Just a Gigolo
Cast & Crew
C. Aubrey Smith
Paris, known by many as "London's love nest," is the home of philandering Englishman Lord Robert Brummel and his uncle, Lord George Hampton. George calls his nephew a scamp because he has mishandled his finances and has become involved in numerous well-publicized affairs with married women. He then tells his nephew that he has arranged a meeting between Robert and his creditors in order to solve his money problems. Instead of going to the meeting, however, Robert spends time with his latest lover, Lady Agatha Carrol. When George learns that Robert did not see his creditors, he decides to punish him by cutting off his funds and insisting that he marry Roxana Hartley, the daughter of his upper-crust friend, Lady Jane Hartley. Robert, who believes that all women, especially married ones, cannot be trusted, is so sure that Roxana will be unfaithful to him, that he makes a bet with his uncle that he can prove it. If in thirty days, Robert cannot prove that Roxana is susceptible to the temptations of having an affair with another man while she is engaged to him, he promises he will marry her. Certain that Roxana will behave as all wives do, Robert tries to prove his theory by posing as a professional dancing partner named Mr. Jolie, and seducing her. Meanwhile, George visits Lady Jane Hartley in Biarritz to discuss the marriage, and is introduced to Roxana, whom he has not seen since she was a child. George marvels at how she has matured from a meek and demure child into a spirited young woman. She is so spirited, in fact, that she has taken up with a young gigolo named Mr. Jolie, who is soon introduced to the shocked uncle. After they share a dance, Roxana and Mr. Jolie go into the garden, where she tells her friends that her escort is just a gigolo, and then leaves him. Later, Robert cleverly arranges a private meeting with Roxana by the lake, but when she shows no interest in him, he decides to make her jealous by pretending to talk to her friend Gwenny. His ploy works, and Roxana later agrees to picnic with Robert. On their date, Robert begins to tell Roxana that he loves her, when a swarm of bees attack them and they are forced to take cover under a blanket. On the thirtieth day of Robert's wager, with only eight hours left to prove Roxana's natural inclination towards unfaithfulness, Robert makes preparations for his last attempt to seduce her, which will take place at her private dance lesson with Jolie. When Roxana learns that Jolie has been giving other women private dance lessons, she becomes jealous and angry. Robert makes one last-minute attempt to seduce her, but when he sees her resolve to remain faithful to her future husband, he realizes that he has lost his bet. However, when Roxana learns from her maid Pauline that Mr. Jolie is not really a gigolo, but rather a lord, she immediately decides to teach him a lesson. Feigning a renewed and lustful interest in Robert, Roxana accepts his invitation to take a private flight to San Sebastian. Once there, Robert shows his displeasure and surprise that she has succumbed to his advances, but soon plays into her plan by flirting with her. The moment he does so, she slaps him, exposes his lies and tells him that she despises him. Robert, having learned his lesson, begs her forgiveness, and the two kiss.
C. Aubrey Smith
B. P. Fineman
Oliver T. Marsh
Irving G. Thalberg
Just a Gigolo (1931)
Billy Haines had been one of MGM's biggest stars during the silent era and his boyish good looks, breezy personality and undeniable charm won him millions of female fans. Of the transition from silents to talkies, he famously said, "It was the night of the Titanic all over again, with women grabbing the wrong children and Louis B. Mayer singing Nearer My God to Thee." Haines' career easily survived the switch to sound but at the time he filmed Just a Gigolo, in which he plays an English playboy forced into an arranged marriage, his life was imitating his art and his career was in danger by something more personal.
While the fan magazine made up stories of romances with actresses, in reality, Haines was gay (an open secret in Hollywood) and very much in love with his partner, Jimmie Shields. In February 1931, just as he was about to begin shooting on Just a Gigolo, MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer ordered Haines to end the relationship with Shields and either submit to a studio arranged marriage or risk losing his contract. Mayer, a staunch conservative, was worried about Haines' onscreen antics as well. As William J. Mann wrote, Haines was brought into a meeting with MGM executives and "was told in no uncertain terms to leave the trademark William Haines wisecracks and mannerisms out of his performance [in Just a Gigolo]. He was to play it straight - in all the meanings of the term. He was instructed to imitate Ronald Colman for the picture. Then Fineman told him he would be coached by Leslie Howard, the English actor newly arrived on the lot."
Just a Gigolo, directed by Jack Conway, was based on the Broadway play Dancing Partner, produced in 1930 by David Belasco, and based on a German work by Alexander Engle and Alfred Grünwald. The Belasco play of an English playboy who impersonates a gigolo in order to test the woman his uncle has arranged for him to marry had originally starred Irene Purcell, who would recreate her role of the love interest in the film. Also in the cast was C. Aubrey Smith, who excelled at playing authority figures, and Charlotte Granville. Ann Dvorak, who would attract favorable attention as Paul Muni's sister in Scarface (1932) the following year, can be seen as a dance extra. The great P.G. Wodehouse wrote dialog for the film, although screen credit went to Hans Kraly, Richard Schayer, and Claudine West. The art director on the film was...William Haines. This love of decorating would transform Haines' life soon after.
