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The Lubitsch Touch is evident in this witty, intelligent film. Jennifer Jones shows a vivacity and humor she had never displayed before and would not again until her clever performance in "Beat The Devil". In one amazing scene where she cannot resist showing her wares as a Plumber (to the disdain of the other party guests) she gets to play a reaction to the debacle that is amazing in its combination of pathos and hilarity. Very interesting character actors including a very, very funny Una O'Connor (whose dialogue consists mainly of incessantly clearing her throat), the light as a feather and dead on playing of Margaret Bannerman, and also a chance to see Helen Walker. Charles Boyer plays with his customary light touch and is the anchor to this film, but finally it is Jennifer Jones' performance that takes one breath away and stays with you long after you've seen it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a little known Jennifer Jones (JJ) film because it has to my
knowledge, never been seen on UK television and I have never seen a video
this film in any store or video catalogue.I got mine by bidding on "E-Bay"
winning the auction.Fortunatly my VCR takes both US NTSC & British PAL
formats.Therefore viewers who have seen JJ play a variety of straight
dramatic roles, will be pleasantly surprised by this tour de force comic
role of her's.What a pity Selznick did not realise his wife had such comic
potential in her later parts.Instead of casting her in say "A Farewell to
Arms" (1957), he should have realised comic acting does not require an
actress to be of a certain age and he could have put her in latter day
Sandra Bullock type roles with great success.Comediennes can age
Viewers who enjoy "Cluny Brown" should also see JJ's other comic role as
Gwendolynn Chelm, the congenital liar, in John Huston's "Run With The
Ernst Lubitsch produced and directed this sparkling comedy satirising English Society, from the remote upper classes, to the fawning middle class to the working class who have to "know their place".Being English I do like a good laugh at my own expense.The reversed snobbery of the Housekeeper Mrs Maile (Sara Allgood) and the Butler Syrette at Carmel Manor, had me in stitches.
Charles Boyer playes a dissident intellectual Czech emigre (Adam Belinski), fleeing from Nazi persecution and who is living a hand to mouth existence in London because no-one understands or buys his arcane treatise on philosophy.He has the ability to think laterally and thinks if people want to feed squirrels to the nuts in Hyde Park instead of normally feeding nuts to the squirrels, "who are we to say no"? Jennifer Jones plays the title role with gusto as a plumber's niece who desperately wishes to follow her uncle's career, but Society frowns on such career moves for young ladies.Her uncle Ern (Billy Bevan) "rescues" her from a fate worse than death from the abode of the snobby Hilary Ames after she has fixed his blocked sink before an imminent party in honour of The Honourable Betty Cream (Helen Walker), (what we call in modern parlance a "Sloane Ranger" becuase of the proximity of Sloane Square in London to Knightsbridge/Chelsea - the traditional hunting ground of debutantes.
Cluny Brown is packed off by her uncle to Carmel Manor to be a humble maid and again meets Belinski.She is definitely not cut out to be a maid because she has trouble "knowing her place".She very nearly becomes betrothed to Wilson (Richard Haydn), the fawning, mother-fixated character who is the unimaginative local village chemist and who has no ambition whatsoever in life apart from doing exactly the same thing in the same place until the day he dies.I did however like his rendition of "Flow on Sweet Afton" on the harmonium!His mother (Una O'Conner) only communicates by coughing, certainly a novel method!Belinski is obviously enamoured of Cluny and tries to sabotage his rival by irritatingly ringing Wilson's shop bell then walking or hiding away "Outrageous!".The social gaffe comes at a tea party held by Wilson with his mother and friends who are gathered for an important and imminent announcement.Suddenly there is an ominous sound from the other room and it is evident the plumbing needs attention.The temptation is just too much for Cluny.She rolls up her sleeves and fixes Wilson's blocked sink in a "jiffy".Such a ,solicism cannot go unremarked and the party comes to an abrupt end.
When Belinski leaves to return to London Cluny rushes to the station to see him off.Before she knows what's happened, she too is on the train with him and has had her symbols of servitude thrown out of the carrige window by him.Belinski then talks of "Madame Belinski" and Cluny then realises he has just proposed "That's the same as Mrs isn't it?".Then Adam has an idea.Instead of writing non-selling philosophical works, he will write a murder mystery entitled "The Nightingale Murder" after a particularly noisy bird that kept him awake at Carmel Manor.The couple now reside in New York and the book is a great success.Evidently Cluny is now pregnant!To keep the family, Adam Belinski has obviously written a sequel "The Nightingale Returns".
I enjoyed every frame of this comedy.A Young Peter Lawford plays the heir Andrew Carmel whose idea of stopping Hitler is to write a letter to the London "Times"!His mother explains to her future daughter in law that "English gardens have to be planned three years ahead", so she knew where her future duty lay.C Aubrey Smith plays his usual Hollywood colonel role as friend of the Carmel family.Delightful.
"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.
