Devotion (1931)

Devotion, based on Pamela Wynnes novel A Little Flat in the Temple, is the first film in which Leslie Howard and Ann Harding played together. The following year they would meet again on the set of  The Animal Kingdom, together with Myrna Loy.

The plot – not so original – was not thoroughly developed,  and there were some weaknesses in the direction; nevertheless, the film received good reviews and feedback. Mordaunt Hall on the New York Times praised both Harding and Howard:  “In this Cinderella-like story, which incidentally ends satisfactorily for Trent and Shirley, Mr. Howard rivals Miss Harding in acting, the portrayals of both being gratifyingly restrained and agreeably sympathetic”.

Robert Williams was in the cast, too, as Harrington. The same year Williams  played in Platinum Blonde with Jean Harlow. He was a rising star. Unfortunately, he died on November 3rd  from peritonitis, like Rudolph Valentino.

Plot Synopsis

Shirley Mortimer falls in love with lawyer David Trent. She disguises herself and is hired by Trent as his son’s governess. She takes care of Trent as Mrs Halifax, until the disguise is discovered by Harrington, a painter David Trent defended in a murder trial. Trent pretends to be unaware of Shirley’s game, but at least he confesses her his love. The situation becomes complicated when Trent’s wife comes back. Shirley is hurt and leaves Trent. She start to model for Harrington, who is in love with her. When he asks Shirley to become his mistress she leaves him, but he soon repents and propose her marriage. But Trent arrives on time, explaining that he is divorcing his wife; Shirley can now accept his love.

Reviews

“Devotion,” the present production at the Mayfair, succeeds in being quite a pleasing entertainment, owing principally to the excellent cast, headed by the radiant and talented Ann Harding, and to Robert Milton’s competent direction. […]
In this Cinderella-like story, which incidentally ends satisfactorily for Trent and Shirley, Mr. Howard rivals Miss Harding in acting, the portrayals of both being gratifyingly restrained and agreeably sympathetic. O. P. Heggie does nicely as Shirley’s father. Louise Closser Hale is a little too exaggerated as Mrs. Mortimer. Allison Skipworth makes a believable domineering wife of the caretaker of the Temple flats.
(Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times, October 3, 1931)

Every one of the actors, down to the last bell-hop and taxicab driver, gives an extra fine performance. It is one of the best acted pictures we have ever seen. Leslie Howard is exceptionally good.
(W.M.F., Standard Union, October 5, 1931)

Although basically romantic drama, “Devotion” has been handled with a light touch which seasons its interesting plot with gay mirth. […] And Ann Harding reveals a decided flair for light comedy in the many amusing situations in the story.
Associated with Miss Harding in presenting the story on the screen is a cast of unusually capable players. Leslie Howard, the handsome and talented young man who won a recognized place by his work in “Outward Bound”, “Five and Ten”, “A Free Soul” and other pictures, acquits himself magnificently in the romantic lead opposite Miss Harding.
(The Daily Argus, Mount Vernon, October 17, 1931)

This proves what a perfect cast and excellent direction can do for a worm-eaten, inconsequential story. […]
Ann Harding, Leslie Howard, Robert Williams and Louise Closser Hale have never shown their adroitness more. And that is saying a great deal. Excellent dialogue helps, but it is the humanness of the performances which red chalks this as a headliner. Director Robert Milton also deserves a big hand. He made a bright gree tree from dead timber.
(Photoplay, November 1931)

 

DEVOTION
Director: Robert Milton
Screenwriters: Horace Jackson, Graham John
Photography: Hal Mohr
Film Editing: Daniel Mandell
Art Director: Carroll Clark
Costumes: Gwen Wakeling

Cast:
Ann Harding (Shirley Mortimer/ Mrs. Halifax)
Leslie Howard (David Trent)
Robert Williams (Norman Harrington)
O. P. Heggie (Mr. Mortimer)
Louise Closser Hale (Mrs. Mortimer)
Dudley Digges (Sergeant Herbert Coggins)
Alison Skipworth (Mrs. Coggins)
Doris Lloyd (Pansy)
Olive Tell (Mrs. Trent)
Ruth Weston (Margaret)
Joan Carr (Marjory]
Douglas Scott (Derek Trent)

Leslie Howard and Ann Harding in Devotion

Leslie Howard and Ann Harding in Devotion

Leslie Howard in Devotion

Leslie Howard in Devotion

Leslie Howard in Devotion

Leslie Howard and Ann Harding in Devotion

Leslie Howard in Devotion

Leslie Howard and Ann Harding in Devotion