The reviews for Just a Gigolo were mixed. Some critics thought that Haines was miscast as an Englishman, but Mordaunt Hall wrote in the New York Times that he gave "a really good performance. His acting is more subdued than it has been in any other production and the result is that this feature is a highly amusing entertainment. He holds his own with such experienced players as C. Aubrey Smith, Irene Purcell and Charlotte Granville. It is a comedy bordering on farce, but Jack Conway has directed it in a knowledgeful fashion. It is lavishly staged and the story is one suited to Mr. Haines, who figures as a young Don Juan with little faith in women. His experiences in the opening interludes lead one to think that he has some reason for doubting the fair sex. [...] Many of the incidents in this film aroused laughter on all sides from an audience yesterday afternoon. But let it be said that this is one of those pictures that should be seen from the beginning, otherwise a good deal of fun may be missed."
Billy Haines did what few stars could. He defied Louis B. Mayer and refused to give Shields up and it ruined his film career. For some stars, this would have been a tragedy, but for Haines, it was a blessing. He became one of the world's top interior decorators and was commissioned for work by Hollywood friends like Carole Lombard, Jack Warner, Claudette Colbert and William Powell, and eventually high society figures like the Bloomingdales. His career triumph was when he was asked to remake the American Ambassador's residence in London. Haines' relationship with Shields was likewise a success for almost fifty years. Following his death in 1973, Shields, unable to face life without his partner, followed him three months later. Joan Crawford once referred to them as "the happiest married couple in Hollywood."
Producer: Jack Conway (uncredited)
Director: Jack Conway
Screenplay: Hans Kraly, Richard Schayer, Claudine West (adaptation (dialogue)); Fanny Hatton, Frederic Hatton (English adaptation); Alexander Engel, Alfred Grunwald (play "Dancing Partners")
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons; William Haines (uncredited)
Film Editing: Frank Sullivan
Cast: William Haines (Lord Robert 'Bobby' Brummel), Irene Purcell (Roxana 'Roxy' Hartley), C. Aubrey Smith (Lord George Hampton), Charlotte Granville (Lady Jane Hartley), Lilian Bond (Lady Agatha Carrol), Albert Conti (A French Husband), Maria Alba (A French Wife), Ray Milland (Freddie), Lenore Bushman (Gwenny), Gerald Fielding (Tony), Yola d'Avril (Pauline, Roxana's Maid).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Golden, Eve, Golden Images: 41 Essays on Silent Film Stars
Hall, Mordaunt, "Just a Gigolo", New York Times 13 Jun 31
The Internet Movie Database
Mann, William J. Wisecracker Taves, Brian, P.G. Wodehouse and Hollywood: Screenwriting, Satires, and Adaptations
Just a Gigolo (1931)
The English adaptation of the play was produced by David Belasco and opened in Atantic City, New Jersey, USA in late July, 1930. It moved to New York City on 5 August 1930.
Irene Purcell reprised her role in the play for this movie.
Pre-release titles for this film were Dancing Partner and The Princess and the Dancer. The play Dancing Partner was produced by David Belasco and opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey in late July 1930 prior to its New York engagement. Irene Purcell reprised her role in the play for the picture. A March 1931 M-G-M studio cast sheet listed Lena Stengel in the part that was played by Maria Alba. Modern sources note that William Haines not only starred in the film, but handled the art direction as well.
According to censorship material in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in March 1931 the Hays Office warned M-G-M that it was troubled by the too plainly stated intentions of "Lord Brummel" in a scene in which he says that he plans to seduce "Roxana" within a month's time. The Hays Office told M-G-M production chief Irving Thalberg that "the case is too bluntly stated and that it should be so phrased as to permit two interpretations; that is, the scene should be so worded as to allow the sophisticated to grasp the present meaning, while to all others it will simply mean that Robert is going to put Roxy under observation for a month to find out whether or not she is really all her uncle says she is." The office also recommended many other changes in the script, including the removal of a scene showing "Roxana" changing from her dress into pajamas; dialogue suggesting an improper act at a dentist office visit; and "the shot of a cherub on the fountain, 'using nature's method of adding to the water fountain.'"
Two weeks prior to the release of the film, Col. Jason S. Joy of the Hays Office wrote "I have seen Dancing Partner and am not able to determine whether it is good or bad. If it is thought of as light frothy fun, it is all right but if it is thought of as a serious problem, it is bad." The MPAA/PCA files also indicate that the film was rejected by censor boards in Ireland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia, which rejected the film because of the "light treatment of immoral sex subjects."