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USA 1946
Directed by
Ernst Lubitsch
100 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Cluny Brown

Lubitsch fans and Anglophiles in particular will enjoy this affectionately satirical and pleasingly farcical comedy of manners set just prior to World War II. It tells the story of the eponymous Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones), a sweet unconventional young working class woman with a passion for amateur plumbing and her adventures with Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer) an urbane but indigent dissident intellectual fleeing the Nazis when they both end up living at Friars Carmel Manor, a stately home in the English countryside.

In what turned out to be his last completed film, producer-director Lubitsch characteristically, keeps the tone light an approach which perfectly suits the tongue-in-cheek dialogue by writers Samuel Hoffenstein, Elizabeth Reinhardt and James Hilton adapting a novel by Margery Sharp. The script which has a lot of fun with the classic tripartite social divisions is the film’s strongest suit but it is brought to life by an excellent cast headed up by Jones playing the slightly dotty but alluring ingénue with Boyer who is, as ever, effortlessly charming.

Droll as it is, the film doesn’t really come together dramatically. Belinski’s political/intellectual bona fides are so side-lined that I expected it to be revealed that he was an imposter or similar and there is no chemistry between Boyer and the much younger Jones which makes the romance between their characters hard to swallow, only slightly less so than the idea that Cluny would fall for a simpering local chemist (Richard Haydn), a character reminiscent of Jane Austin's Mr Collins in 'Pride and Prejudice'.  English-born Peter Lawford plays the wealthy scion of the Carmel family.




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