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"The Baroness and the Butler" is a 1938 film starring William Powell and the French star signed by 20th Century Fox, Annabella, who got the big star buildup from Fox. Little did Darryl F. Zanuck know that she was more interested in matters of the heart than career. When she met and fell in love with Tyrone Power on her next film, "Suez," Zanuck tried to get rid of her by offering her films in Europe. She refused to leave Power (and who could blame her) and the two married, becoming the Brangelina of their era. Zanuck blacklisted her, and there went the star buildup and the big film career.
This is a charming film set in Hungary, about a butler, Johann Porok (Powell) who works for the Prime Minister (Henry Stephenson). The prime minister and his family, particularly his daughter Katrina (Annabella) are shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament - by the opposition party. What's more, he wants to stay on as butler. Meanwhile, Katrina's philandering husband (Josef Schildkraut) has a few political ambitions of his own.
Powell does a smooth job in this film as the elegant butler who is known for his brilliant speeches in Parliament. Stephenson is great as his amused boss, and Schildkraut, who played so many slimeballs, is terrific as usual. Annabella was a wonderful actress, and when her film career took a nosedive thanks to Zanuck, she and Power did radio shows together. Annabella also had a great success on Broadway, did "Liliom" with her husband in Westport Connecticut, and worked tirelessly for the war effort before returning to France when she and Power divorced.
"The Baroness and the Butler" isn't a great film, but it has good performances and a breeziness about it. Enjoyable if predictable.
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