His Butler's Sister (1943)

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Released 7-Nov-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 89:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Frank Borzage

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Deanna Durbin
Franchot Tone
Pat O'Brien
Akim Tamiroff
Alan Mowbray
Walter Catlett
Else Janssen
Evelyn Ankers
Frank Jenks
Sig Arno
Hand Conreid
Florence Bates
Roscoe Karns
Case Custom Packaging
RPI Box Music H.J. Salter
Victor Herbert
Giacomo Puccini

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, 1940s sophisticated males + cigars
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


    His Butler's Sister was the third Deanna Durbin release in 1943, and her thirteenth film for Universal. In contrast to the first two films for the year, in this one there was not one word which referred to a world at war. There is in place a preface, obliquely and humorously sidelining wartime rationing, which introduces our story, "a fable of the day before yesterday". His Butler's Sister is total escapist entertainment, and one of the best from the Deanna Durbin Collection, the nineteen disc set released by Roadshow.

    The movie opens on a speeding New York bound train. "The Sunshine Twins from Texas" ( Iris Adrian and Robin Raymond) knock on an apartment door. The door opens and the Twins break into a rousing song and thumping dance of  Is It true What They Say About Dixie?, an impromptu audition for unsuspecting Broadway composer Charles Gerard (Franchot Tone). Also on the train is aspiring singer from Centreville, Indiana, Ann Carter (Deanna Durbin) on her way to New York to visit her "millionaire" half-brother, Martin Murphy (Pat O'Brien). We first see Ann in a very nicely executed dolly shot as she makes her way through the train to the dining car. There she overhears that her idol Charles Gerard is on the train. Determined to audition for Gerard, Ann mistakenly finds herself auditioning for a travelling salesman, "the girdle man". From the station, the real Gerard overhears the voice , not knowing its owner.

    Ann arrives at Martin's penthouse address on Park Avenue, only to find that he is the butler, and that he works for - wait for it - Charles Gerard! Martin, it seems, had sent a thousand dollars of a gambling win to Ann, who "naturally" assumed he had become a millionaire. Having spent the thousand on clothes, Ann is penniless in New York and sees Gerard as a very convenient stepping-stone to success. Martin, also broke, allows Ann to stay one night. The next morning Gerard arrives home and, seeing Ann cleaning under one of his two grand pianos, assumes that she is the new maid, a misunderstanding that Ann finds convenient and that Martin accepts. In the apartment building's service elevator, on her way to the market and looking like Little Red Riding Hood, Ann meets four butlers and a chauffeur (Akim Tamiroff, Alan Mowbray, Hans Conreid, Sig Arno and Frank Jenks). That evening Gerard throws a party with Ann doing her maidly duties and he finds himself becoming attracted to the new maid. From this situation fairly predictable confusions and misunderstandings develop, all leading to the ending we know must  inevitably come. The screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein and Elizabeth Reinhardt holds no surprises, but the action is fast, the lines clever and witty and Miss Durbin is given logical opportunities to break into song, from the early train "audition" to the thrilling finale at the elaborately chandeliered Butler's Ball.

    Under the direction of Frank Borzage (History Is Made At Night) Deanna Durbin has never looked lovelier. Bright, funny and warm she dominates the screen, her musical numbers being amongst her best. The attractive new song is In The Spirit of the Moment (Bernie Grossman and Walter Jurmann), sung to "the girdle man" on the train, and reprised vocally and orchestrally through the film. Then there is Victor Herbert's When You're Away, beautifully sung at the piano by Durbin with that miraculous diction. The finale is an absolutely stunning Nessun Dorma from Turandot (Puccini), sung in English as None Shall Sleep, but the musical highlight occurs one hour into the film, at a birthday celebration for Popov (Tamiroff). In the setting of a Russian restaurant Deanna Durbin sings a five-and-a-half minute medley of songs, in Russian, that  is visually and aurally breathtaking. Gowned to perfection by Adrian and photographed sensitively by Woody Bredell, particularly in the close-ups, the soprano looks every inch a screen goddess, and her singing is fantastic.
In the second of their three films together, Franchot Tone is immaculately charming and dashing as the sophisticated Gerard, and Pat O'Brien pretty much does his normal "thing" as the Butler brother. It's the young lady's film, and they are pretty much just there to accommodate her, which they do very nicely.

