Ernst Lubitsch was a German filmmaker known for his punchy comedy and a sort of graceful style of filmmaking. You’ll see this ‘Lubitsch Touch’ in the 1946 romantic comedy Cluny Brown.
A satire on the mannerisms of the English society, the film does a fantastic job at subtly putting across its point. The protagonist is a young, vivacious girl Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones) who dreams and wants to explore life and travel from Baghdad to Cairo. But she is often put down by her uncle Arn who says "You don’t know your place, you will never know your place". Her nonconformist ways and unusual love for plumbing – which she is rather brilliant at – lands her in the countryside as a maid.
She meets the anti-Nazi refugee Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer) who tells her "no one should tell you your place". The famous dialogue from the film also inspired last year’s release She’s Funny That Way.
The dialogue forms the premise of the entire film and does an excellent job at layering different issues to make the script interesting and entertaining with characters who have their own whims, fancies, needs, and prejudices. The Carmel family, a cloistered country family gives us the perfect antithesis to the mindset that Cluny wants to live by. The uninterested Sir Henry Carmel (Reginald Owen), the extremely polite Lady Alice Carmel (Margaret Bannerman), and the young man who wants to take up a cause to escape his romantic blunders – Andrew Carmel (Peter Lawford). Then there’s the snide and sensational Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Cream (Helen Walker), the cause of Andrew’s romantic misfortune.
A charming film, Cluny Brown will give you almost everything you expect from a film but with a certain sophistication. There are innuendos, romantic bits, silly moments, funny dialogues, it even touches upon the post-war restlessness of England, it does all this with elegance.