Jolly Cinema > 11:30


James Whale


Friday 30/06/2017


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Based on an Austrian play that became a Broadway hit in an adaptation by P.G. Wodehouse, By Candlelight is a sly comedy of class distinctions that seems European to the core – set in Paris and Monte Carlo, starring a Hungarian (Paul Lukas), an Anglo-Italian (Elissa Landi) and a Dane (Nils Asther) and directed by an Englishman (James Whale, who replaced first-time director Robert Wyler after a few days of shooting).
Lukas is convincingly servile as Josef, the devoted butler of a womanizing prince (Asther), who has learned to play his supporting role in the prince’s carefully choreographed ritual of seduction – staging a power failure and rushing in with a candelabra just as the prince moves in on his lady of the evening (a parade that includes the ravishing Esther Ralston). Sent to Monte Carlo to prepare the prince’s villa for the season, Josef naturally assumes the prince’s aristocratic bearing when he meets an elegant young woman, Marie (Landi), on the train, assuming her to be a great lady just as he allows her to assume that he is a nobleman of the highest rank.
As in his masterpiece The Kiss Before the Mirror, filmed earlier in 1933 and also featuring Lukas, Whale underlines the fateful repetition of events, as Josef prepares to seduce Marie, using the prince’s time-tested scenario. Of course, nothing goes according to Josef’s plan, as identities and social ranks begin to shift and spin with dizzying speed.

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dalla pièce Kleine Komödie di Siegfried Geyer. Scen.: F. Hugh Herbert, Ruth Cummings, Karen De Wolf, Hans Kraly. F.: John J. Mescall. M.: Ted Kent, David Berg. Scgf.: Charles D. Hall. Mus.: W. Franke Harling. Int.: Elissa Landi (Marie), Paul Lukas (Josef), Nils Asther (principe Alfred von Rommer), Esther Ralston (baronessa Louise von Ballin), Lawrence Grant (conte von Rischenheim), Dorothy Revier (contessa von Rischenheim), Warburton Gamble (barone von Ballin), Lois January (Ann). Prod.: Carl Laemmle Jr. per Universal Pictures Corp. 35mm. D.: 70’. Bn.