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Amateur plumber Cluny Brown gets sent off by her uncle to work as a servant at an English country estate. While there, she becomes friendly with Adam Belinski, a charming Czech refugee. She also becomes interested in a dull shopkeeper named Mr. Wilson. Belinski soon falls in love with Cluny and tries to keep her from marrying Wilson. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Cluny Brown" had quite an impact on me when I saw part of it as a child. I'm sure my feelings had to do with the luminous beauty of Jennifer Jones and wanting to be just like her when I grew up. Jones has the title role of an imaginative young woman who, being the niece of a plumber, doesn't mind picking up a hammer herself once in a while and having a good whack at the pipes. It gets her into some trouble at the apartment of Hilary Ames (Reginald Sinclair) when she arrives before a party to clear out his sink before his guests arrive. There she meets Adam Belinski, a Czech academician who's on the run from Hitler. Well, that's who the very earnest Andrew Carmel (Peter Lawford) assumes he is...Belinski never actually says.
When her uncle finds Cluny drunk and on the couch at the Ames apartment, he puts her into service. She winds up working at the Carmel country estate, where Belinski comes to stay. Attracted to her, he sets about aggravating the local pharmacist, Mr. Wilson (Richard Haydn) who is courting Cluny, and getting involved with Andrew's romance with Betty Cream (Helen Walker).
This is a very sweet, light comedy from Lubitsch that touches on not only the class system in England but the attitude of the upper class toward the impending war. As in the Fox film "This Above All," the upper class in "Cluny Brown" seems annoyed by the mere thought of war and hope the nonsense will just go away. As for Cluny, born to her class, she's expected to work and behave a certain way, though it isn't really her nature.
The performances are all very good, with Boyer a delight as Belinski, a character perhaps modeled on the Czech freedom fighter Jan Mazurek - though he basically doesn't act in danger or worried and manages to hit Andrew up for money. One is never really sure throughout the film what he's up to. Richard Haydn is hilarious as Cluny's suitor Mr. Wilson, one of the best scenes taking place when he plays the harmonium for her and she all but swoons. As his mother, all Una O'Connor does is cough, but that's all she needs to do. Playing opposite boyish Peter Lawford, Helen Walker seemed too old for the part of Betty. The other supporting players are all excellent, including Sara Allgood, Reginald Owen, and Margaret Bannerman.
David O. Selznick saw Jennifer Jones in his outer office, and it was love at first sight. It's easy to see why. She is radiant and spirited as Cluny, her vivid imagination shining through her eyes and smile. A wonderful presence - gentle, vulnerable, and guileless.
"Cluny Brown" isn't at the top of Lubitsch's best - it's uneven and doesn't have enough of a plot. It's entertaining nonetheless, and the ending is pure joy.
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