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Downstairs (1932)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 8 May 1933 (Denmark)
An amoral chauffeur seeks to seduce a young bride.

Director:

Monta Bell (uncredited)

Writers:

John Gilbert (story), Lenore J. Coffee (screenplay) (as Lenore Coffee) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Gilbert ... Karl Schneider
Paul Lukas ... Albert - the Baron's Butler
Virginia Bruce ... Anna - Albert's Wife
Hedda Hopper ... Countess De Marnac
Reginald Owen ... Baron 'Nicky' von Burgen
Olga Baclanova ... Baroness Eloise von Burgen
Bodil Rosing ... Sophie - the Cook
Otto Hoffman ... Otto - the Wine Cellar Caretaker
Lucien Littlefield ... Françoise - a Drunken Servant
Marion Lessing ... Antoinette - Maid to the Countess
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Storyline

At the wedding of Albert and Anna, Karl, the new chauffeur, arrives. Albert is the head butler, second generation to the Baron. Karl soon seems out of place as a servant, and Albert tells him so. But Karl is a cad. Whenever he gets the chance, he will try to seduce Anna, who is not wise in the ways of the world. He lies without question if it is to his advantage and charms money out of Sophie, the old cook. He disrupts the household and then blackmails the Baroness to keep from being sacked. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

This is the year's motion picture surprise - the amazing comeback of the brilliant figures of the screen! As thrilling as of old! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 May 1933 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Der schöne Karl See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Gilbert did everything he could get away with in this film to subvert his "great lover" image from silent films. He trims his nose hairs and wipes his hands on his pants. He belches loudly in mid-sentence. He allows the cook to wipe flour off his butt after he has sat on the counter. He's also a liar and a blackmailer. He also steals a diamond clip and presents it as a gift. See more »

Goofs

[All goofs for this title are spoilers.] See more »

Quotes

Baron 'Nicky' von Burgen: I'm a very lucky man, especially in this day of intrigue and scandal, to have a wife like you.
Baroness Eloise von Burgen: Scandal?
Baron 'Nicky' von Burgen: Yes, today, I hear that old von Rappard's wife has a lover.
Baroness Eloise von Burgen: What do you expect? He's 80, she's 23. And he has asthma!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Complicated Women (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

The Wedding March
(1843)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played as background music after the wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

Terrific Pre-Code
31 August 2010 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

Downstairs (1932)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Brutally honest and at times shocking Pre-Code about a chauffeur (John Gilbert) who gets one job after another only to blackmail both the rich as well as the poor servants. His latest job has him falling for a married woman (Virginia Bruce) who just happens to be married to the main servant (Paul Lukas). The con man begins to dig up dirt on the rich folks in the house so that he can swindle them and take off with the beautiful wife. Soon everyone in the house is being held hostage by the gossip and rumors started by the man. It's well known that Gilbert wrote the story to this thing and sold it to MGM for a single dollar so that they'd agree to make it. I've seen hundreds, if not thousands, of movies from this era and I must say that this here is without question one of the most unique, strange and downright bizarre of them all. While watching the movie it keeps you off guard as you never really know where it's going to go next but there's no question that it has one surprise after another and the story itself is brave enough to go in many directions no matter what the outcome. One example of this is an elderly cook who has pretty much given her life as a servant and managed to save up a lot of money, which of course Gilbert goes after. The Pre-Code material goes as far as having Gilbert seduce her and then verbally abuse her in such a way that you can't help but feel incredibly bad but at the same time shocked. What's even more shocking is that Gilbert allows his character to be even darker and meaner. There's no question that Gilbert's "power" was on its way down but it still took quite a bit of guts for someone of his stature to play a role like this. His performance here is incredibly good because he's so cold during the bad parts yet he's also so charming and warm during the scenes where he's taking advantage of people. One can't help but think this is exactly how this type of person would be and Gilbert nails it without any troubles. The performance is certainly the best I've seen from him and I'd say it's one of the most memorable villains from this era of Hollywood. Gilbert's then wife Bruce is terrific here as well as her abused character is so full and rich in detail that you can't help but feel as if you know her and feel the pain she's going through as she has to fight off the abuse from Gilbert but also the abuse she feels from her husband. Lukas is magnificent as the husband who has a strange loyalty to his employers who he feels more for than his actual wife. Bodil Rosing is terrific as the elderly woman who gets taken advantage of. I think a lot of people, even those familiar with Pre-Codes, will be shocked at how raw this movie is. The final fifteen-minutes contain some intense drama and an outrageous scenario but it works so incredibly well that you can't help but really respect the film. The movie is very adult in nature and the marvelous performances makes this a must-see for any film fan.


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