“Nobody can tell you where your place is… Wherever you’re happy, that’s your place.”
An itinerant Czech philosopher (Charles Boyer) is invited to stay at a country manor owned by the parents (Reginald Owen and Margaret Bannerman) of one of his admirers (Peter Lawford); meanwhile, a quirky, plumbing-loving housemaid (Jennifer Jones) sent to work in the manor falls in love with a stuffy local pharmacist (Richard Haydn), not realizing Boyer has his eye on her as well.
While conceding that it doesn’t quite rank among his best work, critics nonetheless seem uniformly charmed by Ernst Lubitsch’s final completed comedy (he died midway through directing 1948’s That Lady in Ermine), based on a coming-of-age novel by Margery Sharp. I’m less impressed. Beautiful Jones (whose comedic performance is eerily reminiscent at times of Marilyn Monroe) puts forth her best effort, and comes across as appropriately free-spirited, but she nonetheless seems inappropriately cast as a lower-class maid-servant (and when she talks at a certain point about how make-up doesn’t do much to help her appearance, one can’t help snorting a bit). Meanwhile, it beggars all belief that she would fall head-over-heels in love with an annoying prig like Haydn; what could she possibly be thinking? That she’s ultimately best suited for Boyer’s charismatic European refugee is made clear from the start; we thus spend the entire film waiting for them to finally realize this fact themselves. There’s subtle humor to be had, I suppose, in the running joke about Cluny’s obsession with plumbing —
“Whoever gets me won’t have to worry about his plumbing.”
“You know what plumbing does to me — I just can’t keep my hands off it.”
— but this humor ultimately feels somewhat forced and juvenile. Boyer fares well, and I’m fond of Helen Walker’s unabashedly privileged performance as the much-lusted-after “Betty Cream”, but the rest of the film simply leaves me unmoved.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Charles Boyer as Professor Belinski
- Helen Walker as Betty Cream
No; this one is only must-see for Lubitsch completists. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.