I loved this movie. Charles Boyer is always such a smooth actor. Im a sucker for a French accent. It was simple movie with a simple plot. Jennifer Jones was cute in the movie but not the best acting I've seen her do. I really liked her character though. I've watched this movie about 15 times and I cant really explain why, except that it makes me feel good. This is the kind of movie you want to watch if its a rainy, cold day outside and you can curl up with a cup of cocoa. The cocoa will warm your insides and the movie Cluny Brown will warm your heart. I will always treasure this sweet simple romantic comedy. Keep in mind that this is a very old movie and the purpose was for entertainment back then, not detailed plot twists. I think that this movie is worth watching, but don't stop after the first 15 minutes, it does get better. Just watch it!!!Trust me!!
Have seen this more than once on TV (though not for quite a few years now) and I'd be first in line if Fox Classics were to issue it on video. It's a slight bit of fluff, given the full Twentieth gloss, and elevated to sublimely sly tongue-in-cheek humor, courtesy of Herr Lubitsch. Everyone in the cast is in top form (Thank goodness David O. Selznick was willing to loan his treasure, Jennifer Jones, to Fox...She's a delight in this one!) Standouts are Sara Allgood as the mansion's oh-so-proper head housekeeper and Richard Haydn as the hilariously stuffy Mr. Wilson, Cluny's would-be suitor. The final shot of Jennifer falling in a dead faint (due to her impending, but not yet obvious maternity) seen through a 5th Avenue bookstore window, is one of the best curtains in screen annals!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like many great Lubitsch comedies (and great comedies in general), this
film has a quirky touch to it that makes it so funny. For one, the lead
characters played by Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones are themselves
unconventional and not quite as rigidly tied down as their more
self-conscious contemporaries. Hence it's no surprise that they're
perfect for each other and as the film nears closer to the end, you're
eagerly awaiting for them to admit it themselves.
I'm quite fond of Charles Boyer--he's charming in a seemingly effortless way and so I feel it's appropriate that he finally got to work with the equally so Lubitsch. His lines are some of the best in the film and he has a great chemistry with Jennifer--in their scenes together you can often see through his expressions the affection he has for her character.
This is the first film I've seen of Jennifer Jones and I can say that she doesn't disappoint. Her character has this innocent appeal, seemingly unaware of how less reserved and free-spirited she is from much of the other characters like Mr. Wilson and his mother. There's a scene at Wilson's house where he is about to announce his proposal to her, which Cluny interrupts due to her urge as a 'plumber's niece'. The scene is both funny, but also moving, as at the end of the scene we get a close-up of Jennifer's face as she comprehends the others' reactions to her seemingly eccentric behaviour.
The other characters are also enjoyable, particularly Una O'Connor as Mrs. Wilson, who incessantly clears her throat to just the right timing.
In short, this is a really nice film that benefits from top performances, a great dialogue and a wonderful director.
For years I had searched for this movie in the vain hope of ever
finding it. Till last night I found it on Youtube. My sincere thanks to
the person who uploaded it and gave me the chance at last to see this
I'm curious to know how today's movie going audience brought up on a combination of action adventure and mindless idiocy would come to this movie. Its so far out of what's being made to today as to be from a totally different world. And yet I would like to think that people would love it for what it is, a charming piece of old world cinema.
It is possible that this movie could be made today. Though I'm not sure who would be able to play all the parts with the sincerity the cast do in the movie without going over the top. Especially I wonder who could play a character like Cluny with the charm and depth that Jennifer Jones brings to it.
Jennifer Jones's Cluny is one of the most captivating characters I've ever met on screen. So engaging, so charming, so innocent.
Jennifer Jones acting is sublime. I couldn't help but watch the different expressions on her face through each emotion she was going through. Good facial expression is always for a me a good sign that the actress is immersed fully in the part.
Charles Boyer's Adam Belinski must be the kind of man women dream about meeting but probably never will. Handsome, french accent, worldly wise, kind, gentle, understanding. He is of cause the perfect man for Cluny as against the boring Wilson played with great verve by Richard Haydn. I hated the character, lol. But I thought Haydn's performance quite brilliant too.
The rest of the cast do a fine job too. And the ending is perfect.
Boy, here's a movie that is just crying out for a DVD release for its
fans....and one with English subtitles on it. I would buy it
immediately if it ever becomes available.
The attraction is simply Jennifer Jones doing what she does best: play a beautiful, sweet and innocent girl....the kind "you want to take home to momma!"
It must be all Jones that makes me desire to see this on DVD because (1) there really isn't much of a story here, which leads to some dry spots; (2) Charles Boyer's french accent is too tough to understand many times; (3) there is the usual mistaken-identity story which was so popular (and usually stupid) in old movies; (4) the cinematography isn't much; (5) most of the humor is so corny, it's stupid.
Yet, despite all the negatives above, this film is one I want to see again because Jones - "Cluny Brown" - plays one of the most likable, old-fashioned nice characters I've ever seen on film. It is as pretty as she ever looked and you'd be hard-pressed to find a sweeter more innocent character. She is just a pleasure to watch.
