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  • Gregory LaCava directs a sensitive and thought-provoking film about the relationships among the staff and patients in a mental hospital circa 1935. The team efforts of psychiatrists Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea and threatened when misogynistic head honcho Charles Boyer appears on the scene. He feels Colbert has no place in a man's profession. His eyes are soon opened as he witnesses Colbert's skill and no-how with the patients. Provoking questions are injected here and there (ie., McCrea states that he feels there's no difference between sanity and insanity -- everyone moves within their own "private world"). The film has a humanistic and sensitive approach to the subject -- I felt involved and challanged by this films propositions. Excellent support is provided by Helen Vinson as Boyer's sister with a dark past. Joan Bennett is also on hand as the sweet wife of McCrea balancing the delicate mental world of a woman being "cheated" on by her husband. This is another Paramount film that seems to be forever lost to TV or video. Check those private collectors lists -- this film is worth having.
  • Until The Snake Pit and later One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest are superior films, the film about mental illness up to when these two came out was Paramount's Private Worlds. It came out in 1935 and gave Claudette Colbert an Oscar nominated performance as the dedicated psychiatrist who has no time for romance.

    Unlike those other two classics Private Worlds deals more with the staff than with the patients. Colbert and colleague Joel McCrea have to swallow disappointment about McCrea not getting a promotion as head of the institution. Instead an outsider and a foreigner played by Charles Boyer gets the job. Boyer has some old fashioned notions about women in medicine, there are doctors and there are nurses, male and female because that's how God intended it. In the end Colbert does far more than just convince Boyer she's competent.

    Boyer also has a sister who lives with him and if he doesn't have enough crazies to deal with on the job, Helen Vinson gives him an opportunity for research at home. She's flighty and irresponsible and she was responsible for someone's death and Boyer keeps her on a tight leash. Living with that at home, no wonder he's such a pill at the office. For the life of me I'm still wondering how the French named accented Dr. Manet, Boyer's character, has an American sounding sister. Vinson gives her usual good performance so I guess people overlooked that back in the day.

    She sets her sights on McCrea and that causes an emotional breakdown in McCrea's wife Joan Bennett who was already jealous of all the time McCrea spent with Colbert.

    Down in the cast giving a really great performance as the grandmother of Nurse Ratched is Esther Dale whose answer to all problems with the patients is lock them in the rubber room in solitary. Seeing how Colbert deals with Guinn Williams as opposed to Dale really shows Colbert's worth to the institution.

    Claudette lost the Oscar in 1935 to Bette Davis for Dangerous and probably would not have won it again as she was the winner the year before for It Happened One Night. And Davis was not thrilled with her performance in Dangerous either.

    Though I believe The Snake Pit and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest are superior films, Private Worlds still has its merits with some fine performances covering over a somewhat flawed story.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1935, it was considered quite daring for a leading studio like Paramount to take a chance on "Private Worlds". Because depression weary audiences were more into the screwball delights of "My Man Godfrey" and "Twentieth Century", soap operas or gangster movies, Phyllis Bottome's novel about mental institutions was considered a challenge to producer Walter Wanger. Story and cast were top drawer - Claudette Colbert was Queen of the Lot and she had decided to play Dr. Jane Everett, a workaholic psychiatrist after showing the public she was a charming comedienne in "The Gilded Lily". As the star, Paramount wisely surrounded her with up and coming Charles Boyer, pretty ingenue Joan Bennett, popular Joel McCrea and all round "bad girl" Helen Vinson.

    Dr. Jane Everett (Claudette Colbert) and Dr. Alex McGregor (Joel McCrea) are trying their best to bring hope, happiness and understanding into the lives of the mental patients of Brentwood Hospital. Alex is looking forward to a promotion to the role of Superintendent but in a surprise twist, a French doctor, Charles Manet (Charles Boyer) is promoted instead. Manet brings with him some old fashioned ideas about women doctors and the "new fangled" way Brentwood is being run. He has an instant ally in Matron (Esther Dale) whose favourite treatment - solitary confinement - has been frowned upon up to this time.

    Everyone has their own "private world". Jane is a workaholic who cannot get over the death of a young man she was once in love with. Charles has bought his sister with him. Claire (Helen Vinson) is an acquitted murderess, who may have been guilty and has a destructive streak which is now destroying Alex's marriage. Alex's wife Sally (Joan Bennett) is beautiful but highly strung and seems to have been living in the hospital grounds a bit too long. She reaches out to Carrie Flint ("I'm Carrie Flint - I've come to tea") a disturbed young girl who Sally seems to identify with and feels she can reach out to. The movie comes to a climax when Sally suffers a complete breakdown and is rushed to the hospital - Alex doesn't realise, as he is out with Claire. Of course Charles then realises he has found his soul mate in Jane - he just has to convince her!!

