Cast & Crew
O. P. Heggie
Louise Closser Hale
When lawyer David Trent pays a visit to Emmet Mortimer's London home, Shirley, his overworked and unappreciated "wallflower" daughter, falls instantly in love with him. Determined to break out of her stifling home life, Shirley disguises herself as a dowdy, spectacled matron named Mrs. Halifax and wins a position as Trent's son's governess. As the Cockney Mrs. Halifax, Shirley dotes on Trent and scolds him when he drinks American-style cocktails or stays up too late to work on his legal briefs. After Trent secures an acquittal for Norman Harrington, a popular London painter who was accused of murdering his wife, he invites Harrington to his flat for a victory drink. While chatting with Trent, Harrington notices some of Shirley's hair slipping out of her wig and draws a youthful, flattering sketch of her. From the sketch, Trent finally recognizes Shirley but remains silent about his discovery and, knowing that she will be dining with her father the next night, finagles an invitation to join them. Although entranced by Shirley during the dinner, Trent feigns ignorance of her game until she tries to sneak back into his flat as Mrs. Halifax. After exposing her ruse, Trent confesses his love but, out of propriety, sends her to her friend's house for the night. The next morning, however, Shirley, unable to stay away, returns to Trent's flat as Mrs. Halifax. The romantic relationship blossoms until Trent's long-estranged wife shows up unexpectedly. Shocked by the appearance of Mrs. Trent, Shirley leaves Trent and becomes a model for Harrington, who soon falls in love with her. When Harrington asks Shirley to become his mistress, however, she rejects him and returns to her former dreary life at home. To the surprise of her family, a remorseful Harrington drops by to see Shirley one afternoon and proposes marriage. Seconds later, Trent arrives and, after explaining to Shirley that he had not seen his wife for four years, announces that he is securing a divorce. Thus assured of Trent's honor, Shirley eagerly accepts his love.
O. P. Heggie
Louise Closser Hale
Harry Joe Brown
D. A. Cutler
Charles R. Rogers
Directed by Robert Milton from a screenplay by Horace Jackson and Graham John, the story of Devotion is a convoluted tale of mistaken identity. In a nutshell, Howard plays David Trent, a London barrister with a young son and an estranged wife. Shirley Mortimer (Harding) is the young society woman who falls instantly and secretly in love with him. In order to be closer to Trent, Shirley dons the cliché Hollywood disguise to appear unattractive - she hides her light blonde hair with a dark wig, wears a frumpy gown and puts on glasses. Calling herself Mrs. Halifax, Shirley is hired by Trent to be his son's governess, and while in his employ she helps him in various ways. Eventually, Trent recognizes the real Shirley and declares his love. Complications ensue when his long-lost wife suddenly shows up and the once dowdy Shirley leaves to become a model with Harrington (Williams), a famous artist asking for her hand in marriage. What's a girl to do? It's Hollywood in the 1930s, so it's not hard to predict the ending.
Despite the odd plot, Devotion proved to be popular with the critics. Screenland magazine listed the film among its Top 10 best films of 1931. Mordaunt Hall in The New York Times called it "pleasing entertainment, owing principally to the excellent cast, headed by the radiant and talented Ann Harding, and to Robert Milton's competent direction." However, Hall noted that there was "a certain vagueness about some of the incidents," such as when Trent gets Harrington off on a murder charge for killing his wife after she slashed one of his paintings while drunk. "From the way Harrington behaves in subsequent episodes one would imagine that he had done nothing more than box his wife's ears."
Devotion was still playing in the theaters when Platinum Blonde was released on Halloween, 1931. With two strong performances before the public, Robert Williams was suddenly in the news....but for a different reason. In late October 1931, Williams underwent an operation for appendicitis. Like Rudolph Valentino, who had a similar operation, Williams developed peritonitis. He died on November 3rd at the age of 37. At the time of his death, he was in the midst of filming another movie with Ann Harding, Prestige (1932).
Producer: Charles R. Rogers
Director: Robert Milton
Screenplay: Horace Jackson, Graham John (screenplay); Pamela Wynne (novel)
Cinematography: Hal Mohr
Art Direction: Carroll Clark
Film Editing: Daniel Mandell
Cast: Ann Harding (Shirley Mortimer), Leslie Howard (David Trent), Robert Williams (Norman Harrington), O.P. Heggie (Mr. Emmet Mortimer), Louise Closser Hale (Mrs. Mortimer), Dudley Digges (Sergeant Herbert Coggins), Alison Skipworth (Mrs. Matilda Coggins), Doris Lloyd (Pansy), Olive Tell (Mrs. Trent), Ruth Weston (Margaret Mortimer).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Hall, Mordaunt "The Screen: Love at a Glance" The New York Times 6 Oct 31
"Former Stage Stars Take Cinema Roles," Los Angeles Times 1 Oct 31
Merrick, Mollie "Stars and Talkies," Spokesman Review 4 Nov 31
Working titles of this film were A Little Flat in the Temple and Alias Mrs. Halifax. According to Hollywood Reporter, RKO changed the title from Devotion to Alias Mrs. Halifax, then switched back to Devotion. RKO borrowed Leslie Howard from M-G-M for the production.