Private Worlds
Gregory La Cava

I went prepared to laugh at the very idea of Claudette Colbert as a psychiatrist  —  Charles Boyer and Joel McCrea too.  My collaborator BKG told me she was ready to laugh at the paradox of Boyer and McCrea in the same movie.

I had to eat those laughs.  They are all three excellent, Colbert especially in a  change of pace very different from her Academy Award role the previous year in It Happened One Night.  She and McCrea are doctors in a mental hospital to which comes stern, misogynist Boyer as new supervisor.  He will (SPOILER ALERT) end by eating humble pie in the face of Colbert’s excellence  —  and extraordinary compassion.

The script eventually descends into melodrama and loses its strength despite La Cava’s dramatic camera angling (and perhaps too much music).  And the audience of that time had to have its happy romantic conclusion.  But this is a surprisingly sophisticated film for 1935 Hollywood, and its psychology may hold up better than all the talk of complexes in Hitchcock’s fine Spellbound and the glib jargon at the end of his splendid Psycho.

On my next post look for a journal entry about my own encounter with Claudette Colbert.

Lambert Hillyer

Despite the cowboy outfits and the presence of William S. Hart and even a horse as an important character, Sand is not really a western.  It’s a railroad film, a train robbery film.  Hart, who felt so strongly about portraying a realistic West, never seems to worry about how unrealistic his love scenes are.  But his romantic involvements, if protracted, are never laughable.  Though a very limited actor, Hart CAN do the shy suitor to a fine turn.  And once among men, his screen presence is undeniable.

Photography (Joe August here) and atmosphere are always genuine pleasures in Hart’s films.

Credit note:  Cinesation program notes read “written and directed by Lambert Hillyer.”  I enjoyed Private Worlds and Sand at the Great Lakes Cinephile Society annual CINESATION in Massillon, Ohio in September.


Until then,
See you at the movies!


  1. The review of “Private Worlds” makes me want to see the movie. I’m intrigued by psychiatry and how the professionals viewed and treated their mental patients in films made during the 40s and 50s. Psychodramas–like “Marnie”– were thrillers but kind of corny in today’s world. My favorite psychodrama is “The Bad Seed.” It was made in 1956. It makes a case for what my mother would call “bad blood in the family” rather than mental illness. No one would dare make a film like that today.

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