    Everyone in the cast is superlative - Claudette Colbert was nominated for an Academy Award but, unfortunately, lost to Bette Davis for her "flashier" part in "Dangerous". This movie was a turning point for Joan Bennett and proved to people that she was a good actress and not just a pretty face. Jean Rouverol was unforgettable as Carrie Flint - she had a pretty exciting life herself. She and her husband were blacklisted in the 1950s and went to live in Mexico. Her last film appearance was in a 2009 short about Alzheimer's Disease. Her mother, Aurania Rouverol created the Andy Hardy series.

    Some of "Private Worlds" impressive touches by under-rated director Gregory La Cava - tilted camera angles to create mental disturbance, seems clichéd today but they weren't in 1935. Even though it was supposedly groundbreaking in it's approach, it was 13 years before a major studio would take another chance on tackling the world of mental illness - 20th Century Fox's "The Snake Pit".

    Highly, Highly Recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    We all live in many worlds, the soap opera "Another World" once declared, and indeed, this shows the dangerous world of psychiatry as seen through one particular institution where different methods are disagreed upon by the long time doctors and their new chief of staff. Claudette Colbert has a calming, kindly way of dealing with even the most dangerous of patients, and has created a bond with young doctor Joel McCrea whose fragile wife (an excellent Joan Bennett) is admittedly jealous of their bond even though she knows it is platonic. Nasty nurse Esther Dale despises the coddling manner in which these two psychiatrists treat their patients, and when McCrea is turned down for the open chief of staff position, Dale is overjoyed. The arriving new chief of staff (Charles Boyer) has something against women psychiatrists and immediately moves Colbert out of the men's ward and into the more sedate out patient program. Their initial differences are passive/aggressively manipulated by the Nurse Ratched like Dale who soon finds out that her methods aren't quite approved by Boyer either and uses knowledge of his sister Helen Vinson's past against him when she is threatened with termination. Bored with his pregnant wife, McCrea begins to see the extremely neurotic Vinson which has a negative effect on Bennett's sanity that makes her see visions and hear things, especially after she attempts to host a tea party with one of the more fragile patients at the institution.

    Starting off great, this was intriguing and mesmerizing up to the point where Dale manipulated her way back into the position of head nurse (more like a prison matron) who barks orders at her nurse charges and treats the patients as if they were animals. I felt sorry for the actress Esther Dale, typecast usually because of her hard looks as an unfeeling older woman, because I hated her character with no regret right from the start. Dale, who became a comical busybody in the Ma & Pa Kettle movie, plays this role the exact same way she played her prison matron in "Condemned Women". A nice change of pace for her was "Holiday Affair" as Janet Leigh's mother who is opinionated but quite big hearted. No case of that here, and after the scene where she is re-instated, she basically disappears anyway, and the film goes down hill from there. Colbert somehow got an Oscar nomination for this (she's good, but certainly not outstanding), while it is Bennett who gives truly the best performance, just a few years before darkening her hair and becoming a film noir vixen. The photography and editing are excellent, however, reminding me of some of the photographic effects later utilized in "The Lost Weekend" and "The Snake Pit" which covered much of the same territory. Certainly, psychiatry has changed a lot in the past 80+ years (for the better, Thank God!), but this isn't quite the drastic and cruel methods used in the Val Lewton/Boris Karloff horror melodrama "Bedlam" which dealt with mental patients a century before this. Had the script focused more on improving the situation (and dealing with nasty Dale) rather than focusing on the growing romance between Colbert and Boyer, I would have ranked this quite a bit higher.
  • Based on a novel by Phyllis Bottome, Colbert and McCrea are progressive psychiatrists who try to improve patient treatment, against the wishes of the local "Send 'em to the padded cell" Nurse Ratched type (Esther Dale). Unfortunately, the new and improved treatment seems to consist of Claudette getting up in the patient's face, grinning like a jack-o'-lantern and saying, "I'm your friend!" That would make me catatonic for sure.

    Joan Bennett, as McCrea's wife, feels threatened by his closeness with Colbert. McCrea expects to be the new head of the institution, but the board chooses a conservative outsider (Boyer). If you aren't expecting a hate-turns-to-love vibe for Boyer and Colbert, you haven't watched enough movies. To get revenge on Boyer, McCrea starts an affair with Boyer's nutso sister (Helen Vinson). Charles Boyer and Helen Vinson are the least likely siblings this side of Dean Martin and Wendy Hiller in Toys in the Attic, and we never learn why one talks like Paris, France, and one talks like Paris, Texas.

    Gregory La Cava is a fine director of romantic comedy, but this film needed an Edmund Goulding or John Cromwell, someone who could develop the domestic melodrama implicit in this material. All of the "sane" people come close to breaking down at one point or another, and that could have been the unifying theme behind the script. The pacing is off, and the script is too talky. The four stars are effectively cast, and several rounds of script revision and perhaps a different director might have made this a much better film.

