GenreComedy, Drama, Romance Duration CountryUnited States
WriterSam Hellman, Lamar Trotti, Kathryn Scola Release dateFebruary 18, 1938 (1938-02-18) Based onthe play Jean
by Ladislaus Bus-Fekete GenresComedy, Romance Film, Drama film, Political drama CastWilliam Powell (Johann Porok), Annabella (Baroness Katrina Marissey), Helen Westley (Countess Sandor), Henry Stephenson (Count Albert Sandor), Joseph Schildkraut (Baron Georg Marissey), J. Edward Bromberg (Zorda) Similar moviesThe Conquest, Ali G Indahouse, The Masters of Terror, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Four More Years, Johnny English Reborn
The Baroness and the Butler is a 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Walter Lang and starring William Powell and, in her American debut, Annabella.
Johann Porok, a third-generation butler in the service of Count Albert Sandor, the Prime Minister of Hungary, is unexpectedly elected to the Hungarian parliament, representing the opposition social progressive party. Despite this, he insists on remaining a servant as well. Count Sandor is pleased with this peculiar arrangement, as he has found Johann to be the perfect butler and does not wish to break in a new man. His daughter, Baroness Katrina Marissey, however, considers Johann a traitor and treats him very coldly.
In parliament, Johann attacks the Prime Minister, his employer, for yearly promising much to the poor underclass and delivering nothing, always citing "difficulties". To Katrina's puzzlement, the Count is not offended in the least and remains quite friendly with Johann. Within three months, Johann becomes the leader of his party. Katrina becomes more and more furious, finally throwing her purse and striking Johann in parliament during one of his scathing speeches. When his colleagues assume it was thrown by someone from the ruling conservative party, a brawl breaks out, and Johann and the Prime Minister hastily depart. Baron Georg Marissey, Katrina's husband and another member of parliament, later informs them that a vote of confidence was held after they left; the Count lost and will have to resign as Prime Minister. He is pleased to be able to spend more time with his wife. However, he reluctantly discharges Johann, as he has been neglecting his duties as head butler. They part good friends.
When Katrina holds a ball, her ambitious husband invites Johann without her knowledge. Left alone together, Katrina gradually warms to Johann. Then he confesses that he loves her, and that is why he is trying to better himself, even though he knows his cause is hopeless. Katrina embraces and kisses him. They are interrupted by Georg and Major Andros, another ardent admirer of Katrina. In private, Georg offers to divorce Katrina in return for Johann nominating him for the office of Minister of Commerce. Despite Katrina's strong opposition, Johann does just that in parliament. However, Katrina denounces the bargain in public, and Georg is forced to leave the parliamentary chamber in disgrace. In the final scene, Johann Porok is served breakfast in bed by the "maid", Katrina, who is revealed to be Mrs. Porok.
William Powell as Johann Porok
Annabella as Baroness Katrina Marissey
Helen Westley as Countess Sandor
Henry Stephenson as Count Albert Sandor
Joseph Schildkraut as Baron Georg Marissey
J. Edward Bromberg as Zorda
Nigel Bruce as Major Andros
Lynn Bari as Klari, a maid attracted to Johann
Maurice Cass as Radio Announcer
Ivan F. Simpson as Count Dormo (as Ivan Simpson)
Alphonse Ethier as President
Claire Du Brey as Martha
According to Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, Powell decided that work would ease his grief over the untimely death of his girlfriend, Jean Harlow, on June 7, 1937. He had also undergone surgery for cancer. Osborne suggests that he welcomed being loaned out to Twentieth Century-Fox, rather than working for his home studio of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which had strong associations with Harlow.