“Midnight Court” on TCM

Midnight Court is going to air on Turner Classic Movies on Tuesday, April 19th at 8:45am PST

 

The last time I recall Midnight Court airing on TCM was the fall of 1997, which is also the last (and possibly only) time I am aware TCM did a tribute to Ann Dvorak by showing a bunch of her movies. I really don’t remember much about Midnight Court, and have no clue what the plot is. I’m pretty sure John Litel is a lawyer, and Ann is a court reporter and possibly his ex-wife. I vaguely recall many courtroom scenes with Ann having nothing to do but feign an interest in what’s taking place around her. Overall, I remember being disappointed by Ann being handed yet another mediocre roll by Warner Bros.

There is one thing exceptionally memorable about Midnight Court. Ann Dvorak gets to wear the most fabulously hideous costume of her career. She shows up for a party wearing what appears to be a dress covered gold lame fish scales. The dress is impressively unflattering on Ann’s normally fashion-friendly figure and, shockingly, the matching cape does not improve the overall presentation. Topping off this glorious monstrosity is a Juliet cap, which had become a minor fashion rage that year after Norma Shearer donned the headgear in Romeo and Juliet. While Norma. may have pulled it off, Ann doesn’t fare as well. It’s been over thirteen years since I first watched Midnight Court with my friend Darin, but I can still remember the moment Ann walked onscreen in the Fish Dress and we both gasped in horror and then convulsed in laughter. At the time, I had yet to purchase any Dvorak memorabilia and Darin took me to the Hollywood Poster Exchange which used to be located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega in West Hollywood. Imagine my glee when the owner of the shop, Bob Colman, brought out a folder full of Midnight Court photos including a couple of Ann in the Fish Dress. I’ve been collecting on her ever since.

My understanding is that the Warner Bros costume department is fairly intact and I can only hope against hope that the Fish Dress is still there in all its gold lame glory. I recently took a tour of the lot with my friend Kenton, a WB employee. Alas, he doesn’t have a connection in the costume department, and neither did anyone else I encountered and asked, and believe me, I asked anyone who would make eye contact with me. Someday, the gods will smile down and I will be able to behold the Fish Dress in living color.

Midnight Court was the second to last film Ann made at Warner Bros during her contract. It was the first film she had made for them in over a year, following an illness, suspension, and lawsuit against the studio. By the time she was filming this one, Ann was really done with Warner Bros and vice versa.

I’m not sure if you’ll enjoy Midnight Court, but you can’t help but enjoy the Fish Dress.

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