WowZah! Does the sexual innuendo and overt monkey business ever run rampant in this delicious pre-code Hollywood black and white!
Let’s talk Hollywood before the rules kicked in before we get to some of the down and dirty about John Gilbert’s Downstairs … shall we? Trust me — it’s going to help make things a bit understandable.
Per Wikipedia’s Pre-Code Hollywood: “… films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence and homosexuality … Nefarious characters were seen to profit from their deeds, in some cases without significant repercussions …” (There’s quite the lengthy read at that link. Take a visit — it’s really quite interesting.)
Of the 10 mentions in the above quotation, we get a healthy dose of sexual innuendo, promiscuity, infidelity and intense violence feeding Downstairs, much of it rather shocking if you don’t know what’s coming. And, honestly, I didn’t know what was coming as the film unfolded.
Starring a debonair John Gilbert (who also wrote and hocked the film) as a newly hired chauffeur, the film begins with Gilbert traipsing into his new digs at the vast, bustling estate of the Baron Von Burgen (Reginald Owen, Ebenezer Scrooge in 1938′s A Christmas Carol). There’s a wedding going on, the nuptials of The Baron’s head butler Albert (Paul Lukas) and one of the young maids of the estate, Anna (Virginia Bruce). And right away, after a traditional stomping of grapes to bring good luck to the newly wedded couple, the lascivious Karl greets the bride with a big wet one right smack dab on the kisser. (Video below.) With that big wet one, we’re off to the races and hungry for what other sorts of mischief Karl gets involved with. Continue reading 'Downstairs: There’s nothing chaste in this kick of a Hollywood oldie' »
Photo Credit: MGM