29 user 11 critic

Private Lives (1931)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 12 December 1931 (USA)
Divorced couple unexpectedly meet each other during their honeymoon and rekindle their love.


Sidney Franklin


Noël Coward (from the play by) (as Noel Coward), Hanns Kräly (scenario) (as Hans Kraly) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Norma Shearer ... Amanda Prynne
Robert Montgomery ... Elyot Chase
Reginald Denny ... Victor Prynne
Una Merkel ... Sibyl Chase
Jean Hersholt ... Oscar
George Davis ... Bell Hop


Elyot and Sibyl are being married in a big church ceremony. Amanda and Victor are being married by a French Justice of the Peace. Both couples go to a hotel on the same day and are put in adjoining rooms with adjoining terraces. Things go fine until Amanda sees her former husband Elyot on the adjacent terrace. While they both pretend to be happy, both make plans to leave, but their spouses do not want to leave as it is their respective honeymoons. So the other spouses each go down to the bar. This leaves Elyot and Amanda together and they reminisce. Before long, the sparks again fly and they both decide to leave together to the Mountains of Switzerland. They love, they bicker, they fight, they stop. Then it begins over and over. Then Victor and Sibyl show up at their chalet. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


SPICED with KISSES PEPPERED WITH LAUGHS! (Print ad- Buffalo Courier-Express, ((Buffalo, NY)) 31 December 1931)


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »





English | French | German

Release Date:

12 December 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fufu sensen See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was initially telecast in Los Angeles Monday 26 August 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), but it was not offered to New York City television audiences until 29 June 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2); it finally aired in San Francisco 11 February 1963 on KGO (San Francisco). There is no reliable record of its ever having been televised in Philadelphia at this time, although it would have most certainly been in the WFIL film library. See more »


When Elyot, Amanda and Oscar are riding on the gondola, Elyot and Amanda begin to argue. As their argument escalates, the two of them stand up and Oscar, listening quietly, stands up with them. Their is a cut to a medium shot of Oscar which shows him still seated. Then a return to the shot of the three of them which shows Oscar standing again. See more »


Amanda: [continuing to talk about travelling] Then the most thrilling thing of all - arriving at strange places, seeing strange people, and eating strange food.
Elyot: Yes, and making strange noises afterward.
[Said when Amanda is drinking coffee, she laughs and then starts choking]
See more »


Version of Private Lives (1939) See more »


Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Written by Richard Wagner
Sung by a choir at Sibyl's wedding
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Memorable But Flawed Version of the Stage Classic
29 March 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

British wit Noel Coward (1899-1973) is best remembered for his wickedly funny comedies. Many, myself included, consider PRIVATE LIVES his single finest work. Opening in 1930 London co-starring Coward and the legendary Gertrude Lawrence, the play not only received tremendous critical acclaim, it also ran more than one hundred performances--something largely unheard of at the time. Moving quickly, MGM snapped up the film rights long before the original run ended and released a film version in 1931.

In the "Pre-Code" era censorship was not a significant issue, and the story follows the original stage play to the letter. After divorcing each other, Elyot and Amanda find themselves honeymooning with new spouses in adjoining hotel suites--and suddenly dessert their new spouses to resume their torrid love. Unfortunately, they both remain as eccentrically combative as ever, and it isn't long before the fur begins to fly.

The great failure of the film, however, is in the dialogue. As noted, censorship was not really an issue--but MGM advisers felt the script was too British for the American market and fiddled with the lines to make them "less English" in tone. But where a Noel Coward play is concerned, it isn't so much what you say as exactly how you say it, and in altering bits of wording the screenwriters significantly blunted the razor-like quality that made the original such a great success.

Even so, the 1931 film version of PRIVATE LIVES does a credible job of capturing the Noel Coward theatrical fire in a bottle, and the thing that makes the film work is Norma Shearer. One of the few silent stars to make a full transition to sound stardom, Shearer was among the most critically acclaimed and popular stars of her era. Although most widely acclaimed as a dramatic actress, modern viewers usually find her dramatic performances highly mannered--but what now seems mannered in drama works very, very well in comedy, and PRIVATE LIVES may be her single most accessible film for modern audiences. She is excellent throughout.

The remaining cast is a mixed bag. Robert Montgomery has the look but is essentially miscast as Elyot; still, he acquits himself well by avoiding the obvious missteps, and when he and Shearer click the whole thing goes off with a bang. Reginald Denny is quite expert as the stuffy Victor, and while Una Merkle seems as miscast as Robert Young she too renders a solid performance. Like most MGM films of the 1930s, the production values are top of the line from start to finish, slick, glossy, and attractive, and director Sidney Franklin (noted for his skill with actresses) keeps the film moving at a smart pace.

PRIVATE LIVES has had numerous revivals on stage with stars that range from Tallulah Bankhead to a memorable teaming of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and it remains a staple of world theatre; perhaps in the future there will be yet another film version that bests this one. But even so, this 1931 film will more than do until that wished-for-one comes along. Presently available to the home market via VHS only. Recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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