave Tina unsupervised for considerable periods of time—periods during which she indulges her passion for baking cookies in the family’s gas stove; one can’t help feeling that, if Freddy failed to negate the adoption on his original premise, he might more successfully pursue a charge along the lines of reckless neglect.

Some of the dialogue is underinspired:

Ellen: Is something wrong?
Al: Let’s say something isn’t right.

On Lady At Midnight

2 thoughts on “Lady at Midnight (1948)

  1. I was surprised that it wasn’t horrible. I kept an open mind and actually felt a little anxious for the parents who kept vital documents as carefully as I do. I even appreciated the ‘Relax! The gun was empty’ attitude. However, it was at the point when Miss Sugar took the fatal bullet in the taxi ride, followed by instructions from our lead guy to the wise-cracking taxi driver to ‘take her to the morgue’ that I realized there was no pulling out of this nose-dive. I shifted my perspective somewhat and viewed the remaining 10 minutes with amusement. It was the best part of the whole movie and totally made my day when our lead guy and the villain threw down some vigorous blows, body slams and finally the the death-roll, that I heard one of the two say “go that way”. Awesome!!

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