Proof That It’s Pre-Code
- Sleazy louse seducing his way through a mansion, both upstairs and down
- Extramarital affairs like crazy
- Attempted rape (I actually typed “attempted rap” in my notes, so I may just be remembering this wrong)
- The villain suffers no comeuppance and learns nothing
I’ve written about Rudolph Valentino for this site once before, and I guess it’s my turn with the other silent film romance king, John Gilbert. I won’t lie and pretend that I’m intimately familiar with Gilbert (I’ve seen bits of The Flesh and The Devil but never the whole thing), but his importance as a matinee idol is striking compared to his role in Downstairs, even moreso once you realize he wrote the story the film is based on.
This is remarkable in some ways because Gilbert plays the film’s horrendously unappealing and thoroughly contemptible scoundrel, Karl. He shows up in time for the wedding of the head butler, Albert, and the head maid, Anna, and with just enough time to make some nice little eyes at the bride.