Rating: *** Threat: The doomsday trumpet
Warner Brothers. Written by Sam Hellman & James V. Kern based on an idea by Aubrey Wisberg; Photographed by Sid Hickox; Special effects by Lawrence Butler; Edited by Irene Morra; Music by Franz Waxman; Produced by Mark Hellinger; Directed by Raoul Walsh. B & W, 78 minutes.
Jack Benny (Athanael, angel assigned to blow the doomsday trumpet); Alexis Smith (Elizabeth, his celestial girlfriend); Reginald Gardiner (Archie Dexter, suave jewel thief); Dolores Moran (Fran Blackstone, Dexter's accomplice); Allyn Joslyn (Osidro, fallen angel); John Alexander (Doremus, fallen angel); Guy Kibbee (head of the Department of Small Planet Management); Franklin Pangborn (Sloan, hotel detective); Margaret Dumont (Miss Rodholler, wealthy woman at Cliffside Park); John Brown (Lew Pulplinsky, waiter who takes Athanael's trumpet); Bobby Blake (Junior Pulplinsky, his son); Ethel Griffies (Lady Stover, wealthy hotel guest); Paul Harvey (hotel manager); Mike Mazurki (Humphrey, thug working for Archie); Truman Bradley (radio announcer for Paradise Coffee); Murray Alper (Tony, bellboy); Oliver Blake (photographer in heaven); James Burke (policeman); Jack Norton (drunk); Patrick O'Moore (hotel clerk); Richard Lane (bridge expert); Francis Pierlot (Mecurius, heavenly personnel manager); Monte Blue (restaurant cook); Earl Hodgins (barker at Cliffside Park); Sidney Miller (horn player in Tom-Cats band); Edward Mortimer (hotel guest); Dudley Dickerson (hotel employee).
For over twenty years, Jack Benny had a running gag on his television and radio programs about this film, his last starring role in feature films. He would recall it with a wistful smile, which would set up Eddie Anderson (Rochester), Fred Alien or another guest star to deliver a hilarious crack ridiculing the picture. Posters for the film would appear in Benny's closet, and for his best dinnerware he would use leftover doorprizes promoting the film. Benny got hundreds of laughs making fun of the picture, but in fact it is a fairly amusing, offbeat comedy, and quite out of the ordinary, a far cry from what one would expect from only hearing of the film in Benny's clever jokes.
Like The Wizard of Oz (1939) and many other fantasies, The Horn Blows at Midnight has a short wraparound segment that casts most of the picture as a dream. Jack Benny is cast as a musician who plays third trumpet in a radio orchestra. He has been awake all night learning a new composition, and as the Paradise Coffee Program begins, Jack is lulled into sleep by the soothing tones