Set against a morbid background, that of a mental hospital, Private Worlds skirts the clinical and the laboratory aspects, emphasizes the romanticism and the melodramatics.
Director Gregory La Cava has done a highly sensitized transmutation of Phyllis Bottome’s 1934 bestseller of the same name, and Lynn Starling rates a bouquet for the equally careful adaptation.
The sanatorium where psychiatrists Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer and Joel McCrea are thrown together is kept in a sufficiently country-clubby atmosphere without becoming unfaithful to authenticity. The mental maelstroms which some of the patients must meet are introduced solely for allegorical purpose, as the instance where Dr Jane Everest (Colbert) copes with Big Boy Williams, playing a burly inmate in an ugly mood.
Colbert’s performance is among her tops. She manifests her usual restraint and intelligently gets across the spirit of her own little ‘private world’ – that of nurturing a romance with a shadow of the past, a boy who lost his life in the war.
Charles Boyer’s private world has been the shielding of his murderess-sister (capably played by Helen Vinson) who, although acquitted, is seemingly guilty of the ‘fall’ which took the life of his best friend, her husband.
Joel McCrea’s private world as co-worker with Colbert and his unintentional neglect of his domestic life is similarly depicted in intelligent vein. Joan Bennett as his wife is at her dramatic best.