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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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(play), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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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: She's an extraordinary creature; she's in love with her husband. You know, I'm convinced she's never had an affair.
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

 
Lady Constance shines
27 February 2015 | by (colorado) – See all my reviews

Here we have a comedy about 3 American heiresses who married into British aristocracy and how they coped with their loveless marriages. Of the 3, Pearl/Bennett has coped especially well, having made herself the leader of the Smart Set. But her success as a titled lady of leisure is a lot of hard work. While Maugham's story is passe today, as it may have been in 1933, still, it's very entertaining, loaded with laughs and chuckles. Bennett is superb. She is so much fun to watch as she gets herself into trouble and then, against the odds, gets herself out. Drawing-room comedy suits her and is the direction she should have continued to travel. Bennett would have been wonderful as Amanda in Coward's "Private Lives", but MGM's Thalberg owned the rights, and in 1931, while Bennett was playing suffering womanhood, Shearer played Amanda.

Gilbert Roland was cast as the gold digger and did very well in a role that others, including Bennett's frequent costar, Joel McCrea, would have found impossible to play. The Duchesse demonstrates that furs and a little tricorn hat produce the illusion of beauty, if not youth.

Ernest, necessary to the plot, makes a surprise appearance at the end of the film, in a scene exactly as Maugham wrote it. However, while Maugham's stage directions describe Ernest as "overwhelmingly gentlemanly . . . speaks in mincing tones" it does not say that his face was a smear of eye shadow and lipstick. What possessed Cukor anyway? Ernest is a likable character and doesn't need garish makeup to deliver the very funny lines Maugham wrote for him.

The opening 2 scenes with husband George were not in the play. Apparently they were added to provide motivation as to why Pearl is the way she is and to make Pearl/Bennett sympathetic to audiences. Was this ruse successful? Variety's reviewer wrote, "Miss Bennett goes wicked early and stays that way to the finish. That she shows no sign of repenting or changing her ways will be difficult to justify with many of her best customers." Bennett's box-office popularity was slipping away. She had to escape the baby formula that made her a Star and change her image in order to attract new fans without losing her old fans. This was a difficult problem which Our Betters did not solve.

This film will not get boring with repeat viewings. In spite of its imperfections, I intend to watch it repeatedly. After 82 years, the comedy and Bennett are still bright. Therefore, it rates a 10.


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