» » Devotion (1931)

Short summary

The poor, downtrodden (beautiful, of course) "dutiful" daughter in a London society family falls for a barrister, disguises herself, and takes a job as governess to his son. Adapted from the novel, "A Little Flat in the Temple"

Robert Williams also appeared in Platinum Blonde the same year as Devotion, and passed away unexpectedly a few days after its release.

Leslie Howard was borrowed from MGM for this film.

This film was not successful at the box office, resulting in a loss to RKO of $40,000 ($633,000 in 2018) according to studio records.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Kefrannan
    I have always thought that it was a shame that Leslie Howard is remembered today (if at all) for one of his weakest roles, that of Ashley Wilkes in GONE WITH THE WIND. He was so much better than that! An actor, director, playwright, you name it, he did it all. He was also a helpful mentor to other actors such as Humphrey Bogart (they became such close friends that Bogart named his daughter "Leslie") and William Gargan (who named his son Leslie Howard Gargan). In DEVOTION, Leslie Howard is a lawyer who is loved by Ann Harding from afar. Yes, the plot plays out a little like a Mills and Boon novel, but in such a charming manner that the viewer can just sit back and enjoy!

    Will true love conquer all?
  • comment
    • Author: Trex
    This is a charming, sweet, sometimes clever love story of a barrister and the lovely, dutiful daughter of a well-to-do family in London. Ann Harding wants to get from the grip of "family" (she's sort of a Cinderella here) -- leaves while they are on a holiday and disguises herself as a nanny named Mrs. Halifax. She is hired by Howard who has a small boy (likeable child actor) to look after the boy. Howard almost recognizes Harding beneath her "wig" but it takes a few days before he puts "two and two" together. There's all sorts of great old character actors (Alison Skipworth) who brighten the film with some earthiness before it floats away with ethereal Ann's delicate manner and beauty. One of the charms of a Harding film is looking at her shimmering blonde coiff. Here it's hidden half the time -- but she is quite wonderful in her part and the emotional charge of the story-line is sweet, heartfelt and reminds us of a lost innocence that used to be in early cinema -- that was really lovely.
  • comment
    • Author: Roru
    Ann Harding disguises herself as a dowdy nanny--tough job, and she doesn't quite bring it off here, she's too youthful and pretty--to be near barrister Leslie Howard, likably doing one of his oh-so-British-gentry romantic leads. It's the lightest of trifles, with some lapses of logic, and after the deception is revealed, the movie drags on needlessly for a half an hour or so. But Harding's always a pleasure to watch, even if she doesn't quite convince in either of her British (Mayfair and Cockney) accents. And a plus, as noted by others, is Robert Williams, who's so marvelous in "Platinum Blonde." He had a Spencer Tracy down-to-earth quality that shines here, and he's a natural light comedian (though his character's somewhat off--are we supposed to like him or not?). Nice production values, amiable supporting cast, and was there ever a greater year for clothes than 1931?
  • comment
    • Author: Fecage
    Ann Harding, wallflower daughter of O.P. Heggie and Louise Closser Hale, for a lark takes a job as the governess to barrister Leslie Howard's son. She's got a thing for Howard, but she's too shy to come out with it.

    Harding makes herself up with a wig and glasses to look way older than she is and it's as 'Mrs. Halifax' she takes the job. She fools Howard for a while, but she doesn't fool artist Robert Williams who is Howard's client as well. It's Williams's job to know faces and he spots her right away, but allows her little deception any way.

    The best two in the film have to be Howard's two married servants, Dudley Digges and Alison Skipworth. Digges plays the butler quite a lot like his most famous role, Mr. Bacchus in Mutiny on the Bounty. Of course without quite the alcoholic craving that Bacchus has. He refers to Skipworth as the 'commander-in-chief' and when you see them together you'll know why.

    Robert Williams whose career got cut so tragically short does a nice turn as the artist and rival of Howard. Appendicitis and accompanying peritonitis did him in like Rudolph Valentino. Williams was a good light comedian, might have had a long career in Fred MacMurray type parts had he lived.

    It's a nice film, but I can't see why it was titled Devotion.
  • comment
    • Author: Ubrise
    An enjoyable movie if you can suspend belief that Ann Harding can disguise herself as an older woman. Thankfully the story moves on beyond that concept. I found the Robert Williams role to be the most interesting part of the film and why I would recommend it, beyond that it does star Ann Harding and Leslie Howard.

