Barry Gilbert (Louis Hayward) and Doc Norton (J. C. Nugent) are gamblers that have been having a bad streak. Barry’s happy-go-lucky attitude about life is a contrast to Doc’s Debbie-Downer outlook on it. Having lost the last of their money and still needing to get to Belmont they start hitchhiking. Their last ride dumps them at a fork in the road. The truck is going left and they need to go right. And it’s raining. Barry breaks into a vacation estate to get out of the rain. Helping themselves to dry pajamas and a nighttime snack they settle in.
Suddenly a car pulls up with family servants to open up the house. Willetts (Robert Greig), the family butler is expecting John Clark Reitter Jr. to arrive the next day. Never having met junior he mistakes Barry for the long lost son. None of the other servants have met the black sheep son either. It turns out that the home belongs to newspaper magnate John Clark Reitter Sr. (Paul Everton) and his wife Mrs. Reitter (Nana Bryant) who are on an extended cruise.
Barry smoothly falls into the role of the long lost Reitter Jr. even charming their neighbors Judge Hammond (Selmer Jackson) and his daughter, Patricia (Barbara Read), who at first lumps Junior in with evil Senior. Reitter’s paper has not been nice lumping Judge Hammond in with his sleazy partner Mike Kelly (Guy Usher). All the while Doc keeps expecting police to show up and haul them away any minute.
Things are going well for Barry and Doc for awhile. Doc has even zeroed in on a lively rich and lonely widow named Mrs. Randolph (Jan Duggan). Or she zeroed in on him. I’m not sure which but they both seem amenable to the situation. Everyone is happy until Peggy (Sheila Bromley) shows up claiming to be Mrs. John Clark Reitter Jr. The real John Clark Reitter Jr.
It appears that Judge Hammond’s former partner Mike Kelly was murdered and John Junior has been arrested for the crime. Peggy appeals to Barry and tells him that John is innocent. She promises not to spill the beans on Barry if he helps her get John Junior out of his mess. Barry has become involved in the Reitter family saga and through telegrams has become fond of John Junior’s mother and Patricia and her father. Barry believes that John Junior is innocent but he’s not so sure about Kelly’s former partner Hammond.
“Midnight Intruder” was released in 1938 and was directed by Arthur Lubin. It is an American comedy mystery movie based on the novel “Synthetic Gentleman” by Channing Pollock.
This is a light and breezy film. The characters are likable for the most part. The plot is, of course, impossible but that makes no difference in 1930’s comedies. The murder is basically incidental to the movie. The main theme is mistaken identity but there is an underlying theme of Barry’s humanity spreading to everyone he meets even though he was raised in an orphanage and had few breaks in life. Still his inner Pollyanna is infectious even when it comes to his curmudgeon partner Doc.
Included in the package is light banter between Barry and everybody, a little pulling of the heartstrings and lots of charm.