Thursday, October 8, 2015

Private Number (1936)

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Private Number begins by showing a head butler being a jerk to the other household staff. The head butler Wroxton (Basil Rathbone) is a tyrant. If one thing is out of place on anyone he berates them mercilessly. The only other help that dares to stand up to Wroxton is the old cook and she just fights a battle she cannot really win.
            A young girl named Ellen Neal (Loretta Young) comes to the house answering an ad for a new maid. Wroxton takes a liking to her because she is young and pretty. He does not leave a good impression on Ellen she finds him oily and no good and runs out of the house. Another maid named Gracie convinces Ellen to stay on at the house.
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            Ellen eventually becomes the maid to Mrs. Winfield, the lady of the house. Mrs. Winfield is very nice to Ellen and treats her more like a friend than hired help. With this new position Ellen makes more money. Being a crook Wroxton usually takes a cut of everyone’s pay but since he has a soft spot for Ellen he lets her keep all her money.
            Richard Winfield (Robert Taylor), Mrs. Winfield’s son, comes home from college for winter break. He throws a big party for his friends who tagged along with him. Ellen comes to the house in street clothes and Richard believes her to be one of the guests. He starts flirting with her and dances with her too. After their dance Ellen lets Richard know she is his mother’s maid.
            One night Gracie takes Ellen out to a bar in the City. A fight breaks out at the bar and Ellen winds up leaving with a man who had been flirting with her. The guy takes her to an apartment that was actually an illegal gambling racket. The police raid the apartment and since she was there Ellen gets arrested with the others. She calls Wroxton to come bail her out and he obliges since he still thinks he has a chance with her. In the car he lets Ellen know that the family is going away to Maine for the summer and they usually let the house workers go in that time until they return. He wants to keep Ellen on thinking he will finally be alone with her. Turns out the next day Mrs. Winfield asks Ellen to come up to Maine with her.
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            Richard is also in Maine. He gets his flirt on with Ellen and is nothing but kind to her. She knows her place as his mother’s maid and tells him they cannot be together since it will cause a scandal but Richard does not seem to care at all. On Ellen’s birthday, Mrs. Winfield gives her a gorgeous new dress and Richard takes her out on the lake. He tells her he loves her and wants to marry her in secret before he leaves for his senior year of college and they can tell everyone they are married when he is done with school. Ellen, yet again, tries to make him understand that she is his mother’s maid but he does not, yet again, care.
            Richard leaves for college and lets Ellen have his dog while he is away. Soon Wroxton finds out what is going on and even figures that Ellen is pregnant. Since she has always refused his advances out of spite he tells the Winfields. Ellen tries desperately not to tell them who the father is but then she lets it be known that Richard is the father. Wroxton makes things ten times worse when he produces the receipt for her bail from jail. Mr. Winfield tells Wroxton not to give Richard any of her letters if Ellen is to write him.
            Months go by with Ellen living at a family friend’s house with her baby in the middle of nowhere. Somehow detectives find Ellen and serve with court papers to annul her marriage with Richard. Richard has no idea his parents sent out detectives to annul the marriage. He does not want to do that.
            Drama comes hot and heavy with a courtroom scene that was not too bad. Wroxton tried to bribe the guy who took Ellen out to the apartment she was arrested at to say that they did more than just go to the apartment and it wound up awesomely backfiring big time for both the guy and Wroxton.
If you have seen any old film you will know that Richard and Ellen wind up happily together.

Private Number was alright. I am not down with stories that deal with differences between classes and baby mamma drama. Sometimes they can work but most of the time I found those stories so damn boring. Loretta Young and Robert Taylor were great together and their characters were not too bad. Basil Rathbone was perfect as the slimy, nasty, no good butler. If you are a fan of any of the actors Private Number will be worth watching, if not skip it.
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