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Downstairs

(1932 b 78')

En: 6 Ed: 6


A chauffeur uses his romantic charm, lies, and blackmail to manipulate fellow servants and his employers.

Albert (Paul Lukas) and Anna (Virginia Bruce) are wed; they are servants of the Baron (Reginald Owen). The new chauffeur Karl (John Gilbert) arrives, and the Countess (Hedda Hopper) tells Karl not to work there. Anna likes Albert's room and is grateful to him. Francoise is drunk, and butler Albert is called to work while Karl comes in the window to talk with Anna. Karl drives the Baroness (Olga Baclanova) to Vienna but has to wait outside, finding a gem in the car. Albert tells Karl he must respect the Baron and the Baroness, repeating her story, because as servants they are downstairs. Albert, Anna, and Karl drink beer. Albert is called away, and Karl tells Anna that he travels. Karl kisses Anna, and she slaps him but doesn't tell Albert. Karl finds cook Sophie (Bodil Rosing) in his room and says this is not last night. Sophie cries. Karl offers Anna the gem he found in the car; the Baroness sees the clip he put on Anna and accuses her of stealing it. Karl tells the Baroness he gave it to her and names the street where he got it. Anna thanks Karl. The Baroness tells the Baron about Karl and Anna as Albert hears. The Baroness informs Albert he can change the servants. The Baron goes fishing with Albert, who tells Karl to leave Anna alone.

Karl takes Anna to dinner and says Albert asked him to. Anna learns that Karl reserved a room and leaves. Anna accuses Karl of lying; he admits he did, because he is crazy about her. Karl says he'll leave and asks for a good-bye kiss that is a long one. The Baron returns sneezing; Albert fires Karl and reprimands Anna. She says Karl took her to the café, and she found a new feeling. Karl tells the Baroness he wants to remain, and she tells Albert that Karl is staying, causing Sophie to laugh. Karl tells Sophie not to nag at him. Albert tells the Baroness that Karl or he must leave; but she says Karl is blackmailing her. Albert finds Anna asleep and puts her to bed. Sophie goes into Karl's room and pleads with him, giving him her money for a coffee shop. Karl tells Anna he has money, but she knows it is Sophie's. Karl grapples with Anna and knocks over a wine rack. The Baron stops Albert from fighting Karl. The servants clean up, and impeccable Albert apologizes to Karl. Then Albert tells Karl to get out; when he refuses, they fight. Albert makes Karl give the money back to Sophie. In the final scene Karl goes to a pretty woman (Karen Morley) as her new chauffeur.

This drama contrasts the obedient attitude of a loyal butler to the immorality of a scheming libertine chauffeur in Austria. The butler has a stable but fairly dull life, while the chauffeur leaves a trail of emotional wreckage as he travels on after his adventures.

Copyright © 2001 by Sanderson Beck

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