During the final months of the much-missed streaming service FilmStruck, word on Twitter was flying around that every single subscriber must take a chance to see the last film made by famed director Ernst Lubitsch, “Cluny Brown” while it was on the service to see. A rare film, which was very hard to track down. Watching “Cluny Brown” I was delighted to discover a movie that was a joy from start to finish, an absolute delight, and one of the best films by the famed Lubitsch. Luckily, the film’s scarcity is no more thanks to a new DVD and Blu-Ray release by The Criterion Collection, I’ll be focusing on the latter.
Sometimes these rare movies don’t live up to the hype, but “Cluny Brown” not only lives up to its hype, but it also succeeds it. To watch “Cluny Brown” is to spend 100 minutes of your life in pure delight. The film is funny, wonderful, a confection, and a delicious satire of British class systems. Jennifer Jones, in one of the few comedies she made, stars are Cluny Brown, a bright young lady with a knack for plumbing whose dyed-in-the-wool of English traditions uncle sends her to live and work at a stuffy manor.
Cluny, in her “I will be my own person” way begins to turn life at the manor upside down, aided by the arrival of Adam Belinski, played by Charles Boyer, an exile who has fled the Nazi’s (the film set in pre-WWII England), but is still living hand to mouth despite being praised in the intellectual circles as something of a great man of thought. Belinski is brought to the manor by the way of the lord and lady’s son, played by Peter Lawford, who is all sure-fire about Belinki’s peri and view of the world.
“Cluny Brown” is an absolute delight from start to finish, a funny movie with a lovely statical edge poking fun at a house that wouldn’t be too far removed from “Downtown Abbey.” The cast is fantastic, as bolstering Jones, Boyer, and Lawford, are some truly fantastic character actors, including my two favorite character actors of all time Reginald Gardiner and Una O’Connor, who has a VERY funny role in the film as Richard Hayden’s mother.
The Criterion Collection has done a real boon by making “Cluny Brown” available on DVD and blu-ray, the blu-ray of the film looks fantastic, taken from a new 4K restoration. Bonus material on this disc includes a great conversation between critics Molly Haskell and Farran Smith Nehem, an essay by scholar Kristin Thompson, a 2004 interview with scholar Bernard Eisenschitz. Plus, a 1950 radio adaptation of the film rounds it out.
“Cluny Brown” has very quickly become my favorite Ernst Lubitsch film, it’s a joy from start to finish and truly hilarious. If I could ever offer my suggestion for a film that is worth a blind buy, it’s this one, you need to get it for your library ASAP. Highly recommended by yours truly. See you next week.