By Candlelight (1933)

“But I am in love with her, Your Highness! I feel terrible.”

Ah, yes! A classic case of the lonely heart butler being mistaken for a prince by a beautiful, young countess. What could go wrong?

Josef (Paul Lukas) is an intuitive, reliable, and sweet butler to the handsome and suave prince (Nils Aster). He admires the prince’s charm and skill of being able to attract the high-brow women (married or unmarried) that run in the prince’s circles. But he is also envious of the prince. Josef wants a woman. He wants love. But he doesn’t want just anyone. And he certainly doesn’t want the needy, obnoxious maid that seems to not get the hint that he doesn’t really like her. But where can he actually find the kind love he desire? Who would give the lowly butler a chance? Well, as fates would have it, he runs into the desirable, lovely, and perhaps a bit odd Marie (Elissa Landi), a presumed countess, on a train. And almost immediately he is in love. But of course, things are not so simple. The two do end up spending fun time together, but it is only because the young Marie mistakes Josef to be a prince. And Josef cannot tell the truth, can he? A countess would never give him the time of day. But perhaps Marie isn’t who she claims to be either…

"energetic, entertaining and fun"

In terms of classic Hollywood, not too much compares to the fun shenanigans of a Pre-Code film, and By Candlelight is certainly a prime example of that. In what could be described as an upstairs-downstairs film, By Candlelight sets its foundations in infidelity, innuendos, and inappropriate gestures that create the hilarity similar to that of a screwball comedy. Guided by clever and witty dialogue, the audience is entertained, yes, but there is also a feeling of overwhelming anxiety as the plot becomes more and more convoluted (not in a bad way) from all of the misinterpretations and lies that the characters try to keep up. Everything from the prince finding out about Josef impersonating him to the audience wondering if Marie will be found out by her employer, and even the prince finding out who Marie is all give the audience that feeling of impending doom. All the lies will come out, and they do so in a hilarious fit of hysteria.By Candlelight (1933)

What is so surprising about By Candlelight is probably realizing who the director is. Anyone heard of a little film called Frankenstein? Well, the legendary horror director is the one who headed this romantic comedy, and he did so with an impressive gusto. The rapid, steady pace that never falters once in the film proves that James Whale is a straight-up expert filmmaker in any genre, not just horror. In By Candlelight, Whale knows how to keep it fun and engaging, which is not always such an east feat when adapting a stage play. It is truly a testament to his filmmaking abilities, and this exploration of genres for the filmmaker is something that, I think, more people should experience.

Now, this being a wonderful Pre-Code gem, I perhaps thought (only for a second or two) that the film might take a chance and end on a sad note. But of course, I realize it was silly of me to think that. Despite it being Pre-Code, it is still a Hollywood film. And no classic Hollywood film would be complete without a happy ending, even if it does feel very tacked on. But what are you going to do?

By Candlelight is energetic, entertaining and fun. And thanks to Kino Lorber, there is a glorious Blu Ray release with a new 4K restoration for all to enjoy!

3/5 stars

By Candlelight (1933)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- October 11, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
: English
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Universal’s finest horror director James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House) brilliantly shifted genres with the dazzling Pre-Code romantic comedy By Candlelight. Josef (Paul Lukas, The Kiss Before the Mirror) is the ultra-dutiful butler to a Casanova-like prince (Nils Aster, The Bitter Tea of General Yen). Falling in love with Marie (Elissa Landi, The Sign of the Cross), whom he assumes to be a countess, Josef masquerades – quite convincingly – as his rakish master. The catch: Marie is herself a poseur, a mere maidservant of nobility. Based on P.G. Wodehouse’s (Anything Goes) adaptation of a Siegfried Geyer play, By Candlelight is a delightfully sophisticated farce of class privilege and mistaken identity that ranks as one of Whale’s most extraordinary achievements.


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, this new restoration undertaken by Universal Pictures in 4K from original 35mm film elements, looks fantastic. Not a scratch or tear to be seen, and the depth of the lights and darks are graded to perfection. For a film that never had any other home video release, this is the first and hopefully last-needed release this film will ever see. It is wonderful. Another Pre-Code film survives and thrives once again!


The 2.0 monoaural DTS soundtrack is healthy, clean, and clear. All of the stomps, the exaggerated fights, and the stumbling of words are not missed at any moment.


While short on extras, the commentary is just a plethora of film history talking about everything from Whale to the actors to Pre-Code history and much more. It more than compliments the film well.


  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Troy Howarth

Special Features:

  • Trailers

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars

Film Details

By Candlelight (1933)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
70 mins
: James Whale
F. Hugh Herbert; Ruth Cummings
Elissa Landi; Paul Lukas; Nils Asther
: Comedy | Romance | Music
A politely scandalous comedy-drama of too many affairs!.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 18, 1933
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 11, 2022.
Synopsis: osef (Paul Lukas, The Kiss Before the Mirror) is the ultra-dutiful butler to a Casanova-like prince (Nils Asther, The Bitter Tea of General Yen). Falling in love with Marie (Elissa Landi, The Sign of the Cross), whom he assumes to be a countess, Josef masquerades—quite convincingly—as his rakish master. The catch: Marie is herself a poseur, a mere maidservant of nobility.


By Candlelight (1933)