The film set in England in 1938, just before the war. Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones) is a wannabe plumber who doesn’t know her place in society. She meets Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), a mooching exiled professor, and they form a friendship. Both find themselves in a country estate, Cluny as a maid and Boyer invited as a guest of Andrew Carmel (Peter Lawford). Hilarity Ensues as Cluny makes plans to marry a boring pharmacist, Jonathan Wilson, a union which Adam tries to stop.
The last completed film of Ernst Lubitsch, who died in 1947 aged only 55, during production of That Lady in Ermine.
Cluny Brown shows the following tropes:
- But for Me, It Was TuesdayAndrew: How was I to know you'd come down here after the row we had?
Betty: Did we have a row? I don't remember.
- Can't Hold Her Liquor: Cluny as she has one too many champagne glasses.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Cluny has her head in the clouds for the majority of the film.
- Deconfirmed Bachelor: Adam once he falls for and marries Cluny.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In keeping with Lubitsch's penchant for Getting Crap Past the Radar, the movie version plays up the parallels between plumbing and sex.Cluny: I wish I could roll up my sleeves, roll down my stockings, and unloosen the joint. Bang! Bang! Bang!
- Eiffel Tower Effect: How do you tell the audience in the first shot of the movie that the setting is England? You have a shot of Big Ben and Parliament, of course.
- Eye Take: Adam does a massive one when he recognizes Cluny as the Carmels' new maid.
- Happily Married: Adam convinced Cluny to marry him instead of Jonathan.
- I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship: Adam and Cluny promise to stay just friends.
- Leg Focus: Hilary and Adam find this out when amateur plumber Cluny hikes up her skirt and peels off her stockings before attacking Hilary's clogged sink.Adam: You see, she's not dressed for plumbing. But what woman is?
- Love Triangle: There’s a small sub-plot of Andrew trying to romance Betty Cream and a friend of his tries to romance her as well. They both fail, however.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Cluny's obsession with plumbing and total oblivion to social class.
- Meet Cute: Adam meets Cluny when she's called out to Hilary's apartment to fix his clogged sink.
- Mistaken for Badass: Andrew thinks Adam has escaped his home country because of the German occupation, thinking his writing put him in danger. It turns out Adam couldn’t sell his book in his home country, so he went to Paris.
- Momma's Boy: The pharmacist is under the thumb of his mother so much so that when she disapproves of Cluny’s plumbing, he immediately dumps her.
- My Beloved Smother: The Wilson’s mother controls him with a mere clearing of her throat, nothing more.
- Not What It Looks Like: Adam goes into Betty Cream’s room telling her about Andrew, but she interprets this as him trying to inappropriately put the moves on her.
- Relationship Sabotage: Adam tries to subtly ruin Wilson and Cluny’s relationship.
- Running Gag:
- “Squirrels to the nuts!”
- The way everyone remarks how Betty Cream rides a horse.
- Adam constantly opens the pharmacist’s door, ringing the bell, but then running away, much to the pharmacist’s annoyance.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Cluny wants to marry Wilson presumably because he has a steady job and she’s trying to fit into her social set.
- Stealth Insult: While pretending to say that Jonathan has calmed his fears, Adam really calls him boring. "You couldn't have prescribed a better sedative than yourself!"
- Stiff Upper Lip: The classicism is abundant with the Carmels and even within their own servants.
- Jonathan is a total classist and a snooze to boot.
- Upper-Class Twit: Sir Henry Carmel, Andrew’s father. He's under the impression that Adolf Hitler wrote "an outdoor book" called "My Camp".
- Wrench Wench: Cluny, who's pretty good with clogged plumbing. Some people don't like this, like when Jonathan gets all snooty and dumps her after she fixes his sink.