The Baroness and the Butler (1938)

80 mins | Romantic comedy | 18 February 1938

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Jean. Ladislaus Bus-Fekete's play, in an adaptation by Edward Roberts, played on Broadway as The Lady Has a Heart with Vincent Price and Elissa Landi in the lead roles (New York, 25 Sep 1937). At the end of the film, before the cast list, there appears a written statement noting: "This picture has presented the popular young French actress Annabella in her first American picture." This was not Annabella's first film produced in Hollywood, however, for she previously starred in Fox's 1934 film Caravane, which was the French language version of Caravan (see below). According to HR news items, Simone Simon was originally set for the lead, which then went to Loretta Young, who was to co-star with Warner Baxter. When Jean was taken off Twentieth Century-Fox's production schedule, however, Young and Baxter were put into Wife, Doctor and Nurse (see below). Other HR news items noted that E. H. Griffith was "in line" to be the director and that Boris Ingster and Milton Sperling were to work on the script. Ingster and Sperling's contribution to the completed film, however, has not been confirmed. HR production charts include Gregory Ratoff in the cast, although his participation in the finished picture is doubtful. According to a treatment in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the name of the butler was changed to Johann because "'Jean' is a rather Frenchy name and is interchangeably masculine and feminine." A 19 Sep 1937 ...

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The working title of this film was Jean. Ladislaus Bus-Fekete's play, in an adaptation by Edward Roberts, played on Broadway as The Lady Has a Heart with Vincent Price and Elissa Landi in the lead roles (New York, 25 Sep 1937). At the end of the film, before the cast list, there appears a written statement noting: "This picture has presented the popular young French actress Annabella in her first American picture." This was not Annabella's first film produced in Hollywood, however, for she previously starred in Fox's 1934 film Caravane, which was the French language version of Caravan (see below). According to HR news items, Simone Simon was originally set for the lead, which then went to Loretta Young, who was to co-star with Warner Baxter. When Jean was taken off Twentieth Century-Fox's production schedule, however, Young and Baxter were put into Wife, Doctor and Nurse (see below). Other HR news items noted that E. H. Griffith was "in line" to be the director and that Boris Ingster and Milton Sperling were to work on the script. Ingster and Sperling's contribution to the completed film, however, has not been confirmed. HR production charts include Gregory Ratoff in the cast, although his participation in the finished picture is doubtful. According to a treatment in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, the name of the butler was changed to Johann because "'Jean' is a rather Frenchy name and is interchangeably masculine and feminine." A 19 Sep 1937 NYT interview with actor William Powell, who was borrowed from M-G-M, reported that he was traveling to Budapest, and the Var reviewed noted, "Backgrounds of the action are actual scenes in Budapest, carefully matched to studio settings." According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film was rejected for distribution in Quebec, and all references to Hungary were removed by the censor board of Rumania. The Baroness and the Butler was the only film made by Powell between 15 Oct 1937 and 17 Nov 1939. For more information on Powell's absence from the screen, See Entry for Double Wedding.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Feb 1938
p. 76
Box Office
19-Feb-38
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1938
p. 3, 8
Film Daily
15 Feb 1938
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 1936
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1937
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1937
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1937
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1937
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1937
p. 27
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 1937
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1937
p. 9
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1937
p. 15
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1938
p. 19
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1938
p. 2
Motion Picture Daily
11 Feb 1938
p. 4
Motion Picture Herald
8 Jan 1938
p. 44
Motion Picture Herald
19 Feb 1938
p. 39
New York Times
19-Sep-37
---
New York Times
19 Feb 1938
p. 19
Variety
16 Feb 1938
p. 15
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck in Charge of Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Joseph LaShelle
Cam op
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Diction adv for Annabella
Publicity dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Jean by Ladislaus Bus-Fekete (Vienna, 23 Dec 1936).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Jean
Release Date:
18 February 1938
Production Date:
2 Dec 1937--mid Jan 1938
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
18 February 1938
LP8110
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA High Fidelity Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80
Length(in feet):
7,201
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3992
SYNOPSIS

