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Our Betters (1933)

Passed  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  17 March 1933 (USA)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 354 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 4 critic

Although the British upper class may be thought our betters in society, but they are certainly not our betters, and perhaps our equals, in morality.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Lady Pearl Grayston
Violet Kemble Cooper ...
Duchess (as Violet Kemble-Cooper)
Phoebe Foster ...
Princess
...
Thornton Clay
Charles Starrett ...
...
Bessie
...
Pepi D'Costa
Minor Watson ...
Arthur Fenwick
Hugh Sinclair ...
Lord Bleane
...
Lord George Grayston
Harold Entwistle ...
Pole
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Virginia Howell ...
Mrs. Saunders (scenes deleted)
Walter Walker ...
Mr. Saunders (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

American heiress Pearl Saunders marries Lord George Grayston but later sees him embracing his lover on their wedding day. She has his title and he has her money; thereafter they are rarely seen together. Pearl is accepted by the British aristocracy and is presented at court, but creates a scandal by wearing black. She encourages her younger sister, Bessie, who idolizes her, to respond to the attentions of Lord Harry Bleane despite Bessie preferring American Fleming Harvey. Pearl gives a weekend party at the Grayston estate inviting close friends, including her lover, Arthur Fenwick; her friend, Duchess Minnie and Minnie's gigolo companion, Pepi D'Costa; as well as Bessie, Lord Bleane and Harvey. Pepi, who had been meeting Pearl on the sly, discretely suggests a rendezvous with her in the new teahouse on the property. Both make some pretext to leave but are seen by Minnie entering the teahouse. Vindictive Minnie pretends to have left her purse in the teahouse and sends Bessie to fetch ... Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

wedding | sister | party | heiress | gigolo | See All (25) »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 March 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Haute société  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The play opened on Broadway in New York City, New York, USA on 12 March 1917 and closed in June 1917 after 112 performances. It was revived on 20 February 1928 with Ina Claire as Pearl, Constance Collier as the Duchess, Reginald Bach (who also directed) as Thornton Clay, and with Lillian Kemble-Cooper and Madge Evans. The revival ran for 128 performances and closed in June 1928. See more »

Quotes

Lady Pearl Saunders Grayston: Men are trivial, foolish creatures. Kind hearts but no heads. And they're so vain, poor dears, they're so vain.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Vito (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

The Wedding March
(1843) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played by an offscreen organ during the wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dandies in Aspic
2 March 2009 | by (Colorado, United States) – See all my reviews

This movie haunts me in a way and fills me with questions. Why did Selznick make this screen version of a 1917 Maugham play right in the middle of the Great Depression in America? I wonder what was on his mind -- to make people angry enough to bring their friends for another look? To let them scoff at the foibles of the impossibly idle rich? This movie primarily is about American expats who've found a place among a jaded British aristocracy (which, at the time of Maugham's stage play, were, with the rest of England, at the height of a bloody world war that would cost Britain almost an entire generation of its young men). But this film version was brought to the screen in 1933, at the height of a crushing Depression that left so many millions jobless and homeless and lucky to have the price of a night at the movies. Contrast that with the sly comic turnings of a very young Gilbert Roland as the Chilean idler Pepi, whose pouty side-glances as he manipulates his very rich and titled benefactress were elegantly applied and flawlessly aimed, no doubt, at enraging most any Depression-oppressed American of the day. I'm sure Roland (no idler himself) and Cukor had a lot of fun filming Pepi. I loved the steady Grant Mitchell, elegantly playing a happy snob who unashamedly admits that he'd come to England from Ohio, and has "lost any trace of an American accent." No apologies from his character, who lends the picture a decorum and good-humored tolerance, all in the cause of maintaining these high-blown dodgy "friendships," deftly working to keep things on a happy note, despite bothersome indiscretions. Others have written here of the remarkable performance of Violet Kemble Cooper as the Duchess, and I heartily agree. And what a happy surprise was the very late entrance in the picture of Tyrell Davis (one of the famous tailors from Wellman's "The Public Enemy" two years earlier) as the unabashedly delightful pouffe Ernest, brought in by Bennett's character to salvage a nearly wrecked country weekend. Ernest was summoned hastily from a busy Sunday schedule in London, still attired in his city-best, flawlessly coiffed, with dark heart-shaped lip rouge, more eye shadow than Bennett, and powdered like a pastry. He carried his look as proudly, happily and effortlessly as did the elegant Bennett in her timelessly smashing Hattie Carnegie gowns. Across the Channel, he'd have been exterminated by the Nazis, but in his place among a protective British aristocracy, Ernest was obviously a most happy man, allowed to act out himself completely and taking his place as a favorite among the ladies. I'm astonished that Davis, whose Ernest hilariously capped the picture and who uttered its naughty closing line, was not credited for this fresh and pleasing (or shocking) performance. Have you ever seen such a face in the movies? Or anywhere else? Such a happy individualist in a society that outlawed some of his assumed after-hours behavior. Without the protection of the aristocracy, Ernest, like Wilde, likely would have spent part of his life in prison. This picture contains some dated stage business and moves a bit too slowly for us today, but I'm so happy that it survives. I still wonder, though, what was the aim of making this movie at this time in the American experience? Hughes and Selznick wanted and expected an audience and a profit, after all. Was a Maugham play burning a hole in their pockets? Were generous eyes-full of Constance Bennett in clingy satin gowns enough to draw 'em in? I suspect there was a social aim here, but I'm not sure what it is.


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