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Alfred E. Green
Edward G. Robinson,
Two wealthy Victorian widows are courted tentatively by two impoverished British aristocrats. When one of the dowagers suggests that her beau go away with her for a month to see if they are compatible, the fireworks begin.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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' is a curio; rarely seen, bombing at the time - possibly because of the change of image of John Gilbert, known as one of the silent screen's great romantic heroes and desperately trying to make good after the disaster of the previous year's 'His Glorious Night'. Here, Karl is an amoral and coarse creation, unfeeling and a louse - and Gilbert plays him brilliantly. A pity then that this film is all but forgotten.
Alongside him in the cast are Paul Lukas (slightly wooden as Albert the butler) and Gilbert's future wife, Virginia Bruce (an excellent performance as Albert's young bride, Anna, who lets her guard down and find she likes it), along with Reginald Owen (still going strong and as effective years later, and pretty good here) and Olga Baclanova (nicely judged as the guilty mistress of the house; this was her first movie after the controversial 'Freaks'), Hedda Hopper (a brief but entertaining appearance as Karl's previous employer), and Bodil Rosing (memorable as the daft ageing cook, Sophie).
'Downstairs', developed into a film from John Gilbert's original story, is a fairly run-of-the-mill story of masters and servants for the most part, but the scenes between Karl and Anna have a raw power that makes the film stand out from others of the period. There's no romance in this servants' hall; everyone is really out for what they can get.
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