Middle of the Night
Film poster
Directed byDelbert Mann
Written byPaddy Chayefsky
Produced byGeorge Justin
StarringFredric March
Kim Novak
CinematographyJoseph C. Brun
Edited byCarl Lerner
Music byGeorge Bassman
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 17, 1959 (1959-06-17)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]
Box office$1.5 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]
Kim Novak and Fredric March

Middle of the Night is a 1959 American drama film directed by Delbert Mann, and released by Columbia Pictures.[3][4] It was entered into the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.[5] It stars Fredric March and Kim Novak. The screenplay was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky from his Broadway play of the same name.


A 24-year-old divorcee, Betty Preisser, a receptionist for a clothing manufacturer, takes some office work home which her boss, widower Jerry Kingsley, a man of 56, drops by to pick up. Professional rather than personal acquaintances, Betty tells Jerry of her loveless marriage to George, a musician. Jerry has a married daughter, Lillian, about her age, and a spinster sister, Evelyn, who is very protective of him.

Jerry works up the nerve to invite Betty to dinner. He meets Betty's mother, Mrs. Mueller, and sister Alice, who share the apartment with Betty. Their relationship grows, but she professes to be reluctant to date her employer. Jerry wonders if their age difference is really behind this reluctance. Despite this, a May–December relationship between them develops.

Female family members of both of them strongly disapprove. Mrs. Mueller calls him a "dirty old man," while Jerry's sister calls Betty a "fortune hunter" and him a fool, although Lillian's husband Jack offers his congratulations, earning scorn from his wife and causing them to quarrel. A colleague, Walter Lockman, trapped in a long and unhappy marriage, urges Jerry to do whatever it takes to find true happiness.

George returns to town and tries to persuade Betty to return to him. In a moment of weakness, they have a romantic tryst. Betty regrets it and explains to Jerry that it meant nothing to her emotionally, but he feels humiliated. His sister observes how depressed Jerry has become when he returns home. At his lowest ebb, he learns that Walter has taken an overdose of pills in a likely suicide attempt. Jerry sees it as a sign to seize the joy in life while he still can. He returns to Betty.


TV play

The story originally appeared as an episode of The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse on September 19, 1954, also directed by Delbert Mann and with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint in the lead roles.[6]

Stage play

Chayefsky adapted it into a stage play. It was directed by Joshua Logan, who was so impressed by Chayefsky's writing he agreed to direct when only the first two acts were written. The leads were played by Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. The play was successful and ran for over a year. Logan thought the film version was poor with miscast leads and too much of a "guy play" and felt Chayefsky had too much power.[7]


Frank Thompson designed the costumes for the film.[8] Future Oscar winners Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns, 1965) and Lee Grant (Shampoo, 1975) also star in this film, which was mildly controversial in its day. It was originally a stage play starring Edward G. Robinson. Some of the stage cast were in the film.


Bosley Crowther, in a mixed but approving review for The New York Times, said that the film "fitly" brings Chayefsky's play to the screen, but found it bleaker than the play, which had touches of ethnic humor that the film does not:

The characters are more intense and driven by their lonely and neurotic moods [than are those in the play]. They fumble and paw at each other in a more avid and frenzied way, and their squabbles and indecisions are more violent and sweaty with pain. Mr. Chayefsky and Delbert Mann, the director, have worked for the taut, dramatic thing. They haven't wasted much time on humor. This is loneliness, boy, and it is grim. But something that was quite attractive on the stage is not in the film. That is the humor and the temperament of a particular ethnic group. Mr. March is an excellent actor when it comes to showing joy and distress but he isn't successful at pretending to be a Jewish papa and business man.[9]



  1. ^ "'Middle of the Night' Shoots in East". Variety. December 1958.
  2. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, January 6, 1960 p 34
  3. ^ Variety film review; May 20, 1959, page 6.
  4. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; May 23, 1959, page 82.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Middle of the Night". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved December 6, 2023.
  6. ^ ""The Philco Television Playhouse" Middle of the Night (TV Episode 1954)". IMDb.
  7. ^ Logan, Joshua (1978). Movie stars, real people and me. p. 68-72.
  8. ^ Peter Kihiss (June 7, 1977). "Frank Thompson, Top Designer Of Costumes for Stage and Ballet". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 18, 1959). "Lonely People; 'Middle of the Night' is at Two Theatres". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2022.