Rarely have I seen one person elevate a so-so movie to this degree.
what a sweet and charming movie, so cute, so gentle, a delicious cup of
Just "knowing her" by name, I fell in Love with exquisite Clunny Brown, I name Jennifer Jones.
Lovely, pretty, how she acts is exactly what is needed for he part. She is Clunny Brown !
And Charles Boyer, yeah, wonderful, has the right tone too.
What about that bloody temporary "lover", Reginald Gardiner, if I'm not wrong ? just perfect !
I had that definitive smile all along, and still have it now...
and would you believe I enjoyed every minute of Cluny Brown ?
All the characters are pushed to their limits, frank and strong caricatures of different members of our human society...
May be you might feel it's too precious and not realistic, but who cares ? Am I here to watch the news ? NO WAY !
And do not forget once it was like that, for real, and actually if it takes different shapes, it's still the same...
So, great acting from all, I bow once more, and write : Hats off to Mr Lubitsch ! He's one of the true master of comedy !
Some reviewers seem to have small complains about the plot, why not ? yes, it is quiet thin, but for myself I don't mind as long as it has all this kind of charm...
Me ? You people I tell you, I'd rather watch plenty ones with a thin storyline played like this one, (finaly leaving me with a smile going up to my ears) rather ones with more elaborated plot, well played too, which let me a bad taste because they are too dark and hopeless...
Yes, the undertone is frivolous, about deep and sad topics
but personally, if not always, I believe it's a good way of healing human soul...
It's not Life, it's Cinema, I like to dream and smile !!!
They don't do like them anymore (or so seldom...) whispers an aging fox !
A film is never really good unless the camera is an eyes in the head of a poet Orson Welles
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am frankly shocked that I haven't seen this film, as I thought I'd
seen about everything that Ernst Lubitsch directed in the States--and
many of his German films as well. But, oddly, I'd overlooked this one.
Before I talk about the film in detail, I have a few comments about the cast. Casting Charles Boyer with Jennifer Jones is really odd and you just don't normally think of them together--but the film managed to handle this odd combination well. Additionally, the film has some excellent supporting character actors--Reginald Owen, Reginald Gardiner, C. Aubry Smith and Richard Haydn. And, while I am not a huge fan of Una O'Connor (she overacts horribly in some films), here she is great...as she says nothing! As far as Jennifer Jones goes, she is usually one of my least favorite actresses. I think it's because her lover (and later, husband), David O. Selznick, really mismanaged her career and placed her in some roles which were terrible for her. In "Duel in the Sun", she played a half-breed she-devil--and played it to the hilt. Coming from a woman who excelled in sweet roles (such as "Cluny Brown", "Song of Bernadette", "Since You Went Away" and "Love Letters"), playing such an unwholesome and sleazy character didn't work at all and came off as silly. Several of her other films were clear misfires due to casting her WAY against type (such as in "Beat the Devil" and "Ruby Gentry" and "Indiscretion of An American Wife"). Here, fortunately, Jones is at her very best--as a very sweet and ditsy sort of character you can't help but like. And, everyone she meets seems to like her in this sweet little comedy.
The film begins with a stopped up sink. Reginald Owen and Charles Boyer are about to have a dinner party and are relieved when they think that the plumber has arrive--but it's NOT the plumber but the plumber's niece, Cluny (Jones) who shows. She isn't a plumber at all, but seems to enjoy fixing plumbing as a hobby. And, since her uncle is busy, she thought she'd come and give it a try. She very quickly fixes it, but they have her stay because she is so vivacious and sweet that they don't want her to go. And, after a couple drinks she REALLY opens up and shows a cute side of her that is fun to watch. Obviously, Boyer is taken with her--but can't do much about it, as he's a homeless refugee from the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.
A bit later, a rich idealist (Peter Lawford) meets Boyer and it turns out the Boyer is a famous professor and political refugee. So, wanting to help a guy down on his luck, Lawford invites him to stay at his family estate in the country. When Boyer arrives, he's thrilled to see that Jones has just been hired as a servant there--and spends as much time as he can with her. And, by the way, she's a terrible maid--but she's so nice, they can't stand to fire her.
Sadly for Boyer, Jones is inexplicably taken with one of the most boring men in human history (Haydn). And, she somehow likes the idea of possibly becoming this dullard's wife. But what about poor Boyer? He's homeless and is secretly in love with Cluny--and the likelihood he'll ever win over Cluny is remote. And, even if he does, how can he possibly afford to marry? And, Haydn and his weird mother (O'Connor) are bound to choke the life and charm out of poor Cluny as they want her to be more proper and 'adult'--something no sane person would want from her! I could say more but think it's best you just see this charming film for yourself.
Utterly charming from start to finish. I do so wish Jones had made more films like this and the lovely Lubitsch touch is more than enough to make this film a treat to watch. MY only quibble, and it's a tiny one, is that the scene in New York following the train ride at the end was NOT necessary. I think having the film end a tiny bit sooner would have been a bit better--just a bit.
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