    The supporting cast is to die for. The talented quintet of male servants mentioned earlier are wonderful, with Tamiroff shining in his birthday sequence. There is also Walter Catlett as a producer intent on giving Deanna "perz and poisonality", Else Jensen as Gerard's maid, the lovely Evelyn Ankers as a Long Island girlfriend, Florence Bates and Roscoe Karns. Quite a line-up!

    His Butler's Sister is delightful nonsense and first class entertainment.

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Transfer Quality


    This print of His Butler's Sister, and its transfer, are very good indeed.
    The image is presented in a 4x3 transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original presentation having been 1.37:1.

    The image is sharp, even the close ups looking very good, with very little grain, clean and clear.
    Shadow detail is pleasing, notably in the night scene as the couple walk along "Park Avenue".
    There is no low level noise.
    The black and white image is quite a pleasure to watch, many shots looking like pages from a coffee table book. The blacks are deep and solid, there is no flaring on the whites, and the entire grey scale is reproduced beautifully.

    Artefacts of any kind were very rare.
    Aliasing was noted only once, on a top worn by Deanna Durbin (77:25).
    Problems arising from noise reduction were difficult to find, only two noted, both on faces (52:10 and 71:34).
    There is the rare white fleck - barely noticeable - but only one small piece of film debris was seen, for a second at the bottom of the frame(73:39) .
    Reel cues are still evident.

   The quality and condition of this print and its transfer make it a pleasure to watch.
    There are no subtitles and the disc is single layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is also very good, possibly the best so far in this collection.
    There is only one language, English, in a Dolby Digital 2.0 reproduction of the original mono Western Electric Noiseless Recording.
    The dialogue is clear, without any sync problems. The vocals are also in perfect sync.
    There is a very slight hum in the first reel, which disappears at 11:02.
    At times a background rumble can be detected, but you really have to put your ear to the speaker to hear it.
    There is very little crackle, at times absolutely none.
    Deanna Durbin's singing voice is very nicely reproduced, loud, rich, clear and without distortion - even on the loudest and highest notes. No doubt this contributed to the impact of the superb vocals in this film.
    The final reel has a little too much bass, evident in the orchestrations, but this is easily adjusted. For the most part the background score is extremely attractive and clever. The Russian flavoured sections are most attractive, and the night-time street strolling sequence very clever as the orchestral underscoring ends beating in perfect time with the lovers' footsteps (68:45). As the couple move into the building the solo violin dominates, all very nicely reproduced.

    There are no dropouts.



Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The box set of nineteen movies on nineteen discs contains a Sixteen Page Souvenir Booklet.
    Apart from this booklet and the Stills Galleries on five of the titles - no gallery on His Butler's Sister - there are no other extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer. The reverse of the slick for His Butler's Sister contains small reproductions of six stills, one lobby card and the sheet music for When You're Away.
    The picture disc reproduces the title's cover.
    There are no subtitles.


    All menu screens are 4x3.

    The main menu design is extremely basic. The screen comprises two stills from the film, with orchestral audio.
    The options are :
        Play Film
        Scene Index: Selecting this option gives a new screen with two further stills and a list of ten scenes. No thumbnails, no sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 does not have a current release of His Butler's Sister.
    The nineteen title box set is available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price. His Butler's Sister  is also available separately or in The Deanna Durbin Collection : Box 3, which also includes It Started With Eve, Up In Central ParkNice Girl? and Hers to Hold.


     His Butler's Sister  is a delight of a movie packed with comedy, romance, music, one great star, two reliable leading men and a magnificent cast of supporting players. That it looks and sounds so good just adds to the sheer pleasure of experiencing it all.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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