Synopsis by Janiss Garza
Anyone who believes that the career of silent screen idol John Gilbert ended because his voice has too high for the talkies hasn't seen this marvelously black comedy. In perhaps his best performance of the sound era (with his supporting role in 1934's The Captain Hates the Sea running a close second), Gilbert plays a rogue who can get away with just about anything because of his charisma and charm -- and his voice suits his character perfectly. Karl (Gilbert) is a chauffeur who goes to work for a Viennese Baron and Baroness (Reginald Owen) and Olga Baclanova) on the day that two of their servants -- head butler Albert (Paul Lukas) and maid Anna (an astonishingly lovely Virginia Bruce) -- are being wed. Almost immediately Karl creates havoc in the household -- he flirts with the innocent, susceptible Anna, blackmails the Baroness, who is having an affair, and seduces the middle-aged head cook, Sophie (Bodil Rosing), only so he can get his hands on her life savings. In spite of his wickedness, there is something magnetic about Karl, and Anna -- who is vaguely dissatisfied with her loving but dogmatic husband -- finally succumbs. But all of his schemes inevitably backfire on him and after Albert gets Sophie's money back, he gladly tosses Karl out of the Baron's mansion. The next we see of him, he is c harming his way into yet another chauffeur position (hinting at a potential sequel that, unfortunately, never came). Gilbert, who wrote the story four years earlier, originally had an appropriately macabre ending -- after a brutal fight, Albert drowns Karl in a vat of wine. When he first came up with the idea, Gilbert had wanted Erich Von Stroheim to direct. By 1932, this was out of the question (MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer had little use for Stroheim). Instead, the highly capable Monta Bell was given the job -sadly, it was one his last directing assignments. During the shoot, Gilbert and Virginia Bruce fell in love and they were married in August, 1932, the month that the film was released.
love, aristocracy, blackmail, butler, castle, chauffeur, cooking, extramarital-affair, family, house, lady, maid, rogue, servant, sleep, wife