    One of the mental patients (the one who keeps saying "I'm Carrie Flint!") is played by Jean Rouverol, who would be blacklisted and eventually would write for the soaps.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILERS THROUGHOUT. 'Private Worlds' is a turgid melodrama that seems more like a soap opera than anything else. Each of the major characters has his or her bizarre subplot, and there's no foreshadowing of any of these. We get no clue that Dr MacGregor's wife is emotionally disturbed until she suddenly starts hearing voices. We get no hint that Dr MacGregor is having an affair with Dr Monet's sister until we see them at it. In fact, I had a great deal of trouble believing that Dr Monet (French actor Charles Boyer) and his sister Claire (Texan actress Helen Vinson) are siblings; their accents don't match, and I was positive that their ostensible siblinghood would turn out to be a cover for something else ... which turns out to be one of the few plot twists that does NOT happen.

    Claudette Colbert stars as Dr Jane Everest, a hospital psychiatrist whom everyone else deems slightly abnormal because she's a woman who's dedicated to her job instead of yearning to be a wife and mother. (Does anyone want to mount Everest?) We see her demonstrating her rapport with several mental patients: Guinn Williams chews the scenery as an escaped psychopath, and Bess Flowers gives a sensitive and touching performance in a brief role as a depressive. Less convincing is Jean Rouverol in a poorly-written role as the victim of childhood abuse. Esther Dale, whom I've never liked, is more annoying than usual here.

    The hospital's director has retired, and Colbert is quids-in to be the new boss. But the board of directors can't have a (gasp!) *WOMAN* in charge! The new appointee is Charles Boyer, with bedroom eyes and Casbah accent. He blithely tells Colbert he's taking her off the ward and transferring her to the outpatient clinic, which he feels is a more suitable place for a woman. C'est la vie, oui?

    Although released by Paramount, this was an independent production of Walter Wanger, and the low budget shows. Most of the cast give good performances despite weak material. Samuel S Hinds, a reliable character actor who usually played pillars of integrity, has an interesting piece of business here. Cast as Dr Arnold, a dignified psychiatrist who quietly does his job, Hinds attracts little attention until he casually mentions that he used to be a patient in this same mental hospital! The announcement never leads to anything, so we never learn whether Dr Arnold is telling the truth or cracking a bad joke.

    Individual aspects of 'Private Worlds' are enjoyable and impressive, but this really feels like a turgid soap opera rather than a drama of human relationships. At the end, Colbert and Boyer suddenly decide to fall in love. Pass the anaesthetic, please. I'll rate this thing 5 out of 10. Good night, nurse!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Private Worlds showcases some psychological aspects of the human nature. Dr Jane herself suffers a psychological dilemma after her lover's death ; she is confined through the prison of the past. She is unable to see inside herself as she does with other patients, but Dr. Monet insists on helping her overcome her trouble. The final scene is brilliant when Dr. Jane drops the doll implying her breaking with the past and starting a new life with Dr. Monet. There is another touching scene when Dr. Monet helps the dying old man with praying. It is a well-built melodrama with subtle and impressive performances of the two leads; Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer as well as the outstanding direction of Gregory La Cava. .I think it is to the movie's credit that the choice of the subject with this impressive handling is quite unusual and unique in this time. It also supports women's work and proves her success even in professions mainly dominated by men.
  • Though I was keen to watch this movie because of the terrific cast, I expected to find its presentation of psychiatric medicine dated and naive. While this is at times true (Claudette Colbert's treatment seems to be simply talking to the patients like a kindly elder sister), Private Worlds also makes several observations that are relevant today, including the then-daring one (for the general audience) that we all live in a private world, and that the difference between sanity and insanity may be only a matter of degree. The doctors in the smaller roles are far more plausible than Colbert, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea, who simply behave in accordance with their well-established screen personalities. But they are never so movie-starrish as to be unbelievable. The script cleverly uses the harshness of Boyer, the new head of the hospital, to forceful dramatic effect; while most of his diktats make us regard him dubiously or unfavourably, at the climax of the picture he is very harsh in a way that is clearly right, and much more insightful than we had thought. (Female viewers are helped in this favourable opinion by Boyer's looking extremely youthful and absolutely gorgeous.) Two touches show a disregard for credibility that would never pass today. No one is surprised that, in addition to being a psychiatrist, Boyer is qualified to perform major surgery, and is very good at it. And when a dying patient mumbles in Arabic, the staff say what a pity it is that no one there understands him. For heaven's sake, you think, why don't they get a translator? How long has the poor man been there? These are more than compensated for, however, by the outburst from the crabby old matron, who complains--that too many patients are being cured and sent home! How can the hospital keep going, she asks, if it isn't full of sick people?