“From now on I’m going to fight hard, and I don’t care who gets hurt, just so it’s not me.”
A French chambermaid (Paulette Goddard) aspires to marry a wealthy man and become mistress of her own household. Meanwhile, she’s tasked with keeping the grown son (Hurd Hatfield) of her employers (Judith Anderson and Reginald Owen) happy during his visit home, and finds herself falling in love.
- Burgess Meredith Films
- Jean Renoir Films
- Judith Anderson Films
- Paulette Goddard Films
- Servants, Maids, and Housekeepers
- Social Climbers
Burgess Meredith both co-starred in and wrote the screenplay for this unusual Hollywood comedy by Jean Renoir, starring Meredith’s then-wife Paulette Goddard in the title role. Loosely based on an epistolary novel by Octave Mirbeau, it tells the tale of a beautiful, feisty chambermaid who is quite rightly fed up with scrubbing floors, and determined to seduce a wealthy man, no matter his age. This leads to a dalliance with a wacky older captain (Meredith) living next door, but her pursuits are temporarily delayed by a sudden and inexplicable infatuation with dour Hurd Hatfield, who seems utterly mismatched for her spunky spirit. Meanwhile, the household’s equally ill-humored butler (Francis Lederer) begins to show hints of interest in Goddard, and plots to take advantage of his mistress’s long-earned trust in him. Unfortunately, none of this is particularly compelling or amusing, and the actors are so broadly directed that they emerge more as caricatures than sympathetic people. Goddard somehow manages to remain compelling throughout, but we can’t help wishing she had a better screenplay to work with. This film has numerous diehard fans — including Peary, who lists it as a Personal Recommendation — but I must say I’m not one of them.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Paulette Goddard as Celestine
No, though fans of Renoir will surely be curious to check it out. Listed as a film with Historical Importance (I’m not sure why) and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.