I only know Richard Barthelmess from “Only Angels Have Wings”  in which he played Rita Hayworth’s husband. It wasn’t an easy role to play and I thought he did very well.

Barthelmess was born in 1895 and was a big star in silent films. He made 75 films from 1916 to 1936, and after that he only made another 6 films up to 1942 when he retired, aged 47. A wealthy man from his long career, he passed away in 1963 – yet another star whom you could wish had done extensive interviews in his later years.

Midnight Alibi (1936) was Richard’s last film under his Warner Brothers contract.
Based on Damon Runyon’s 1933 short story,”The Old Doll’s House”, Richard plays a gangster,’Lance McGowan’ who meets and falls for ‘Joan’( Ann Dvorak ) who just happens to be the kid sister of one of his competitors, ‘Angie the Ox’ (Robert Barrat).


Robert Barrat, Ann Dvorak, Richard Barthelmess

‘Angie’ tries to bump ‘Lance ’ off, but  Lance jumps over the wall of a large old mansion where a rich old lady lives. She thinks Lance looks like her long lost love and there is a longish flashback describing how her fiancé died.
I have to admit I didn’t realise that Barthelmess played the fiancé too!


Helen  Lowell

(That little dog is ‘Asta’). As the reclusive old lady, Helen Lowell’ s character has stopped all the clocks in her house to the time when her fiancé died.


In an ensuing fight. one of Lance’s men ‘Babe the Butcher’ ( Paul Hurst) shoots in self defence , but Lance takes the gun and is arrested  – he is so sure his lawyer will get him off.

But it only when the ‘Old Doll’ testifies that Lance was with her (the ‘Midnight Alibi’) that he is released and reunited with Joan.

A running time of 60 minutes seems about right.

I generally like any film based on a Damon Runyon story and this is no exception. Barthelmess leads a good cast and I wish he had made more films in the 1930s and 40s.

I’m a big fan of Ann Dvorak and wish her role had been bigger. Robert Barrat is always impressive and is very good here as the gum-chewing gambler who is very protective of his sister.

In a small  role is future director Vincent Sherman.

Helen Chandler plays the ‘Old  Doll’ in the flashback.

Vincent Sherman


(Dvorak and Barthelmess.) Presumably an advertising still or cut scene. . It is not  in the film.


4 responses »

  1. He was good in “Cabin In The Cotton” with Bette Davis.
    He was nominated for Best Actor twice in the first ever Academy Awards.

  2. Like you, I think I’ve only seen Barthelmess in “Angels” but I do enjoy a snappy crime yarn from this era. I’ll look out for this one.

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