Round Midnight
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
Directed byBertrand Tavernier
Screenplay byDavid Rayfiel
Bertrand Tavernier
Colo Tavernier (French language translation)
Based onDance of the Infidels
by Francis Paudras
Produced byIrwin Winkler
CinematographyBruno de Keyzer
Edited byArmand Psenny
Music byHerbie Hancock
Little Bear
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
Running time
133 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$10 million[2]

Round Midnight is a 1986 American musical drama film directed by Bertrand Tavernier and written by Tavernier and David Rayfiel. It stars Dexter Gordon, with a soundtrack by Herbie Hancock. The title comes from Thelonious Monk's 1943 composition 'Round Midnight, which is featured in this film in a Hancock arrangement.

The protagonist jazzman, Dale Turner, is based on a composite of real-life jazz legends Lester Young (tenor sax) and Bud Powell (piano). While the film is fictionalized, it is drawn directly from the memoir/biography Dance of the Infidels written by French author Francis Paudras, who had befriended Powell during his Paris expatriate days and on whom the character Francis was based. [3][4]

Gordon was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won a Grammy for the film's soundtrack entitled The Other Side of Round Midnight in the category for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Soloist. Hancock won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. The soundtrack was released in two parts: Round Midnight and The Other Side of Round Midnight.


In 1950s New York, Dale Turner is an accomplished saxophone player barely getting by playing at local jazz clubs and struggling with substance abuse, particularly of alcohol. After talking with a fellow musician who is currently disabled by illness, Dale decides to try to improve his life by traveling to Paris and making a living playing at Le Blue Note [fr] jazz club until his luck gets better.

Turner arrives in Paris and is befriended by Francis, a struggling French graphic designer specializing in film posters and who lives with his daughter, his marriage having broken up. Francis idolizes the musician and tries desperately to help him escape alcohol abuse. With time, and after Francis allows Turner to move in with him and his daughter, Turner manages to put himself on his own feet again and starts to get by without a reliance on alcohol. He eventually decides it is time to go home to New York to see his old friends and to re-acquaint himself with his own daughter.

Francis accompanies Dale, and the music community in New York is ready to accept the musician back. He writes a song dedicated to his daughter in the hope of strengthening their relationship after much time apart. He invites her to the club to hear its debut, but manages to confuse her true age and tells the audience she has just turned 15; she is actually 14, and she makes note of this to Francis, who is seated next to her in the audience. Later in the week, when Dale tries to further his bond with her by sharing a meal at a local diner, an old drug dealer recognizes him there, re-introduces himself and implies his supplies are still available to Dale.

Francis tries to intervene a few times to keep Dale protected from his old suppliers, and attempts to keep up with all of them. After Francis eventually leaves and returns to Paris and his daughter, he receives a telegram from Dale's music manager saying that the musician has died in a local hospital.



Round Midnight was filmed in Paris and New York City. It was produced by Irwin Winkler.

Tavernier defied the film studio by insisting that real-life jazz tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon play the role of Turner. Gordon, who himself played with Bud Powell in Paris in the early 1960s (and earlier in their careers), helped to revise and rewrite the script. The supporting cast is likewise composed of jazz musicians (mainly from the generation which followed Gordon and Powell) such as Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, John McLaughlin, and Wayne Shorter, among others who perform the music throughout the film. The musicians are joined by actors François Cluzet, Gabrielle Haker, Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Lonette McKee, and Christine Pascal. Martin Scorsese and Philippe Noiret appear in cameos.[5]


Main article: Round Midnight (soundtrack)

The score for the film was by Herbie Hancock, featuring mostly existing Jazz standards owned by Warner Bros along with a handful of original pieces written by Hancock. The soundtrack was in two parts – Round Midnight and The Other Side of Round Midnight – released under Dexter Gordon's name and featuring his last recordings, although he does not appear on all tracks. Both albums were produced and arranged by Hancock.


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 96% of 25 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8/10. The website's consensus reads: "Brought brilliantly to life by Dexter Gordon's outstanding performance, Round Midnight is the rare jazz-inflected drama that matches the power of the music."[6] It was ranked No. 2 in Roger Ebert's top films of 1986, and No. 9 in Gene Siskel's.[7] In his review of the film for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert noted the film's use of live jazz performances by real musicians and praised Gordon's acting performance, writing, "Gordon plays the central role with an eerie magnetism. He is a musician, not an actor, and yet no actor could have given this performance, with its dignity, wisdom and pain."[8]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[9] Best Actor Dexter Gordon Nominated
Best Original Score Herbie Hancock Won
Bodil Awards[10] Best European Film Won
British Academy Film Awards[11] Best Score Herbie Hancock Nominated
César Awards[12] Best Editing Armand Psenny Nominated
Best Music Herbie Hancock Won
Best Production Design Alexandre Trauner Nominated
Best Sound Bernard Leroux, Claude Villand, Michel Desrois and William Flageollet Won
David di Donatello Awards[13] Best Foreign Actor Dexter Gordon Won
Golden Globe Awards[14] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Herbie Hancock Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[15] Best Actor Dexter Gordon Runner-up
Best Cinematography Bruno de Keyzer Runner-up
Best Music Score Herbie Hancock and Dexter Gordon Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Dexter Gordon Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Sandra Reaves-Phillips Nominated
Nastro d'Argento[16] Best Foreign Director Bertrand Tavernier Won
Best Foreign Actor Dexter Gordon Won
National Board of Review Awards[17] Top Ten Films 8th Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[18] Best Foreign Language Film 3rd Place
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Actor Dexter Gordon Won
Venice International Film Festival[19] Golden Lion Bertrand Tavernier Nominated
Pasinetti Award Won


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "Autour de minuit (Round Midnight) (1986) - JPBox-Office".
  3. ^ KOENIGSBERG, LARRY (8 March 2004). "Book Reviews". Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell. All About Jazz. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  4. ^ Ratliff, Ben (December 17, 1997). "Francis Paudras, 62, Patron Of Jazz Pianist Bud Powell". New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 30, 1986). "Film Festival; Dexter Gordon Stars In 'Round Midnight'". New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Round Midnight". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  7. ^ "Siskel and Ebert Top Ten Lists - Inner Mind". Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (24 October 1986). "'Round Midnight movie review & film summary (1986) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  9. ^ "The 59th Academy Awards (1987) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  10. ^ "Winners of the year – 1988". Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  11. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1987". BAFTA. 1987. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  12. ^ "1987 César Awards". Mubi. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  13. ^ "1987 David di Donatello Awards". Mubi. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  14. ^ "Round Midnight – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "The 12th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "1987 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists". Mubi. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  17. ^ "1986 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  18. ^ "1986 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  19. ^ "VENICE FILM FESTIVAL – 1986". Retrieved October 6, 2013.