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The Baroness and the Butler

The Baroness and the Butler(1938)


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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 September 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter 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. Hollywood Reporter 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 September 19, 1937 New York Times interview with actor William Powell, who was borrowed from M-G-M, reported that he was traveling to Budapest, and the Variety 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 October 15, 1937 and November 17, 1939. For more information on Powell's absence from the screen, for Double Wedding.