On the last day of the Hungarian parliamentary elections, impeccable butler Johann Porok serves his master, Count Albert Sandor, the Prime Minister of Hungary, with his usual precision. Later in the day, after the polls close, Sandor and his family, which consists of his wife, the Countess, his snobbish daughter, the Baroness Katrina Marissey, and her philandering husband, Baron Georg Marissey, are astonished to hear on the radio that Johann has been elected to the parliament on the social progressive ticket, which strongly opposes Sandor. The stately prime minister takes the news in stride after Johann assures him that his new position will not interfere with his devotion as a butler, and in a radio broadcast, Sandor thanks his constituents for re-electing him and introduces Johann. Johann speaks strongly against Sandor's empty promises and ineffectual policies, which shocks the rest of the family but amuses Sandor. As time passes, Johann's eloquency in parliament draws quite a following, especially of admiring women, and Katrina finally goes to hear him speak. She is outraged by his defiance of her father's policies, as is the countess when she attends with Katrina later. Katrina even throws her purse at Johann as he is speaking, and when a brawl starts among the parliament members, Johann proves his sense of duty by escorting Sandor out of the hall. Later that afternoon, Georg informs the family that after Sandor left, a vote of confidence was taken and Sandor was removed as prime minister. Katrina sharply accuses Georg of not defending his father-in-law strongly enough, but Georg, who is trying to further his own career regardless of who is hurt, ...

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On the last day of the Hungarian parliamentary elections, impeccable butler Johann Porok serves his master, Count Albert Sandor, the Prime Minister of Hungary, with his usual precision. Later in the day, after the polls close, Sandor and his family, which consists of his wife, the Countess, his snobbish daughter, the Baroness Katrina Marissey, and her philandering husband, Baron Georg Marissey, are astonished to hear on the radio that Johann has been elected to the parliament on the social progressive ticket, which strongly opposes Sandor. The stately prime minister takes the news in stride after Johann assures him that his new position will not interfere with his devotion as a butler, and in a radio broadcast, Sandor thanks his constituents for re-electing him and introduces Johann. Johann speaks strongly against Sandor's empty promises and ineffectual policies, which shocks the rest of the family but amuses Sandor. As time passes, Johann's eloquency in parliament draws quite a following, especially of admiring women, and Katrina finally goes to hear him speak. She is outraged by his defiance of her father's policies, as is the countess when she attends with Katrina later. Katrina even throws her purse at Johann as he is speaking, and when a brawl starts among the parliament members, Johann proves his sense of duty by escorting Sandor out of the hall. Later that afternoon, Georg informs the family that after Sandor left, a vote of confidence was taken and Sandor was removed as prime minister. Katrina sharply accuses Georg of not defending his father-in-law strongly enough, but Georg, who is trying to further his own career regardless of who is hurt, fends off her remarks by saying that a coalition cabinet has long been in the works. After Georg leaves, Katrina turns on Johann, reprimanding him for attacking her father. Johann explains that while he regards Sandor highly as a person, he feels he is an incompetent politician. Their conversation makes Johann late in attending Sandor, and Sandor reluctantly fires Johann for being lax in his service. Johann understands that the action is not related to their political opposition and calmly leaves the house he has lived in all of his life. Later, Katrina and Georg host a ball to impress Georg's political higher-ups, and Georg mockingly invites Johann. Katrina is at first outraged to have to receive a former servant as her guest, but as the pair talk alone, they reminisce about their lives together. He tells her of his dreams, both political and personal, and confesses that all of his drive for self-education and social betterment is due to his deep love for her. His admission stirs Katrina, and as they are kissing, Georg walks in. The next day, Georg's lack of violent reaction is explained when Sandor announces to Katrina that Georg has consented to give her a divorce if Johann's party endorses him for Minister of Commerce in the coalition, and if Johann retires from politics. Katrina, who now believes in Johann, rushes to the parliament building to prevent him from nominating Georg. At Johann's office, she tries to talk him out of committing political suicide, but he insists that he must avoid any scandal for her sake. He goes out on the floor, and as he announces Georg's nomination, Katrina interrupts him. In front of the entire audience, Katerina explains that she and Johann are in love and that Georg is blackmailing them to get the nomination. Her declaration moves the politicians, and Georg is booed out of the hall, while Johann is elected to the post. Soon after, Katrina happily serves her new husband, Johann, breakfast in bed.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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