The spoiled, lazy family of a Lord who enjoys practising reverse-role social experiments with his servants have their lives completely turned upside down when they are shipwrecked during their summer vacation. Their dependable butler Crichton quickly assumes the role of leader and starts to lord it over them for real leading to familial conflict.
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“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille!” cried Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950), though in real-life she’d already had quite a few as they made a series of social sex comedies at Paramount between 1919 and 1921, this venture being their first.
This mildly amusing adaptation of The Admirable Crichton by J.M. Barrie, stars Meighan as Crichton, a long forgotten idol of the past but who was one of the biggest film stars in the world at this time, turns in a masterfully sly comic turn in what is his most remembered role.
The supporting cast is delightful, particularly Roberts’ ham-fisted pantomime as Lord Loame and DeMille regular Hatton as the amusingly useless Woolley. But the real showcase performance is Swanson as Lady Mary, who is delightful and skilfully underplays the camera, recognising even at this early stage how exaggerated acting can look fake and embarrassing.
It is also strange that, given DeMille’s usually playful and light touch, that the decorously witty lampoon of social-class in Barrie’s famous drawing room comedy is gone, though some of his best lines are rearranged somewhere here.