After a successful British Film Masters Retrospective season in September, our friend Shanghai Art Film Federation has moved on to promote German film talent.
This season is dedicated to German director Ernst Lubitsch.
Ernst Lubitsch (January 29, 1892 – November 30, 1947) was a German-born film director, producer, writer, and actor. His urbane comedies of manners gave him the reputation of being Hollywood’s most elegant and sophisticated director; as his prestige grew, his films were promoted as having “the Lubitsch touch”. Among his best known works are Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), To Be or Not to Be (1942) and Heaven Can Wait (1943).
He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director three times for The Patriot (1928), The Love Parade (1929), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). In 1946, he received an Honorary Academy Award for his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture.
The story is told by a man at a campfire who says that it took place many years before.
Don José was a Dragoon Sergeant in Sevilla who fell madly in love with Carmen, a beautiful gypsy. For her, he killed an officer and gave up his fiancée and his career in the army, and became a smuggler. But Carmen’s love did not last. She left him and went to Gibraltar where she fell in love with the famous bullfighter Escamillo. Back in Sevilla, Carmen rode triumphantly in Escamillo’s carriage on his way to a bullfight. At the end of the bullfight, José confronted Carmen and when she told him that she no longer loved him, stabbed her to death.
Madame DuBarry (1919)
Madame DuBarry is a 1919 German silent film on the life of Madame Du Barry. It was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, written by Norbert Falk and Hanns Kräly with the title role taken by Pola Negri and Louis XV played by Emil Jannings. Its alternative title for United States distribution was Passion.
It was made at the Tempelhof Studios in Berlin. The film’s sets were designed by the art director Kurt Richter.
A company of travelling performers arrive at a fictional oriental city. It includes the beautiful dancer Yannaia, the hunchback clown Yeggar who is lovesick for Yannaia and the Old Lady who loves Yeggar. The slave trader Achmed wants to sell Yannaia to the Sheik for his harem. At the Palace, the Sheik finds out that his favourite, Sumurun, is in love with Nur-Al Din, the handsome clothes merchant. He wants to condemn her to death but his son obtains her pardon. After seeing Yannaia dancing, the Sheik is keen to buy her. Yeggar is desperate and takes a magic pill which makes him look dead. His body is hidden in a chest. The women from the harem come to Nur-Al Din’s shop and hide him in a chest so that he can be brought into the Palace. The chest containing Yeggar’s body is also brought to the Palace and the Old Lady manages to revive him. The Sheik finds Yannaia making love to his son and kills both of them. He then finds Sumurun making love to Nur-Al Din and wants to kill them but he is stabbed in the back by Yeggar.
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 American pre-Code romantic comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall. Based on the 1931 play The Honest Finder (A Becsületes Megtaláló) by Hungarian playwright László Aladár, the lead characters are a gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket who join forces to con a beautiful woman who is the owner of a perfume company.
In 1991, Trouble in Paradise was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Design for Living (1933)
Design for Living is a 1933 American pre-Code romantic comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch from a screenplay by Ben Hecht, based on the 1932 play of the same name by Noël Coward. Starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins, the film is about a woman who cannot decide between two men who love her, and the trio agree to try living together in a platonic friendly relationship.
Criticism was mixed, with some critics praising the film, but many were ambivalent about its great departure from Coward’s play. Coward said, “I’m told that there are three of my original lines left in the film—such original ones as ‘Pass the mustard’.” The film was a box office success, ranking as one of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1933. All three of the lead actors—March, Cooper, and Hopkins—received attention from this film as they were all at the peak of their careers.
Angel is a 1937 American romantic comedy drama film produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas with Edward Everett Horton, Laura Hope Crews and Herbert Mundin. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson and an uncredited Frederick Lonsdale was based on an adaptation by Guy Bolton and Russell Medcraft from the play Angyal by Melchior Lengyel. The music score was by Frederick Hollander with additional music by Gioacchino Rossini from The Barber of Seville. The cinematography was by Charles Lang and the costume design by Travis Banton. The film was produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 American romantic comedy film produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan. The screenplay was written by Samson Raphaelson based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. Eschewing regional politics in the years leading up to World War II, the film is about two employees at a leathergoods shop in Budapest who can barely stand each other, not realizing they are falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters.
The Shop Around the Corner is ranked #28 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions, and is listed in Time’s All-Time 100 Movies. In 1999, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
Heaven Can Wait is a 1943 Technicolor American supernatural comedy film produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The screenplay was by Samson Raphaelson based on the play Birthday by Ladislaus Bus-Fekete. The music score was by Alfred Newman and the cinematography by Edward Cronjager.
The film tells the story of a man who has to prove he belongs in Hell by telling his life story. It stars Gene Tierney, Don Ameche, and Charles Coburn. The supporting cast includes Marjorie Main, Laird Cregar, Spring Byington, Allyn Joslyn, Eugene Pallette, Signe Hasso, Louis Calhern, Tod Andrews, and Clara Blandick.
Good luck to the season, we wish you a success again!