Private Worlds

With this 1935 film, Gregory La Cava turned his talent for ensemble improvisation (My Man Godfrey, Stage Door) to melodrama rather than comedy, and the result is a tearjerker of unusual sobriety and heft. The setting is a mental hospital, where the new director (Charles Boyer) is resented by the staff for his scientific detachment, while doctor Claudette Colbert tries to extricate herself from an overly warm working relationship with a married colleague (Joel McCrea). While the drama seeks to define precise emotional distances, La Cava's camera adheres to his actors with a respectful mobility that still seems strikingly modern. With Joan Bennett, Helen Vinson, and Esther Dale.

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