At the wedding of Albert and Anna, Karl, the new chauffeur, arrives. Albert is the head butler, second generation to the Baron. Karl soon seems out of place as a servant, and Albert tells ... See full summary »
At the wedding of Albert and Anna, Karl, the new chauffeur, arrives. Albert is the head butler, second generation to the Baron. Karl soon seems out of place as a servant, and Albert tells him so. But Karl is a cad. Whenever he gets the chance, he will try to seduce Anna, who is not wise in the ways of the world. He lies without question if it is to his advantage and charms money out of Sophie, the old cook. He disrupts the household and then blackmails the Baroness to keep from being sacked. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
John Gilbert wanted to do this movie so badly he sold the story to MGM for $1.00. Ads for the movie proclaimed "starring Mr. and Mrs. John Gilbert" since the couple was married shortly after the production completed filming. See more »
"Downstairs" features a great cast (John Gilbert, Virginia Bruce, Paul Lukas) and many memorable, tension-filled scenes. Its plot is a strange combination of old-fashioned class-conflict melodrama (servants' lives compared to the aristocracy's) and sexual satire. I think it has held up well for its age, undoubtedly because it was a pre-code movie and could deal with subjects which only two years later were taboo.
This film and The Big Parade are my two favorite John Gilbert films. He was an under-rated actor, very attractive, polished, but with a sharp edge of naughtiness. His voice was quite pleasant and intriguing, only slightly nasal, but you rarely notice that. He obviously had training to lower his voice and make it more cultured, just like all the actors did who crossed over from silents to talkies. However his battles with Louis B and his declining health limited his roles soon after Downstairs to B pictures.
The most dramatic scene in the film however belongs not to John Gilbert, but to Virginia Bruce, whom I must confess is not a favorite of mine. After being seduced by John Gilbert's character she boldly and passionately tells her husband (Lukas) off and insults his lovemaking in comparison. Wow-sa for 1932! No wonder TCM showcased this scene in the pre-code movies special a few months back. However the TCM special didn't lay the foundation for the scene, because if we had it we would have naturally sympathized with the husband much more than the seducer or the wife!
Watch Downstairs if you enjoy the saucy John Gilbert or if you like pre-code movies. You'll enjoy it.
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