Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Cluny Brown (1946)

I last saw CLUNY BROWN when I was a teenager, when it was shown as part of an Ernst Lubitsch festival at the fondly remembered Vagabond Theater in Los Angeles. (The other titles we saw: THE LOVE PARADE, ONE HOUR WITH YOU, and THAT LADY IN ERMINE.) I remembered very little about CLUNY BROWN's plot, but recalled it with sort of a warm glow. When I saw the movie again tonight, those feelings were reaffirmed. It definitely has the "Lubitsch Touch."

CLUNY BROWN is the story of a Czech professor (Charles Boyer) who has fled the Nazis; by chance he gets to know Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones), a housemaid who longs to be a plumber. The film, set on an estate in pre-WWII England, offers wry commentary on the British class system and gender stereotypes. Boyer and Jones are both charming; this is one of the underrated Jones's best roles. (Miss Jones, incidentally, turned 90 years old in March.)

The supporting cast is nothing less than superb: Peter Lawford, Helen Walker, Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Reginald Owen, Reginald Gardiner, Richard Haydn, Sara Allgood, Florence Bates, Una O'Connor, Ernest Cossart, Billy Bevan, and Charles Coleman (for once not playing a butler!). The entire cast is great, but particular kudos go to Reginald Owen as the gruff, perpetually confused but well-meaning stereotypical upper-class Englishman. Child actors Billy Gray and Christopher Severn also appear in the film. As the saying goes, they don't make 'em like they used to...few movies made today could hope to boast the depth of this cast.

CLUNY BROWN is based on a novel by Margery Sharp (THE RESCUERS).

The movie was shot in black and white by Joseph LaShelle. It runs 100 minutes.

CLUNY BROWN is a 20th Century-Fox film which was shown for the first time on Turner Classic Movies on Christmas Eve, 2008. The plot description at TCM's page was obviously written by someone who had never seen the movie...it's terribly off base and is not the norm for TCM's website.

The movie does not appear to have been released on VHS or Region 1 DVD, more's the pity. It has had a Region 2 DVD release in Spain, which was reviewed by DVD Times.

CLUNY BROWN is recommended for highly enjoyable viewing. "Squirrels to the nuts!"


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I agree, this one is a gem. Jennifer Jones I think could have been one of the great screen comediennes if only her career had taken that direction.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I wish more of these great old movies would be released on DVD. I do not remember having ever seen this one. :(

12:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Jacqueline. She really doesn't get her due for some of her excellent work. I would have loved to see her do more comedy.

It's frustrating that there are so few classic film DVD releases this year, Irene! This is a movie that definitely needs to come out here in the U.S.

Best wishes,

11:43 PM  
Blogger welker said...

One reservation - Jennifer Jones should have a London accent; instead, she seems to have turned up at the wrong film-set. The whole film becomes irritatingly implausible (films have every right to be implausible, I agree, but not irritatingly so). Every timne she opens her mouth...Oh dear.

8:59 AM  

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