Directed By: W. Merle Connell
Starring: Sunny Knight, Wauneta Bates, Helen Cogan
Trivia: "The entire film was shot on-location at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, CA"
I went into 1949’s Midnight Frolics expecting to see an interesting "time capsule" sort of film, a motion picture that explored a form of live entertainment no longer in vogue. And that's exactly what I got!
Shot at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, Midnight Frolics is nothing more than a filmed stage show, one that promises to thrill and titillate with scantily-clad dancers and striptease artists. The movie opens with a South American musical number, during which dancing girls strut around doing the samba. Then, we're treated to a steady stream of stripteases, all set to jazzy nightclub music. The women are, for the most part, attractive, and put on a good show (if you're curious, the answer is “no”, they don't take all their clothes off, though the featured dancer, Sunny Knight, billed as “The Golden Girl of the Golden West”, comes pretty darn close to doing so). One performer, Shirley Heart, combines dancing with gymnastics, and is about as agile as you can get (her routine was the most impressive). In true burlesque fashion, a number of comedy sketches are tossed in as well, which produce more groans than laughs. In fact, the first skit, about an ice-cream salesman and his interaction with several customers, wasn’t even funny in 1949; not a single member of the audience laughed during the entire bit.
As far as classifying Midnight Frolics, it fits neatly into the music genre (the film is wall-to-wall dance routines and musical numbers). But Midnight Frolics also works as a documentary of sorts, an exploration of, as the opening title card says, "a by-gone era". I can't quite bring myself to recommend it; as a movie, Midnight Frolics is far too simplistic and dry, utilizing 2 or 3 cameras that never move around, and even at 67 minutes, the film feels much too long. But as a snapshot of a forgotten brand of live entertainment, Midnight Frolics offers audiences enough to at least make it an amusing curiosity.