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Our Betters (1933)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 17 March 1933 (USA)
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.

Director:

George Cukor

Writers:

W. Somerset Maugham (play), Jane Murfin (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Constance Bennett ... Lady Pearl Grayston
Violet Kemble Cooper ... Duchess (as Violet Kemble-Cooper)
Phoebe Foster ... Princess
Grant Mitchell ... Thornton Clay
Charles Starrett ... Fleming Harvey
Anita Louise ... Bessie
Gilbert Roland ... Pepi D'Costa
Minor Watson ... Arthur Fenwick
Hugh Sinclair ... Lord Bleane
Alan Mowbray ... Lord George Grayston
Harold Entwistle Harold Entwistle ... Pole
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Virginia Howell ... Mrs. Saunders (scenes deleted)
Walter Walker 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:

gay | f rated | wedding | sister | party | See All (28) »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 March 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Haute société See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

The £1,000 per year "settlement" given to Pepi would equate to $4,237 at the time or over $80,000 per year in 2017. See more »

Goofs

When Pepi and Minnie meet the day after his "indescretion", in one shot he's lighting a cigarette and standing to the left of a table between himself and Minnie. In the next closer shot, still lighting the cigarette, he's now standing to the right of the table and next to Minnie. Furthermore, the lighter suddenly changes from Pepi's left hand to his right. See more »

Quotes

Lady Pearl Saunders Grayston: Pepi, you know the most enchanting word in the English language? Perhaps.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Do I Sound Gay? (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

God Save the Queen!
(1744) (uncredited)
Music attributed to Henry Carey
Played at the end of the royal court scenes
See more »

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User Reviews

 
We've Come a Long Way, Ernest
7 June 2007 | by dglinkSee all my reviews

The pre-code Hollywood film "Our Betters" deals with an idle set of upper-crust society types who while away their time with teas, card games, and gossip. While sipping hot cha, they chat about their sexual dalliances, discarded spouses, and kept lovers. Based on a play by Somerset Maugham, the well-written dialog is often ripe and bitchy, and a fine cast, headed by Constance Bennett, makes the lighter-than-air fluff more entertaining than it should be.

If that were the sum total of "Our Betters," then the film would be a harmless entertainment, viewed with amusement, and forgotten faster than a buttered scone. However, a character that is referenced early in the film appears on screen in the final scene and transforms the film into prime evidence of the vile gay stereotyping that Hollywood pursued before all gay portrayals on screen were prohibited by the production code.

A dance instructor named Ernest, played by Tyrell Davis, arrives at Bennett's country manor in time to delay the departure of the duchess, deliciously portrayed by Violet Kemble Cooper. Ernest is not only dressed like a dandified pouffe, but he has thickly rouged lips that form a rosebud beneath his tiny clipped mustache. His broad effeminate mannerisms would embarrass a drag queen, and perceptive viewers can smell the lavender perfume that reeks from the screen. If Bogart rolled his eyes after a whiff of gardenia off Peter Lorre, he would pass out cold if Ernest minced into his office. Like Stepin Fetchit to African-Americans, Ernest is patently offensive to gays. He is the stereotyped concept of a bigoted society; he is a badly drawn cartoon image created by a studio system that profited from the talents of gays, but vilified their public images.

However, as offensive as Ernest's characterization is, the film should be preserved and shown to illustrate the advances that on-screen portrayals of minorities have made. While the earlier drawing room scenes are light and forgettable, Ernest is an indelible image that should not be forgotten or repeated.


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