    Without going into the story too much he plays a character that we do not know whether to like or not. There is a lot of gray in who he is. The same can be said for the Leslie Howard character. I have watched a number of movies from the thirties and this is one of the ones that I would recommend watching if you have a chance.
  • comment
    • Author: ZEr0
    The idea behind this movie -- that Ann Harding, who loves Leslie Howard absolutely, can put on glasses, a bad wig and a stage accent, work in Howard's house as nurse to his motherless son for months, and be unrecognizable to everyone but Robert Williams -- is ridiculous. I write this as someone who once sat opposite my father in a bus station, where he was to pick me up, and neither of us recognized the other for almost half an hour.

    It's one of those sentimental movies that RKO made in the early 1930s, based upon some novel or play about upper-class Londoners, and except for Miss Harding, would have lost money. It is arch, coy, obviously calculated and insincere. Mr. Howard remains eyeless in Gaza until he gets drunk with Miss Harding in her proper persona (i.e., in an evening gown), whereupon he loves her, too, and his wife turns up. This is the cue for Miss Harding to suffer nobly. It wouldn't be an Ann Harding picture unless Miss Harding suffers in a noble manner. That Man might wind up in the White House, but Miss Harding will suffer!

    Naturally, I loved it. Not because I am so enamored of piffle or wish Miss Harding to suffer -- why couldn't the top brass at RKO have given Dorothy Lee a vacation and cast Miss Harding in a Wheeler & Woolsey picture as a change of pace? -- but because Miss Harding can noodge someone into drinking a cup of bouillon at 2AM so charmingly; Mr. Howard can toss a salad like a headwaiter in love; and Mr. Williams can be so cynical and so kind at the same time.

    Howard Hawks was once asked what made a great movie. He replied "Three great scenes and no bad ones." This movie may have a plot that didn't excite the audience at the time and looks even more foolish today, but it meets those criteria, thanks to those actors.
  • comment
    • Author: Milleynti
    No one suffers more in movie after movie than Ann Harding. The suffering is gloriously acute, intense and wonderfully relentless.
  • comment
    • Author: Reggy
    Robert Milton directed all of eleven films, and this was somewhere in the middle. Ann Harding stars as the prim and proper governess, who is only taking the job to be near Mr. Trent, a successful lawyer. Trent is played by Leslie Howard, who is slow to catch on, even when he is introduced to "the governess" out of costume, and without her wig. Harrington is played by Robert Williams, who would die quite soon, after making "Platinum Blond" with Jean Harlow. It's all well done, but moves quite slowly. There are complications, of course, and nothing is easy. Enjoyable enough, but so predictable. Harding was nominated for her part in Holiday; Howard was nominated for TWO oscars. and the awesome Alison Skipworth is in here as Mrs. Coggins... she had worked with W.C. Fields in FOUR films! great cast!
  • comment
    • Author: Kriau
    What a bore. Every bit the "creaky early talkie", DEVOTION (1931) is stagey and the soundtrack is full of dead air and awkward silences. The story concerns "wallflower" Ann Harding disguising herself as a middle-aged governess in order to get closer to Leslie Howard (whom she secretly loves).

    The movie is a chore to sit through. I've never really been a fan of Ann Harding, and she looks ridiculous in her old lady disguise. Seen nowadays, the movie is so preposterous and overdone as to be unintentionally funny. Harding's whole plan comes off as really creepy to a modern audience.

    And why is Harding, a daughter in a fairly well-off family, doing chores with the servants while her parents and sisters entertain guests in the parlor? Is she the black sheep of the family? Is it a Cinderella situation?

    The movie's not a total loss, however.

    Robert Williams's naturalistic acting practically jumps off the screen, in contrast to the rest of the cast. Williams's bright future in Hollywood was cut short when he died shortly after this film's release in 1931. He had a natural way of delivering his lines that really stands out in DEVOTION, even though he only has a few scenes. If nothing else, this film gives viewers a rare chance to see Williams at work.
  • Complete credited cast:
    Ann Harding Ann Harding - Shirley Mortimer aka Mrs. Halifax
    Leslie Howard Leslie Howard - David Trent
    Robert Williams Robert Williams - Norman Harrington
    O.P. Heggie O.P. Heggie - Mr. Emmet Mortimer
    Louise Closser Hale Louise Closser Hale - Mrs.Emmet Mortimer
    Dudley Digges Dudley Digges - Sergeant Herbert Coggins
    Alison Skipworth Alison Skipworth - Mrs.Matilda Coggins
    Doris Lloyd Doris Lloyd - Pansy
    Olive Tell Olive Tell - Mrs. Trent
    Ruth Weston Ruth Weston - Margaret Mortimer
    Joan Carr Joan Carr - Marjory Fielding
    Douglas Scott Douglas Scott - Derek Trent
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