Service for Ladies (1932)
Service for Ladies (released in the US with the title Reserved for Ladies) was a British remake of the 1929 silent film with the same title, directed by Harry D’Arrast and starring Adolphe Menjou. It was adapted from Ernest Vajda’s story The Head Waiter.
Leslie Howard and Alexander Korda worked together for the first time, and it proved a perfect match. Leslie Howard was enthusiastic about Korda’s work and personality: “I wish there were more men at the head of picture-producing companies like Alexander Korda! Men with his mentality, his culture, his genius,” he said in an interview of 1934, before the great success of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the second film they made together.
According to some sources, Merle Oberon appeared in the film in an undetermined minor role, possibly one of the girls in the Swiss hotel.
“As the play opens the audience sees this very attractive Englishman waiting in a London downpour and calling for a taxi. A smart young girl comes from the nearby shop, drops several of her bundles and she and her bundles are politely put into the cab by the man. She gives the address of his hotel.
Instead of appearing next as the rich patron, Howard is seen inspecting the dining room where small and specially elaborate parties are given. He is superb in his reserve, his command of the situation and his dominance of the large force of perfectly trained waiters. He learns that the girl is going on to Switzerland and gives himself a holiday and follows. The train trip is one of the best in these days of delightful film traveling. An elaborate continental train is seen in glimps of its compartments. The girl and her father, really one of the most successful millionaire fathers of all film history, are seen in their compartment and the girl is laying a wager that the young man, whom she has met in the customs office and seen on the train, will soon be coming along. He passes through the corridor, lifting his hat to them as if he were a friend they were expecting and of course he has a seat at their table in the diner.
… In the Swiss hotel the people are seen going about their winter sports and talking, as “foreigners” will of skiis as “shes.” There appears a king, one suspects he is Scandinavian, who comes each year incognito and os treated pretty much as if he were wearing a gold crown. But he has his pleasant time and does not have to be formal even if everybody will bow and courtesy to him. But when Max, Leslie Howard, whom the king knows through his position in London, appears, the king invites him to his table and is seen often with the young man. That settles it. The gossips of the place decide he is a prince and that the king is going to see that he does not marry the commoner Sylvia. The first time that Howard appears after this has been settled by the household, even the manager agreeing that Max must be a prince, there is a funny scene of his advancing toward the dining room amidst the bows and flattering glances of all the other patrons. His puzzlement and attempt to return the greetings makes a neat bit of comedy acting.
Things are going pretty well, with Sylvia rather throwing herself at the prince because she is much in love with him, when a young countess with whom he had been in love appears to make more trouble and more amusing scenes. Benita Hume is dark and very beautiful and apt in a clever scene. Their meeting by the stove for instance is charming. He tries to get away and she tries to trap him. She finds out that he is taken to be a prince and she threatens to tell he is a head waiter. Max tries to run away and Sylvia tries to stop him, than becomes angry because she thinks he has turned her down on account of his high birth. She had thought he was modern and would not mind. Later she finds him in the hotel again and is just as eager to win him and takes some cruel means to subdue him. Finally it is her father who gives him the courage to go after her and do a little high handed acting himself.”
(Schenectady Gazette, June 8, 1932)
Leslie Howard, one of the most ingratiating and talented among the group of English actors who have become equally well known in America made a picture in London last Summer, Reserved for Ladies, which the New York Paramount is presenting this week. It is the only British picture Mr. Howard has thus far appeared in. His American cinema contributions have been numerous, though still too infrequent.The requirements made upon Mr. Howard in Reserved for Ladies are very light indeed. As Max, headwaiter at the Grand Palace Hotel, who falls in love with a wealthy girl far above him on the social ladder, he need only to be polite and charming, and soft spoken, things which Leslie Howard can do admirably.
(Marty Dickstein, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 21, 1932)
An intelligent comedy, that was highly successful in silent film form in 1927, is now to be seen as a talking picture at the Paramount. In the past it was known as Service For Ladies, but this present work bears the title of Reserved For Ladies, and Leslie Howard appears in the part played in the mute production by Adolphe Menjou. This current picture was made in England under the Paramount banner and it is even more amusing than its predecessor…
It is genuinely refreshing, intelligent fun, the dialogue being clever and the incidents neatly arranged. Mr. Howard plays Max, the efficient headwaiter of a London hotel, called the Grand Palace. In the voiceless picture the hotel was in Paris and the headwaiter boasted of the name of Albert. The various happenings are virtually the same as in the former work…
Mr. Howard’s performance is splendid. Mr. Grossmith is capital as the philosophical monarch. Miss Allan is charming and vivacious as Sylvia. Benita Hume, a very pretty girl, makes the most of the part of a designing countess, who is infatuated with Max.
(Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, May 21, 1932)
Leslie Howard, that suave English actor who made a hit in Devotion and A Free Soul, plays the part of the love/sick head waiter. It is a very good role for him, and there are many opportunities for him to show the satirical type of actor he really is. Howard has that English touch in his acting which makes him outstanding as a character portrayer.
(Schenectady Gazette, June 7, 1932)
This splendid young English actor, who has taken his place with the foremost of the celluloid great, makes a thoroughly enjoyable bit of fare of a picture which depends mostly on finished reading for its success. The situations are not particularly ingenious and there is no striking subtlety in the lines, but there is Howard to make them live.
(Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 8, 1932)
A king fraternises with a headwaiter who has become enamored with a beautiful English girl and captures her heart because she thinks he is a prince. Reserved for Ladies is a comedy of errors and revolves around London-s social system in a setting of wealth and luxury. Leslie Howard, who has just concluded an engagement on the Broadway stage as star of the successful play, The Animal Kingdom, plays the principal role of the headwaiter, with the manners of a king, who dare to emulate the cat who looked at a queen.
(The Daily Star, June 14, 1932)
Reserved for Ladies and for gentlemen, too, for that matter. This delightfully refreshing comedy of errors is the feature attraction today through Friday… Leslie Howard, the popular stage star, appearing currently on Broadway in the stage hit, The Animal Kingdom, plays the principal role of the head waiter, with the manners of a royal prince…
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 15, 1932)
SERVICE FOR LADIES
Director: Alexander Korda
Writers: Lajos Biró, Eliot Crawshay-Williams, Ernest Vajda
Producer: Alexander Korda
Original Music: Percival Mackey
Cinematography: Philip Tannura
Film Editing: Harold Young
Leslie Howard (Max Tracey)
George Grossmith (The King / Mr. Westlake)
Benita Hume (Countess Ricardi)
Elizabeth Allan (Sylvia Robertson)
Morton Selten (Mr. Robertson)
Ben Field (Breslmeyer)