Midnight Mary

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Original title Midnight Mary
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1933
length 74 minutes
Director William A. Wellman
script Gene Markey ,
Kathryn Scola ,
Anita Loos
production MGM
music William ax
camera James Van Trees
cut William S. Gray

Midnight Mary is an American crime drama starring Loretta Young and directed by William A. Wellman . The film is a typical example of the lax handling of the censorship regulations before the production code .


The action begins with a major flashback. Mary Martin is waiting for the jury to decide who should find the verdict in her just-ended murder trial. She grew up in an orphanage and was one day falsely accused of theft. The court sent her to a reformatory for three years, where Mary grew up to be a hardened teenager. After their release, Mary and her friend Bunny start working for Leo Darcy, who runs a ring of professional thieves. When Mary realizes how Darcy is taking advantage of her time after time, she tries to escape, but she cannot find a job. Totally desperate and almost starved, Mary goes back to Leo. Within the next two years, she becomes not only Leo's lover, but also his accomplice. Mary and Bunny run an illegal gaming room where one day the distinguished attorney Thomas Mannering Jr becomes aware of Mary. By chance, shortly afterwards he is able to help Mary escape from the police. Although he is aware of Mary's involvement in organized crime, he tries everything to help her. Mary is touched and promises Tom to start a new life. While she and Tom are planning their future, Mary is picked up by the police. In order to protect Tom's good name, Mary claims during the interrogation that she only wanted to talk to Tom in order to rob him later. Mary is sentenced to one year in prison and Tom marries a lady of his class in the meantime. Mary returns to Leo after being released, only to meet Tom shortly afterwards, whose marriage is unhappy. Leo suspects the depth of the feelings between the two and wants to have Tom murdered. After the first attack went wrong, Leo tries the second time himself. Mary then shoots Leo to save Tom. She is charged with murder and the flashback at the beginning of the film ends exactly when the jury announces their verdict. Just as the judge is reading the guilty verdict, Tom storms into the courtroom and demands a new trial. He confesses his love for Mary and the realities of Mary's act. After divorcing his wife, Tom stands ready to take on Mary's defense in the re-trial of her case.


William A. Wellman was best known in the early 1930s through a series of sometimes brutal gangster films such as Safe in Hell and The Public Enemy . In addition, he had made a number of films with female stars such as Night Nurse , So Big and Lilly Turner , which showed the desperation and material hardship that the Great Depression had triggered using the example of the dramatic fate of women.

Midnight Mary was the second collaboration between Wellman and Loretta Young after The Hatchet Man , who would later shoot Heroes for Sale and The Call of the Wild . MGM borrowed star and director in a double pack from Warner Brothers for this production, which was in many ways a typical Wellman film, but in the open portrayal of sex and violence also completely untypical for the films that MGM otherwise distributes brought.

The relationships between the characters are characterized by a sometimes brutal sexuality that sometimes crosses the line into bondage. Human sexuality is portrayed in the film without any romanticism at the level of a commodity and an object of exchange between the sexes.

The attitude in which Mary tries to distract Leo from Tom can serve as an example of the very lax handling of the applicable censorship regulations. The camera shows the face of the actor Ricardo Cortez while Loretta Young alias Mary whispers something in his ear that increasingly arouses him sexually. So while she's talking, he lasciviously begins to suck on her finger. Mary continues whispering, slowly running her wet finger over Cortez's mouth and face. In addition, the film presents an unwanted pregnancy as something everyday and at one of their encounters, Tom and Mary discuss more or less openly the possibility of a sexual relationship between them.

Loretta Young got along very well with William Wellman. In the biography Loretta Young: An Extraordinary Life, she is quoted by the authors Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein as follows:

I felt very secure when I was working with Wellman. There was nothing phony or artificial about him. He was also attractive in every way. He liked to shoot fast, in one take, and his energy went right through him and into the actors. A director is boss for a reason, and Bill was good.
I've always felt very safe working with Wellman. There was nothing artificial or artificial. He was also a very handsome man. He preferred a quick recording technique, all in one take and his vitality carried over to the actors. A director is boss for a reason, and Bill was good.

Web links

Sources and further literature on pre-code films