Reserved for Ladies

A very Shavian idea of manners (“radiated, not announced”) informs this comedy on the infra-slim of a royal marriage.

Grand Palace Hotel, London. The headwaiter is an indispensable man, he rules the dining room with immaculate wisdom and courtesy.

Winter Sports Hotel, Kufstein. The King is incognito on his annual vacation.

Countess Ricardi, known as “Peggy” (Benita Hume), is English and maintains a liaison with Max, the headwaiter at the Grand Palace (Leslie Howard).

On a rainy London evening (like the foggy one in The Divorce of Lady X, which takes this film as its model), Max falls in love with a girl who turns out to be staying at the Grand Palace. Rather than face her as headwaiter, he follows her incognito to Kufstein.

People along the way, including the King, recognize Max of the Palace. He’s thought to be royalty by others as a result.

The girl (Elizabeth Allen) gets the gap wrong, it’s the insuperable Shakespearean minutia of waiter and diner, can’t be crossed.

La Ricardi pursues, Max withdraws. The girl’s father (Morton Selten) and the King (George Grossmith), friendly to Max, arrange a dinner at the Grand Palace.

The girl is spiteful because of his cowardice and engages Max for a private dinner party of these same guests and several others, at which she abuses him mightily for his airs and pretensions, he a waiter.

Her father tells Max that before he made his fortune by taking hold of his ambitions, he had been a hotel dishwasher. Max is advised to seize the initiative.

Which he does, though she insists he do so in a private room next door. The two drive off in a taxi, leaving her guests to wait.

In England the title is Service for Ladies. Its grand moment at the Winter Sports Hotel has Max caught between the two ladies with geometric precision, and then the gong is sounded in the lobby. Like Tom Courtenay in She Stoops to Conquer forty years later bowing low and landing his brow on the back of a divan, Max incognito stiffens and says, “Dinner is serv—“


The Private Life of Henry VIII

The first wife is respectable, “clever”, they’re divorced, that’s that.

The second is vain, “ambitious”, her head’s chopped off.

The third dies in childbirth.

The fourth bargains for a divorce and gets it.

The fifth betrays him with a courtier, her head’s chopped off.

The sixth mends his diet till her back is turned.

A circular response to the ages of man, directed to a charm, acted by a nonpareil.


The Private Life of Don Juan

It is a chapbook hawked at two centavos after his supposed death in Seville, and entirely fictitious.

The film, on the other hand, is rather a nightmare for him. Doņa Dolores (Benita Hume) has a gentle snare for him, the paramour of a year. She has bought up all his debts and he must come to her and ask for them, otherwise he goes to jail.

He means to see her, but an enchanting dancer (Merle Oberon) captures his fancy, and before he can leave the house again the police arrive early to announce that Don Juan is dead.

The corpse is a young imitator killed in a duel. The real Don Juan (Douglas Fairbanks) observes the weeping females at his own funeral, and takes a rest at a lowly inn, under an alias.

He suffers indignities there, women use him to scorn, so he returns to Seville and mounts the stage to bring down the curtain on a representation of his life. He is arrested as an impostor.

Released, he goes to Doņa Dolores, the source of his troubles. And he, the great lover, is surprised to find she does not want a husband. She tries to blow her candle out, he reaches down and quenches it.

Frank D. Gilroy made a brilliant analysis in From Noon Till Three.

The influence on Welles (Othello) is perceptible, on Russell (The Devils, Valentino) still more marked.



The point is carefully made of Holland’s greatness, still Rembrandt is too much for it. The Night Watch is the bone of contention, and the sheer style of thought in that painting briefly seen is the only manifestation of his work, rather the view of Vermeer and Brueghel and a foreordination of Van Gogh are given (Van Gogh who took up from Rembrandt).

In his main crises, Rembrandt is more than the market will bear (a situation recognized in these notes as befalling certain directors just the same way), while in the middle term he is the prodigal son who returns home to Leyden and his father’s grain mill, thereby leaving “his father’s house”.

Laughton incarnates the painter from his self-portraits. Neame pays homage in The Horse’s Mouth with a carefully cultivated understanding of the compositional elements.


Lady Hamilton

That Hamilton Woman, in certain quarters.

Crowther of the New York Times contrived not to understand it at all, so there came to be James Cellan Jones’ Bequest to the Nation, which Canby of the New York Times took care to deride.

And so, an understanding of Korda’s film in New York seems out of the question. Halliwell’s Film Guide pronounces upon it, “a famous misalliance... coldly made”, etc.

The absurd nephew, the ambassador-æsthete, the admirable Nelson, the King and Queen of Naples, the Admiralty, Lady Nelson, and those two proud parents, Emma’s mother and Rev. Nelson, to say nothing of Nelson’s first speech in the House of Lords, commented upon by a lady in the gallery, there are great consequences in this that the gentlemen of the press haven’t taken notice of, though Crowther did acknowledge “surprising frankness”, and Variety that “Korda makes out a sympathetic case”, after all.


An Ideal Husband

“The most dishonest and fraudulent scheme there has ever been in political life.”

A precedent is argued, nothing like it.

Merely a question of mésalliance, when it comes down to cases.

Much of this is appropriated for John Boulting’s The Magic Box on location and Minnelli’s Gigi as well, also Cukor’s My Fair Lady of course, by virtue of Cecil Beaton and Vincent Korda.

The opening turnout is vitally important, because it is not mere window-dressing but the exact placement of style, and will be observed by its end to have been successful. Lord Goring’s dissertation before the mirror establishes an understanding of the Wildean manner. The pan across the boudoir that follows fixes Korda’s situation, he does not mean to modernize the play at all.

By the sort of paradox that is the bane of Lord Goring’s social existence, this brings Korda to a most modern moment of dazzling acuity, which is Hugh Williams’ walk through the House after he has made his speech in the expectation of imminent exposure and ruin. This is crowned by his dejection along the Thames in the succeeding shot, a striking design.